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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.


Anu said...

Absolutely great read

Brundaban Behera said...

Great to read this article.