Search I95 Business Magazine




Performance Review
How to Establish an Office-Wide System for Governing Performance

August 2017

Rex Conner, lead partner and owner of Mager Consortium

Natural law governs people and their performance, not people. An office-wide system for governing performance must align with those natural laws.

Consider this actual example:

After the IT Director had requested training to make his Help-Desk people “be nice,” the Training Director decided to do a Performance Analysis before developing training that he suspected would not produce the requested result.

Training Director: What happens when you do it right? When you are polite and helpful on the phone?

Help-Desk Tech: People keep calling for our help, so we don’t have time to do our job!

TD: Isn’t helping people your job?

HDT: No! Our job, on which we are evaluated, is to complete our IT projects on time. This Help-Desk duty is just a pain-in-the-rear additional duty we each have to do for 10 hours per week.

The bane of training managers is the common occurrence of receiving requests to develop training to address people performance problems that no amount of training will fix. This Help-Desk situation is one of countless examples of the misapplication of human performance principles.

Dr. Robert Mager is one of the pioneers that brought science to workplace performance at a time in which people were still trying to apply educational theory to the workplace. Mager’s scientific application of human performance was focused on training and also applies to the other systems that govern human performance, recruiting, developing and evaluating.

Dr. Mager explains that there are only three components that go into human performance:

• Skill – with the confidence that the skill will work when applied on the job.
• Will – a supportive environment, meaning that people are not punished when they do the job right, nor are the rewarded when they do the job wrong.
• Hill – people have the opportunity to perform with no obstacles … they have the tools, resources, time, authority and etcetera.

If a person already has the skill and doesn’t perform, training is not the solution. The will and hill components belong to management, not to trainers. When someone is punished for the right performance, as in the Help-Desk example, they will not continue the right performance and no amount of training will solve the problem. This is just one example of the science that is at the foundation of human performance and needs to be at the foundation of your business systems and processes.

Without becoming a Human Performance Psychologist, how do you identify all of the performance principles in the workplace and ensure your systems are rooted in them? Start with the one factor that should govern all systems and processes in which humans perform – the performance objective.

Every task in which a human has to create an outcome should be governed by a performance objective. The components of any performance objective are described by Dr. Mager in the context of learning objectives, but the underlying principles are the same. Component objectives describe:

• The task to be performed
• The conditions under which it is performed
• The objective criteria, or standard by which the outcome is evaluated

Notice the wording in that third component, the objective criteria. This is the most critical, and the most difficult challenge that you face in establishing an organization-wide system for governing performance. Standards that are subjective, that are not observable, that are vague or unclear, cripple the required performance and render the outcome a source of conflict instead of the governing dynamic that it needs to be.

For example, if the task is to complete a quarterly budget, the performance objective might read:

Conditions: Given a budget amount and a list of required accomplishments for the quarter
Task: Complete a quarterly budget
Standards: The budget does not exceed the budget amount and it addresses each required accomplishment.

If the standard were left to be subjective, such as, “The budget must be acceptable to the budgeting committee,” it would be a guessing game for the person having to do the budget. Why not find out what criteria the committee uses and describe it in the performance objective?

Where do you start?

All job descriptions should include a list of all tasks performed by a person in that job. Each task should be governed by a performance objective that leaves nothing open to interpretation – nothing subjective.

When all of the tasks a person performs are governed by performance objectives, it is a natural progression to then subject each process and system in the workplace to a clear performance objective. This will bring alignment with the natural laws that govern human performance quicker than any other path. This is the path to establishing an office-wide system for governing performance. I95

Rex Conner  is the author of “What if Common Sense Was Common Practice in Business?” The lead partner and owner of Mager Consortium, he applies the uniquely effective processes of Dr. Robert Mager to the entire spectrum of human performance in the workplace.