Shifting our perspective from training to performance leads us to a more holistic approach. By taking a systemic view of all factors that impact performance (and by recognizing the benefits and limitations of training), we can become more efficient and more effective.  

There are an endless number of factors that should make workplace learning and development professionals sit up and re-examine how our training programs function. Perhaps the biggest issue is our need to do more with less—while also doing everything faster. This means that to stay relevant, we must always seek out the most efficient ways to achieve improved performance.  

Notice that I didn't say we should be looking for more efficient ways to “do training.” Although training is an important piece of the puzzle, by itself, it is insufficient to improve every performance issue in our organizations. In fact, training may be one of the least efficient and least effective options for improving performance.  

Bottom line: Training is a means to an end. We must fully consider the system or function within which training may be applied. More important, we must also consider other means of addressing performance issues—beyond the traditional packaging and delivery of content.  

Fortunately, there is a way we can become both more efficient and more effective. Shifting our perspective from training to performance leads us to a more holistic approach. By taking a systemic view of all factors that impact performance (and by recognizing the benefits and limitations of training), we can become more efficient and more effective.  

Focusing on performance, instead of training, leads us to look at all the variables we can use to affect performance. A good place to start is Thomas Gilbert's book Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance. In it, Gilbert describes his Behavior Engineering Model (BEM) for performance analysis, which illustrates the six essential components of behavior that can be manipulated to effect performance:

  • data
  • resources
  • incentives
  • knowledge
  • capacity
  • motives. 

All six components of behavior are equally important and must be present for optimal performance to occur. (For an in-depth look at the six boxes in the BEM, go to http://performancexpress.org/0704/images/BEM.pdf.) 

However, after diagnosing performance problems, we should look at the condition(s) that have the greatest leverage for improving performance. And efficiency comes from determining the strategies that will provide the greatest improvement with the least cost. 

Doesn't that sound like a better approach for you and your organization? If you think questioning a request for training is taboo, what do you think of implementing futile training programs? More importantly, what do you think your stakeholder will think when training doesn't work?  

We owe it to ourselves and our organizations to confirm whether or not training is the best solution for the problem. Asking a few good questions that get to the root of the problem gives you a much better chance of finding the best solution. Sometime that will be training. Sometimes it won't.  

To be sure, this approach is much more challenging than dutifully building courses as the requests roll in. But in the long run, if those training programs aren't effective (and if we don't start evolving), those requests will slow—if not stop altogether. 

And yes, there IS an app for that!