Welcome to PacozDiscipline

I have a flair for making people & communities successful. I yearn to excel in that arena!

This is a compilation of my thoughts and responses to others thoughts. Most of them are relevant to the world of learning & development, and may be of help to you. Please add your comments and views.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Target - Performance Improvement

My journey in the world of learning started more than a decade back. In the past decade, the first half was focused on learning & delivering, and the latter half is marked by learning, following AND facilitating. Whilst helping out others, I have always introduced with my note below which has been shamelessly inpired by Bob Mager's book, 'What Every Manager Should Know About Training'; and no, this is not plagiarism, but my effort to ensure that people, CEOs and CLOs, get the gist of the thought. My trademark 18-day 'Trainer BootCamp' starts with the concept of what training can / can not do, as mentioned in this note, and I have taken about 500 trainers through it during various bootcamps.

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Performance Improvement


the ‘T A R G E T’

Performance is key to a person’s success and that is integral to the organization’s success. However, the organization is always surrounded by challenges, which hinder performance. These Performance Challenges, specifically in the area of ‘the work’, ‘the worker’, and the ‘the work environment’, are a result of a measured disparity between the ‘desired’ and the ‘actual’ state of work performance or the expected disparity between the ‘desired’ and the ‘actual’ state of work performance.

This disparity, once broken down and analyzed, leads to a specific set of gaps. These gaps could be in the 3 specific areas, such as, knowledge gaps, skill gaps, and attitudinal gaps (including Motivation & Expectations).

These gaps could be handled in many a ways such as by giving Training interventions, Coaching interventions, Consulting interventions and Non-Training interventions. Training interventions help build the skills and self-efficacy in the trainees.


If people don’t know how to do it, they can’t do it. No amount of incentives or exhortations or threats will get them to do it. Without skill there can be no performance.

If they don’t know what to do and how to do it, and if they need to be able to do it, then someone will need to teach them to do it. But skills are not developed merely by listening to someone talk about how to perform. Skills are developed and strengthened through practice, through the actual doing of those work tasks.


Self-efficacy refers to the judgments people make about their abilities to execute particular courses of action – about their ability to do specific things. For example, “I know I’m a good golfer;” “I know I can beat my sales record of last year;” “I know that my fencing skill is the best in town.”

Self-efficacy isn’t about the actual skills people have; it’s about the judgments they make about the strength of those skills. People with low self-efficacy don’t believe they can do the things they actually can do. “Oh, well, I didn’t take the job offer because I didn’t think I was really good enough.”

Don’t confuse self-efficacy with self-confidence, which is a much more generalized way of referring to one’s feelings, and often refers to the expected outcomes of one’s actions.

Why is self-efficacy so important?

When people don’t judge themselves able to do something they actually can do, they may not even try to do it. They may avoid trying, regardless of the strength of their skills. Therefore, if people are given the skills they need, but not the self-efficacy, they will be unlikely to perform those skills on the job. No self-efficacy, no performance.

There’s more. People with strong self-efficacy will not only be more willing to try, they will be more willing to persist in the face of obstacles, failures, or embarrassment. They are less likely to give up in the face of adversity. Thus, strong self-efficacy makes people less vulnerable to on-the-job conditions that aren’t always supportive. How can you get people to “try, try again” in the face of difficulties or failures? Make sure you (and anyone training others) apply efficacy-strengthening techniques.

Unfortunately, the development of a skill isn’t automatically accompanied by a development of strong self-efficacy. You may recall instances in which people with great deal of skills didn’t believe they had the degree of skill they did. You’ve probably seen people hang back because of a lack of self-efficacy rather than because of a lack of skill.

"When people don’t judge themselves able to do something they actually can do, they may not even try to do it…"

Opportunity to Perform

Without the opportunity to perform, there will be no performance. Opportunity means being provided with items such as:

  • The permission (or authority) to perform
  • Information about expectations
  • Tools and equipment needed to perform
  • A place in which to perform
  • The time to perform

If you were an accomplished sitar-player but didn’t have a sitar, you wouldn’t be able to perform sitar solos. No sitar, no performance. By the same token, if you had a sitar but lived in a state where playing the sitar is prohibited, you wouldn’t be able to perform (without running the risk of being caught by the anti-sitar police). If you don’t have the tools to do your job, or a place in which to do it, you won’t be able to perform. No opportunity, no performance.

But there’s more, because mere opportunity to perform is not enough.

You can’t store training! Use it or Lose it.    

Or, as the trainers say, use it or lose it. Unlike fine wines, skills do not improve merely with the passage of time. Think about the courses you took in school. Are you as sharp on each of those subjects as you were when the course ended? No? Why not? You’ve forgotten a lot of the information or skills because you haven’t used them – because you haven’t practiced them. Essentially, Use it or Lose it.

Supportive Environment

Suppose that every time you sat down to work on a budget, your boss came in and whacked you about the head and the shoulder with a rolled newspaper or showered you with verbal abuse. How long would you continue to work on budgets? Or, suppose that you were ridiculed by your peers every time you offered a suggestion at a meeting? How long would you continue to offer suggestions? Or, suppose that every time you made a worthwhile suggestion you were requires to head the committee organized to implement it? Or, suppose that every time you came in under budget, your budget was cut off for next year. No supportive environment, no performance.

A supportive environment is one that encourages desired performance. It is environment in which workers are given reasons (incentives) to perform in the desired manner, a clear description of the results to be obtained and the standards to be met; it is an environment which the employee’s world gets a little brighter when they do it right, and a little dimmer when they don’t. When the consequences of performing well are upside down – that is, punishments for doing it right or rewards for doing it wrong – desired performance will be difficult or impossible to sustain.

Performance then requires the presence of skill, self-efficacy, opportunity to perform, and a supportive environment. Take away any one of those ingredients and the performance will suffer, or worst, will never appear.

The diagram above although shows ‘interventions’ at a cross-section of gaps, however, it is just a diagrammatic representation.

Different types of gaps require to be treated in different ways. The ‘best way’ is the way in which the audience internalizes best and the one which impacts the learner’s performance as per the desired levels.

Gap Type                             Input Type

Knowledge                            Training, Non-Training

Skill                                        Training & Coaching

Attitude                                 Training, Coaching,
(including Motivations       Non-Training & Consulting
& Expectations)

We should remember that all forms of gaps are not trainable from a corporate perspective, wherein time does not have an infinite value.

One, however, needs to keep in mind that Training is not the only solution for all kinds of performance problems, however, the propensity of most ‘trainers’ is to resort to ‘training’ as a solution to one & all. It’s like giving paracetamol for all kinds of ailments.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Birth of Massacre

My car breaks down on deserted highway, and with no help in sight, I push her across the emergency line, lock it and start hailing for help. A kind trucker stops to give me a lift to the nearest garage.

The garage is a rickety shanty with old worn out cars gathering dust and allowing the wilderness to take over. Its evening and I want to be on my way as soon as possible; and the sight wasn’t too welcoming. At a distance I find two people conversing. By the looks of them, the guy in the greased overalls was undoubtedly the mechanic, and the gentleman in formal yet casual attire seems to be a travelling salesman. As I walk close to them, I garner from the animated movements of the salesman hands and fingers that he is furious about his car which doesn’t seem to get over its constant hiccups. As I try to follow his finger to figure out his bain, the car strikes me to be one from the carburetor era. On paying closer attention to the conversation I realize that the salesman is actually telling the mechanic about just not the symptoms, but also the problem with the car.

These travelling salesmen are sort of a walking encyclopedia on everything, and why wouldn’t they be; they travel so much. Anyways, once the salesman is through with his explanation, the mechanic gets on to his job. But before he does so, he assures me that he would be with me in the next twenty minutes. The twenty minutes seem like twenty hours, but eventually, the salesman drives away after having haggled for the cost of labor for about five minutes.

Once he is gone, the mechanic walks up to me, and asks me, “Sa’ab, so what is the problem with your car?”. My response was something he didn’t expect. I said, “I don’t know the problem, but the car just stopped in the middle of the road. So, if you could come along, we could tow the car with the help of your truck, and then you could mend it for me.” By the time I was through with the sentence, the mechanic was ready with his tow truck. He said, “Sa’ab, I shall try to mend it there itself, but in case it doesn’t, then I will have to tow your car to the garage to figure out the problem. I can’t give you an estimate of time required and money till such time I see your car”. Seemed rationale, and we got into his tow truck. With about twenty kilometers to travel, I tried striking a conversation by asking him about the travelling salesman. He said that the carburetor had no problem, and it was the quality of petrol which was creating a problem and that at best the air-intake filter that had to be dusted. I ask him as to why did he then clean the carburetor and change the filter and change one of the spark plugs.

His response astonished me. The salesman had been in the garage for over two hours before I came, and had been bickering about all of the above problems, and was insistent about those repairs & replacements. So, our dear mechanic went ahead and did all of those things, and also told him to change the station from where he refuels, but he is sure that the salesman will come back the next day. When I asked him as to why he did what he did, he was emphatic about the fact that he believes that these travelling salesmen know more.

My car’s repairs took almost two hours, but I couldn’t tell him that I was a travelling salesman too.

I’ve witnessed many a occasions such as these where I have met clients who seemed to know the problem, and while in most case the diagnosis is flawed, trainers jump to the idea of providing training as a solution to the problem.

Training would do no good!