To train or not to train: Analyzing performance problems

At our heart, Avilar has always been proud of our ability to provide custom training solutions.  But we know that many times, training isn’t the answer when an individual, team or a whole organization is experiencing performance problems.

One of the most helpful tools I’ve ever seen to help an organizational leader diagnose and solve performance problems has been developed by Robert Mager and is described in detail in the book he wrote with Peter Pipe:  Analyzing Performance Problems.  In it, a series of questions helps you walk through a performance issue to determine the best course of action.  We’ve summarized a few of them here:

1.  What’s going on, how important is it, and is it worth fixing?  First you need a crystal clear picture of the gap between what you want and what you’re getting.  Perhaps deadlines aren’t being met, quality is declining or customer complaints are increasing.  Before assuming you know what’s causing  the problem i and getting to work to solve it, weigh the possible benefits of solving the problem against potential costs to create a dollar limit for what you’re willing to spend on a solution.

2.  Is there a knowledge or skill gap?  This is frequently the case, but not always – and it may not be the only cause for the problem.  A skills assessment of some kind (our WebMentor Skills for example!) can pinpoint exactly where the knowledge and skill gaps are.  However, if an employee could perform as required if his or her life depended on it, the problem may lie elsewhere, and the following two questions might lead to the answer.

3.  Is poor performance being rewarded?  Of course, no manager would intentionally reward performance they don’t like, but it happens all the time.   For example, one employee may skip key steps in order to leave for the day on time, while another  slows down and drags things out in order to be offered overtime.

4.  Is good performance being punished?  Are there unintended bad things that happen to people who do good work?  Are they asked to do more and more without recognition or additional compensation?  Do the best performers get stuck without opportunities to grow?  The manager doesn’t control all the consequences of a behavior, but a good one will understand the balance of consequences and ensure that good performance is more rewarding than poor performance.

5.  Are there obstacles to performance?  Are the resources employees work with reliable and functional or are they unsuitable or out-of-date?  Are your systems aligned with your processes, or are they held together with chickenwire and duct tape?  Do the disparate teams that need to coordinate efforts work like a well-oiled machine, or from silos?

We highly recommend the book (use the link below to buy).  And there are other resources available on Mager’s website at http://www.cepworldwide.com.
Analyzing Performance Problems: Or, You Really Oughta Wanna–How to Figure out Why People Aren’t Doing What They Should Be, and What to do About It

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