Perf Improvement LO14627

John Constantine (
Fri, 08 Aug 1997 09:40:29 -0700

Replying to LO14616 --

Clyde Howell responds in regard to Performance Improvement:

> Ian and Vana have started down the paths of training version performance
> and training versus development. These are worthy thread topics but are
> different from performance improvement.

Despite all the stuff mentioned, such as performance, training,
development, coaching, etc., this does nothing for the process. You can
only improve YOUR OWN performance, not that of others, unless you totally
disregard the concepts of the learning organization, or those dealing with
quality improvement.

> The area of performance improvement involves taking an existing level of
> performance and making it better. Better is defined as more effective or
> more efficient but can also include less taxing or detrimental to the
> performer.

You can't make it better. Only HE/SHE/THEY can make it better, on their
own. They can only use what information you may provide, without stressing
the various interpretations of such items as performance, training,
development, coaching, etc., which do more to obfuscate than educate.
Unless the goal is to use Skinnerian tactics to accomplish repetition
above all else, it might be best to eliminate such items from the
planning. Eliminate such top-down methodology as being counter-productive
in the long run, and being detrimental and misleading in the short run,
since it begs the question of how much improvement has taken place from
point x to point y.

This is descending to the pit in which individuals must endure performance
evaluations which demand numbers and often produce only ratings such as
poor, fair, good, very good, and excellent. ALL of these are subjective,
and, in tandem with the use of numerical rating systems, are setups for
disaster. One cannot quantify anything other than the RESULTS of the
process, which says nothing about what occurred during the process itself.
Must we find someone or something to blame, using performance as the
criterion? Do we actually believe that we have trained someone to jump
through a hoop? Did you "train" someome to "perform"? And does it not beg
the question, is there a cause and effect linkage in what you claim to do?
Were you totally responsible for X being done, as opposed to Y? And don't
you face the same problem when you turn upstream, and must answer for what
you have done yourself?

The US Govt has instituted a "Performance-based" rating system, requiring
points to be assigned to different categories of work. This is being
touted as part and parcel of "reinventing" government. The sad truth seems
to be that people don't trust other people, and must create a fraudulent
system which claims to "rate" them numerically, after the fact, which only
claims to provide rationale for giving out raises, or for providing
justification for promotions. Both are frauds, since no numerical system
can take into account each and every factor impacting the "performance" of
an individual. And, god help us, if the system does not claim to be
numerically-based, even less justification exists for either
performance-based compensation or promotion.

All that results from such activities are stresses which have nothing to
do with "better" performance. But they do have a lot to do with
re-inforcing behaviors which are designed to elicit positive responses
from those on the other side of the desk, those responsible for evaluating
the individual. And, if it turns out "badly" for the person, and they must
then be "trained" or "coached" to do better, what does that do to the
individual? It suppresses any behaviors which might negatively impact next
time he comes in for an evaluation.

The truth is that more workers will file lawsuits based upon false
information leading to loss of job prospects or raises or promotions.

> This is accomplished through (snip):

> > Performance problem analysis
> > Performance measurement
> > Rewards
> > Feedback system analysis
> > Ergonomics
> > Job aid development

Are we, in a learing organization, still in the dark ages when it comes to
such drivel? How can there be improvement where there is no understanding
of the key elements impacting on what is done in the workplace? Is this

Can we all think back to a situation in which we were on the receiving end
of a performance evaluation? Or on the other side of the desk, giving the
evaluation? Did we really believe we had a handle on who did what, and by
how much, and when, and under what circumstances? Think about it.

I can say that I've spent lots of time (in the past, thankfully)
designing evaluation procedures and policies, and forms, and can say that
there is very little evidence which would support the use of such in the
future, unless organizational politics were to get in the way. Under such
as closed system, the participants will resign themselves to getting what
they can out of the the system itself, and therefore they will follow the
lead even though it makes no sense at all. In my opinion, this does more
damage to individuals within the system, and to the system itself, than
anything else.

> Employee development and performance-oriented training activities (to
> include coaching) do not usually get into these areas specifically.
> Coaching comes closest to covering these specific areas but is more often
> steered in the direction of employee development.

Are employees pieces of clay, to be molded? Why were they hired in the
first place, and were they found to have been inferior products requiring
"developing", "measuring", "ergonomics???", and in need of a coach?

This does not describe a healthy organization, much less one which has
potential for a learning organization. "Performance problem analysis"...?

For what? It is far too late at that point to be talking about what
occurred in the past. You simply do not know what "caused" the problem, as
it might have nothing whatsoever to do with the individual. If one claims
to know enough to undertake performance problem analysis, they are in the
wrong field. They would make a killing on late night TV as a psychic.
Unfortunately, too many still believe that performance is entirely the
fault of the individual and not the system. As long as they do, this
business of "fixing" what is wrong with the performance of the individual
will continue, and will have detrimental short and long term impact on
both government and industry.


Regards, John Constantine Rainbird Management Consulting PO Box 23554 Santa Fe, NM 87502 "Dealing in Essentials"

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