For more than four decades, Dana and Jim Robinson of Partners in Change have shared their expertise in performance consulting with thousands of learning professionals and organizations around the world.
They have helped ASTD members increase their skills and knowledge about how to optimize workplace performance and build an infrastructure that allows people to work effectively. As Dana officially retires this month, we're taking this opportunity to honor her and Jim's work and the impact they've had on the profession.
On behalf of ASTD, thank you, Dana and Jim, for your tremendous contributions in the field. We will all benefit from the positive impact your work has had on organizations and on the global community of learning and performance professionals.
In the 2010 ASTD Handbook of Measuring and Evaluating Training, Dana provided a look back on the early part of her career, the importance of strategically linking to the business, and what the future holds.
On how she started
"I moved into the training and development field in 1976 and was fortunate enough to learn very early in my career the difference between building skill and changing performance. That is actually one of the key insights I had through a measurement effort. In learning that difference, I took it forward and realized, along with Jim, that there is a lot to be done to help people in the learning and development field develop a systemic approach that can be replicated, that moves beyond acquiring skill only, and that looks at changing performance.
"That really became the basis for our 1995 book, Performance Consulting. We take great pride in thinking that we've helped to bring that [approach] into the field in a more robust manner, and it has been our life's work to help people become more strategic in their work, focus beyond the solution of learning, and think about what they are doing to actually change performance that will be sustained over time."
On how to make a difference in the business
"Here is a very valuable thing we can do: Would a manager want to know if results are not occurring so she can take additional actions to get results moving in the right direction? If we frame it as, 'We are going to help you know you are getting the type of performance that you need from people and the type of results you need from business, and, if not, why not?' a lot of managers would see a lot of value in that.
"That is the definition of being strategic: You are aligned to a business, and you are benefiting the business. So if we are going to be aligned to the business, then we need to think like business people."
On what the future holds
"I am always an optimist. That is my nature. So what I see is movement in a positive type of direction, just much slower than I would have predicted a couple of decades ago. And I do believe that more and more people who come into our field appreciate and value the need to be business people, to think like business people, and to look at things in terms of investments and returns. With that mental model becoming more embedded in the profession, it bodes well for more of this to be done."
"Rarely does a professional appear on the horizon, who is able to combine thought leadership with practical models and tools. In Jim and Dana's case, they not only achieved that balance, they did it as a team. Their thought leadership has enhanced the skills of tens of thousands of learning professionals, while driving tangible business results for their clients."
- Paul H. Elliott, President, Exemplary Performance
"Dana and Jim have been the foundation of producing credibility for this profession. They speak the language and concerns of every line manager, and that is a gift. They also have inspired us all through their humanity and generosity, and who they are as human beings."
- Peter Block, Author, Consultant, and Partner, Designed Learning
"The Robinsons have had an important influence on the training and development field. Most significant has been their integration of OD and HR with business strategy. And as evidence of this significance, at the recent Linkage OD Summit, Dana received the Lifetime Achievement Award."
- W. Warner Burke, Professor of Psychology and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
"Dana recognized the contribution that human resources could make to the performance of a company and dedicated her life to help make that happen. Those that have worked with her or read and applied her teachings have changed themselves and their organizations forever. She is grounded in her clients' successes and dedicated to learning from them, inspiring to work with, and tenacious in her quest."
- Jean Larkin, Director, Talent Management, Alcoa
"Dana and Jim Robinson have been a titanic force in the field - participating in and helping to enrich our thinking at critical turning points. They have especially helped to shape our field's long-time focus on the broader aspects of human performance support. Beyond that, they are role model human beings, doing their work with passion and sensitivity and from a wonderful center. They may be retiring, but their influence is still vibrant."
- Patricia A. McLagan, Chairman, McLagan International
"Dana and Jim Robinson's contributions reach beyond excellence. Their thought leadership, practical methods, and landmark publications on performance consulting have helped thousands of organizations dramatically improve business results. Moreover, their work has literally reshaped our profession. As Dana and Jim move into retirement, they leave a rich legacy for the next generations of people in the fields of learning, human resource, and organization development."
- Donna McNamara, Learning, Leadership, and Organization Consultant
"Few can say that they changed the way people talk about their profession. Dana and Jim Robinson can. They advanced the very important phrase 'performance consulting,' and the field has not been the same since."
- Allison Rossett, Professor of Educational Technology, San Diego State University
"The influence of the Robinsons' work on organizations has been tremendous. They have single-handedly helped to refocus the training field from an activity-oriented to a results-based approach. People will remember the value of their work for years to come."
- William J. Rothwell, Professor, Human Resource Development, The Pennsylvania State University