ISPI Performance Express


If you've followed my work, you may have noticed that I am generally down on ISPI.

Perhaps it's just me. I'm a businessman. I am in this for results. Some people in the ISPI priesthood seem more enamoured of form than substance. My measure of success is accomplishment, not adherence to formulae. Maybe I spent too much time with a particularly doctrinaire bunch of ISPIers. I date back to when ISPI was NSPI. Did you know that NSPI originally stood for "National Association for Programmed Instruction"?

A title that drives me up the wall is Telling Ain't Training. Don't get me wrong. It's a best seller. People love it. It's the title that ruffles my feathers. So telling ain't training. So what? If telling gets the job done, that's fine with me. Telling works in the military. It works for the fire department. All of which brings me to an article in ISPI's Performance Express by Harold D. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps, the authors of Telling Ain't Training. I like it.

Improving Performance: Low Cost Solutions in a TIght Economy hits the bulls-eye. It opens with a reality check:

For the last three years, we have repeatedly heard that the economy will turn around “very soon.” Meanwhile, budgets grow tighter and every new training and performance support initiative is scrutinized with a magnifying glass in one hand and an ax in the other. Despite the austerity on the learning and performance support side, the pressure is still on to produce and maintain an increasingly productive workforce and prepare employees for new systems, regulations, and products.

The usual response, proposing to improve efficiency with technology, raises eyebrows. Stolovich and Weeks counsel us to make what's already working better. There's less risk and higher return. Though less fun than building new stuff, making do with what you have is the right message for today. Examples include:

  • Cleaning up performance expectations. Research in human performance identifies a lack of clarity of expectations to be the number one cause of inadequate performance.

  • Developing feedback systems. Inadequate feedback constitutes a close second to unclear expectations in causes of deficient performance.

  • Creating performance support systems. No matter how good the training, without adequate support mechanisms, acquired skills and knowledge tend to deteriorate.

  • Providing and aligning incentives and consequences. In a recent year-long, rigorous study, we discovered that incentives, especially tangible ones, can improve performance 13-40% (Stolovitch, Clark, & Condly, 2002).

  • Increasing motivation to perform. Motivation is critical in both learning and performance along with ability and prior knowledge.

  • Making sure mechanisms for training transfer are in place.

Tough times call for creative cost-cutting measures. Let’s get back to the fundamentals of performance improvement.

Practical advice like this encourages me to keep my ISPI membership active.


Posted by Jay Cross at August 6, 2003 04:45 PM | TrackBack
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