Building an integrated performance
development system
John Keller
Produced and copyrighted by John Keller Associates, © 2008
9705 Waters Meet Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32312, USA
Originally produced by John Keller in collaboration with Zachary Zaharias and
John Douglas, 1994, for the Federal Aviation Administration, Assistant
Administrator for Human Resource Management, Washington, D.C. 20591
For the human resource development groups within an organization to provide maximum value-added to the
organization’s mission, their work must be integrated with organizational requirements and goals. This
requires that combinations of services and solutions be offered to achieve the highest possible levels of
effectiveness and efficiency.
This booklet contains a process that can help achieve this integration by linking human resource services
directly with organizational needs. This approach, which is called the performance development process, or
in other words, human performance techology, helps you identify the most effective combination of human
resource services to achieve organizational goals. It is a new approach that is based in systems thinking and
it contributes to the development of a learning organization. By following this process you will improve
your effectiveness and do so in less time. The process has several steps and substeps, espeically in the
analysis phase. All of these steps are important. By following all of the early steps in the process, you save a
great deal of time and wasted effort in the solution phase. Keep in mind that the early steps which call for
different levels of needs assessment can often be accomplished in a few hours. We are not talking about
lengthy, large-scale studies unless there is a strong justification for doing so.
Portions of the processes described in the document were adapted from human performance technology
documents produced by the International Society for Performance Improvement and Marc Rosenberg.
The Performance Development System
Elements of the PDS
Performance Analysis
Causal Analysis
HR Solutions
Implementation and Evaluation
Comparing PDS and traditional HR approaches
Benefits of the PDS for the FAA
Application of the PDS Model
The PDS Model
Phase 1 - Performance Analysis
Step 1: Identify Organizational Needs
Step 2: Assess Performance Needs
Phase 2 - Causal Analysis
Step 3: Identify the symptoms
Step 4: Analyze the causes
Phase 3 - Determining HR Solutions
Step 5: Develop Solutions
Step 6: Implement the Solution
Step 7: Evaluate for Continuous Improvement
Competency and productivity are essential for organizational success in the
1990s. A key ingredient for such success is human capital, and investing in our
human capital will be critical for organizational survival.
Today we live in a globally competitive environment and the economic reality
for the FAA is that our budgetary slice will not get bigger. Government
organizations will be required to become more cost efficient with the adoption of
a more “business” oriented approach.
Throughout the world, organizations that are at the forefront of effectiveness and
competitiveness constantly seek to:
improve the productivity of their people,
identify their needs in terms of the gap between ideal performance and
current performance,
focus on results and continuous improvement,
integrate human resources with new technologies, and
motivate their workforce to higher levels of quality.
Although training, development, and other human resource (HR) services are
critical to increasing competence, meeting the educational challenge is just part
of the answer. An effective human resource system must focus on the broader
issues of improving performance by integrating human resource solutions with
organizational needs and priorities.
The purpose of this publication is to introduce the concept of a performance
development system (PDS) and the PDS model. This familiarization includes:
an introductory section on what PDS is and why performance development
is critical to organizational success;
a comparison of PDS and traditional approaches in HR organizations,
highlighting the benefits of adopting PDS; and
an outline of the major phases and steps of the PDS model: Performance
Analysis, Causal Analysis, and the provision of HR Solutions.
What is it?
The performance development system (PDS) is a set of strategies and procedures
for solving problems and realizing opportunities related to the performance of
people. It can be applied to individuals, small groups, and large organizations. It
is a systematic combination of three fundamental processes: performance
analysis, causal analysis, and human resource (HR) solutions. It also includes
evaluation of the HR solutions to provide for continuous improvement, ensuring
that we strive for the quality edge.
Performance Development System
Organizational Mission, Business Goals,
Strategy, and Operational Requirements
HR Solutions
Evaluation for Continuous
Enhanced human
Performance Analysis
The PDS approach begins with performance analysis based on the organization’s
mission, goals, strategies, and operational require-ments. Performance analysis is
the identification of current or anticipated deficiencies, or “gaps”, in workforce
performance. To define the gaps accurately, you must relate them to
organizational requirements. Therefore, the first step of the PDS process is to
identify these requirements. Normally this is done with existing documents or
personal interviews.
Central to the performance analysis process is the comparison of two specific
descriptions of the workforce. First, the “desired state” describes the
competencies and abilities of the workforce that are necessary to achieve the
organization’s mission. Second, the “actual state” describes the level of
workforce performance as it currently exists. The performance gap is the
difference between these two, and it represents either a current performance
discrepancy to be resolved or an opportunity for new performance. The
ultimate goal is to close this gap in the most cost effective manner.
Performance Analysis
Desired state of
Current performance
Current state of
Opportunities for new
For example, a current performance discrepancy could be as follows:
An agency’s strategy calls for managers to use project management software in
planning and carrying out agency projects. This is the desired state. However, a
survey has revealed the actual state of the agency is that only 30% of the
managers use project management software. While all managers have
computers and access to networked project management software, the gap
between the desired and the actual state is that 70% of the managers do not use
the software.
A gap caused by a new opportunity could be as follows:
An agency will begin next year to use a new video conferencing technology to
conduct meetings and training sessions for geographically dispersed personnel.
The desired state is that managers and specialists reduce travel by 50% by using
the new technology for meetings. Another desired state is that as many training
sessions as possible be held using the new technology. Management wishes to
reduce travel costs for training as much as possible. However, none of the
employees has ever participated in, let alone conducted, video conferencing
sessions. The gap is a lack of expertise in using the new video conferencing
system. It is based on the opportunity provided by the new technology, not on a
failure to perform to current standards.
Causal Analysis
Determining the specific factors or “causes” that contribute to the performance
gap is called Causal Analysis. Often solutions to performance gaps fail to
achieve their intended goals because they are selected to treat only visible
symptoms rather than underlying causes. However, when root causes of a
problem are uncovered, the likelihood of significantly reducing or eliminating
problems is greatly enhanced. Thus, causal analysis is the critical link between
identified performance gaps and the appropriate solutions, and is a major
strength of the PDS approach.
In the project management software example above, managers may cite lack of
training, and environmental problems such as lack of time and proper manuals
for not using the software. However, a causal analysis may reveal that the root
cause of the problem is a combination of training and motivation, not training
and environment. The real problem is that even though the managers do not have
all the skills they need, but they are not using the ones they do have because they
feel it is not worth the trouble.
Causal Analysis
?Skills and knowledge
?Individual capacity
?Motives and expectations
?Leadership and management
?Consequences, incentives &
?Motives and expectations
?Information and feedback
HR Solutions
HR Solutions
In large organizations like the FAA, performance improvement solutions are
drawn from an extensive array of human resource functions such as training and
development, organizational design, selection, compensation, and benefits.
These functions can be divided into four major areas (based on Rosenberg,
Human resources development is concerned with improving the
performance of individuals. It includes training, development, job aids,
career development strategies, and individual feedback systems.
Organizational development is concerned with improving the
performance of groups. It includes organizational design, group process,
culture change, team building, and group feedback systems.
Human resources management is concerned with managing the
performance of individuals and groups. It includes leadership,
compensation, benefits, employee relations, succession planning, job design,
incentives and rewards, and personnel selection.
Environmental engineering attempts to provide the tools and facilities
that support improved performance. It includes ergonomics, facilities
design, sociotechnical systems design, documentation, technology, and
information systems.
HR Solutions
Human Resources
Human Resources
In a PDS approach, the focus is on systematic, comprehensive, and integrated
responses to current performance discrepancies and their causes, as well as to
new performance opportunities. More often than not, the response is a
combination of solutions representing a multifaceted approach to improving
performance. Solution selection is based on effectiveness, cost-efficiency, and
overall benefit to the organization. Evaluation of success is directly tied to
reduction of the original performance gap, which is measured in terms of
performance improvement and organizational results.
Implementation and
Often, comprehensive solutions are required to make significant
changes throughout the organization. For example, the adoption of a new
process, such as the systems approach to training development, typically requires
training in new skills, motivation to support the adoption of the new process, and
job redesign to modify roles in support of the new process. Thus, the
implementation strategy of any performance intervention must pay careful
consideration to change management issues to assure acceptance at all
organizational levels. Evaluation of these changes provides new data for the
ongoing performance analysis process.
Causal Analysis
HR Solutions
Evaluation for Continuous
Three Principles
There are three underlying principles of performance development:
Performance rarely improves by itself.
Once deteriorated, performance becomes increasingly resistant to
Performance will only stay improved if there is support from the
performance development system.
Since the organization must work at improving and maintaining performance, a
performance development system must be the centerpiece of an organization’s
human resource effort if it is to maintain its effectiveness in the long run.
As mentioned earlier, many organizations maintain extensive human resource
functions that are essential to their successful operation. The adoption of a
systematic PDS across the organization will provide a value-added benefit to
each of the various HR services. This will result from the development of
integrated solutions in response to real needs.
A comparison of traditional human resource functions and the PDS is
illuminating. Some of the characteristic differences are:
Internally derived business plans drive HR
Compartmentalized HR functions work in
isolation from each other and have minimal
impact on the organization.
Often inwardly focused on their narrow area of
Priority is placed on process improvement (by
doing the thing right) .
Organizational missions provide PDS strategy.
Promotes alignment of people, programs, and
Highlights integrated links within HR and
provides an organizational focus for greater
In taking a holistic approach PDS promotes
interservice cooperation in tackling
performance challenges.
Priority is placed on organizational results and
impact by doing the right things before trying
to do things better.
HR functions reacting to organizational
problems in isolation, often provide piecemeal
"quick fix" solutions.
The PDS is both responsive to organizational
problems and proactive in seeking
opportunities to improve performance.
The approach to solving problems is often
superficial (aimed at the symptoms) and based
on "gut feeling".
A systematic process for identifying root
causes of gaps is conducted before identifying
Through fixed thinking, solutions tend to
predictably follow a single track, e.g. training.
Generates multiple solutions (integrates
training and non-training solutions).
Solutions are often poorly implemented and
their effectiveness is rarely measured.
Solutions follow an implementation plan and
being result-driven, are evaluated and
continuously improved.
Historically, functions within organizations that influence human performance
have operated rather independently, each providing its own set of solutions to its
perception of the organization's performance challenges. Traditionally, the HR
organizations tend to be wrongly viewed as support functions that are separate
and subordinate entities from the higher profile operations side of an
For HR to maximally contribute to an organization’s mission, it must be a true
partner with operations. For example, HR programs that provide the greatest
return on investment are those that are linked with organizational requirements.
The PDS provides this link between HR functions and the organizational
mission, business goals, strategy, and operational requirements through an
integrated approach to workers, work, and the workplace.
The following diagram illustrates how the various HR functions can be
integrated in support of both individual and organizational performance.
?Organizational Mission
?Business Goals
?Strategy ?Operational Requirements
Hum an Resources
Devel opment
? Educat ion & t raini ng
? Development
? Job ai ds
? Career sys tems
? Indi vidual feedback s yst ems
? Ergonomi cs
? Faci li ti es des i gn
? Expert s ys t ems
? Document ati on
? Technol ogy
? Informat ion s ys tems
Organizati onal
Devel opment
? Organi zat ional des i gn
? Group process
? Cult ure change
? Team buil di ng
? Group feedback s yst ems
Hum an Resources
? Supervis i on & l eadershi p
? Compensati on pl anni ng
? Empl oyee l abor & rel at ions
? Succes si on planni ng
? Benefit s
? P ers onnel s electi on
? Incenti ves & rew ards
A primary benefit of PDS is that it helps integrate HR more strongly into the
organization’s mission and strategic plan. Traditional HR practices are
sometimes fragmented and not sufficiently related to mission accomplishment.
PDS can provide the means to better integrate operational and organizational
However, even though PDS seems to many people to be a good idea, they
wonder about its feasibility. As Pogo said:
"We seem to be faced with an insurmountable
- quote from a "Pogo" comic strip.
In the FAA, the opportunity for performance improvement through PDS is not
insurmountable. Adopting the PDS approach in any organization will provide
greater efficiencies and effectiveness by:
focusing effort and planning on organizational needs and goals,
aligning and prioritizing all activities based on the organization's critical
emphasizing doing the right job before doing the job right,
insisting on measurable results and continuous improvement in performance
to meet the needs, and
increasing responsiveness to challenges and recognizing opportunities for
further improvement.
"Flawless execution cannot compensate for
implementing the wrong solution."
- Daryl Conner, Pres. of ODR, Atlanta.
The PDS model includes three major phases: Performance Analysis, Causal
Analysis, and application of HR Solutions. Within each phase there are a number
of steps to accomplishment as outlined below:
Phase One - Performance Analysis
STEP 1: Identify organizational needs
STEP 2: Assess performance needs
Phase Two - Causal Analysis
STEP 3: Identify the symptom(s)
STEP 4: Analyze the cause(s)
Phase Three - HR Solutions
STEP 5: Generate solutions
STEP 6: Implement solutions
STEP 7: Evaluate for continuous
These stages are further illustrated in the diagram on the next page.
PHASE 1 - Performance Analysis
Step 1 - Identify Organizational Needs
1.1 - Identify the desired organizational state
1.2 - Identify the actual state of the organization
1.3 - Identify the gaps (needs)
1.4 - Sort and prioritize the gaps (needs)
Step 2 - Assess Performance Needs
2.1 - Determ ine the ideal workforce perform ance
2.2 - Determ ine the actual workforce performance
2.3 - Identify the performance gaps
2.4 - Prioritize the performance gaps
Both Steps 1 and 2 use needs assessment techniques, but at different levels of
application. A needs assessment is the process of identifying needs based on the
gaps between where the organization is now and where it would like to be. It is a
powerful tool that not only allows an organization to reduce or eliminate
performance problems, but also to identify opportunities for ways to move
closer to its vision.
Performance analysis consists primarily of needs assessment conducted at one or
both of two levels: the organizational performance level (Step 1) and the
individual performance level (Step 2).
Analysis at the organizational level (Step 1) usually consists of identifying
organizational requirements by reviewing documents or interviewing one or two
key people. If this information is not available, then you have two choices:
propose that an organizational analysis be conducted, or make a “best guess”
based on the information that is available.
If gaps in workforce performance are closed without first considering desired
organizational goals, then the organization may make only superficial short-term
gains. Real gains will be made only when performance improves in line with
desired organizational goals. In other words, the primary concern is, Are we
doing the right things?, and the secondary concern is, Are we doing things
Because the results of this step influence all subsequent steps, it is critical to get
the best information you can in the time you have.
Identify Organizational Needs
Typically organizational problems are presented by management as an
undesirable performance currently occurring in the workplace, and the statement
of the problem will be accompanied by a request for a given solution.
Example. You receive a request for a course for employees that covers personal
motivation in conjunction with the organization’s expectations concerning
attendance at work, adherence to personnel policies and procedures pertaining to
career planning, vacation planning, and other aspects of employee behavior. The
rationale provided for the request is that employee morale is low as evidenced by
the increasing rate of absenteeism and a growing number of grievances that are
being filed. As you read this request, you wonder if it is an employee problem, or
if it is more likely to be a supervisory problem resulting from deficiencies in
supervisory performance.
Therefore, you decide to use the PDS process to identify the real problem and
best solution. This will allow you to confirm the correctness of the request you
received, or to recommend a different solution. You will begin with a brief
organizational analysis to put this situation into the appropriate perspective.
You have to verify that
this is an organizational problem,
whose problem it is (e.g., supervisors or employees), and
what the gap is, relative to the organizational goals and operational
You do this by identifying relevant organizational goals and aligning them with
the specific workforce performance requirements that relate to the problem as
The elements of Step 1, Organizational Analysis, and an example of how they
apply to the above situation are as follows:
Step 1.1 Desired state
Determine the desired organizational state. This step could potentially require
building an organizational vision, strategic planning, and operational planning.
This sometimes happens within the context of PDS planning, but more often the
process is much simpler. It requires that you examine existing documents to
determine how the organization’s mission and strategy relate to your situation.
This might require you to compose some statements that describe the
organization’s goals and operational requirements at a level of detail that gives
you specific guidance. You would then obtain approval, unless you are
responsible for these policy decisions, from your manager. After you have
defined the desired state, you have a basis for assessing the actual state and
defining the gaps.
Example. You review job descriptions and talk to a few managers and senior
supervisors. It takes only a couple of hours and you verify that supervisors are
responsible for stimulating positive morale, implementing personnel
management policies and procedures, and maintaining satisfactory workforce
Step 1.2 Actual state
Determine the actual state of the organization. To complete this step you have to
obtain information about the actual performance indicators that apply in your
situation. Do not use global indicators that apply only at the highest level of the
organization. For example, national airway safety statistics are an important
organizational indicator for FAA, but these statistics are not going to be helpful
in solving a problem with absenteeism in one particular region.
Instead, identify actual organizational performance measures that apply to the
problem you are trying to solve. These can include such things as productivity
indicators (number of forms completed, number of projects completed in a given
time), quality improvement (less rework, on-time completion dates), work habits
and procedures (absenteeism, improved safety record), and time or money
savings (less downtime, quicker repair time).
Example. At the same time that you talked to people about the desired state of
supervisor performance, you also verified that there are too many reports of
absenteeism, too many grievances being filed, and lower than normal levels of
Step 1.3 Organizational
Identify the gaps. During this step, you identify the difference
between performance expectations and actual performance, and identify the gaps
in performance. It is helpful to list the actual level of performance next to the
ideal organizational state to make it easy to see a direct comparison between
what should be and what is. When specific performance problems are identified,
often a single gap in organizational needs may result.
Example. The gaps resulting form this analysis are primarily in the areas of
absenteeism and grievances. Lower than normal levels of productivity seem to
be a result of the above, and not a separate problem.
Step 1.4 Organizational
Sort and rank the gaps. If you have several needs or gaps, then
rank order them to identify which ones to solve first. The criteria for ranking are
criticality, cost, and ease of solving. Criticality refers to those gaps which are
most important based on the organization’s primary goals, and on the
consequences of not solving the problem. Problems which have serious negative
consequences will have a higher priority.
Also consider costs of solving the problem. With limited resources you have to
determine whether it would cost more to solve the problem than to live with it,
assuming that the results of the problem are acceptable. And, you have to devote
your resources to the most serious problems.
A third consideration is ease of solving the problem. Other things being equal,
work on the easiest problems first. The success and experience you gain from
solving these problems will help you with the more difficult ones.
The identified needs or gaps are prioritized in terms of their criticality and cost
benefit which results from examining what it costs to close the gap versus what it
costs to ignore it.
The prioritization is helpful because it is highly likely that there will be
insufficient time, money, and opportunity to close all gaps. In cases where a
specific performance problem yields only one gap, this prioritization procedure
is not required.
Consequently, it is important to identify specific organizational needs that apply
to your situation. The primary reason for conducting this step is to identify the
organizational needs that will benefit from the performance improvement
requirements that you identify in the next phase of the PDS process.
Example. In the example that was introduced above, unacceptable employee
performance due to poor morale was presented as the problem. After conducting
a quick organizational analysis you are able to list the desired and actual
organizational performance. Based on these results, it is clear that the problem is
at the supervisory level. Following is a summary of the desired and actual states.
Desired Organizational State
Current Organizational State
A workforce that is motivated to
achieve the FAA’s mission and goals.
Current performance reports indicate
organizational goals are not being
At the organizational level this implies
high morale resulting from
management and supervisory practices
that include positive recognition of
individual contributions, equitable
treatment of employees, and agency
At the operational level some
indicators of success based on effective
management practices are that
• show up for work on time;
At the operational level, absentee
rates are excessively high .
Also, there has been an increase in the
number of grievances being filed by
These indicators suggest that at the
organizational level, morale is down
and that supervisory practices are
resulting in inequitable treatment of
• are positive about their jobs; and,
• agree with established policies and
There is clearly a gap in results based on absenteeism and grievances, and you
decide to examine the performance of supervisors to identify the specific gaps in
their performance.
Assess Performance Needs
Based on the needs that you just identified at the organizational level, you are
ready to find out how the employees should perform to achieve these goals.
Once again, you will follow the needs assessment process to compare ideal to
actual employee performance. This type of needs assessment can often be done
in a very short time - less than a day. It requires that you identify the desired
level of performance based on interviews, direct observations of “ideal”
performers, or a review documents such as job descriptions. You then obtain
information about the desired level of performance for the comparison. If this is
a new job or if the problem is severe, then it will take longer to do the
performance needs assessment.
The important point is that you should never skip this step. Even a little
analysis will go a long way in helping you create the best possible solution. As
Joe Harless said, “An ounce of analysis is worth a pound of objectives.”
Step 2.1 Ideal
Determine the ideal workforce performance. The aim here
is to identify desired workforce performance expectations. As in Step 1, your
vision should not be limited because many opportunities can be created if you
are prepared to go beyond current expectations. Desired workforce performance
can be derived from job-task analysis and competency analysis of existing or
future job requirements. Direct observation of employees and interviews with
people performing the job, their managers, and their co-workers are useful ways
to find out how the job should be done.
Example. When you look at specific job performance requirements, you find
that the organizational goals translate into measurable performance criteria.
These include a list of specific expectations such as using appropriate priorities
for assigning vacation schedules, equitable distribution of work assignments, and
use of conflict resolution procedures. A list of some of the most pertinant
requirements is included in the example for Step 2.4.
Step 2.2 Actual
Determine the actual workforce performance. Actual
workforce performance is based on observations of how the workforce is
currently performing and is described in terms of measurable results. Often you
can obtain “ideal” and “actual” information at the same time. By combining
interviews with observations, you can learn how the job should be done at the
same time that you are identifying the current performance levels.
Example. When you examine actual performance records, you find that many
employees complain of favoritism in assigning vacation opportunities and in
work assignments. You find that people do not always receive pertinant
information about their jobs, and that conflicts are not resolved in a timely or
correct manner.
Step 2.3 Performance
Identify the performance gaps. Based on the results of
Steps 2.1 and 2.2, you compare the actual and desired states of workforce
performance and express the results in objective and measurable terms. It is
often helpful to list the “ideal” and “actual” side-by-side in a table, as in Step
1.3. This helps you make a direct comparison as you identify the gaps.
Example. In this situation, the gaps are well-defined because of the specific
nature of the problem. You decide to go directly to the next step instead of
preparing a separate list of gaps at this step. [Note: This is an example of how
you should modify this process to fit the situation. You decide not to do this substep, but you are not actually skipping it. You are simply combining it with the
next one.]
Step 2.4 Prioritize
Rank order the performance gaps. The resulting gaps are
expressed in terms of the tasks and outcomes that represent the job performance
requirements. If there are too many to solve at once, they should be prioritized
according to their criticality, as in Step 1.4. The magnitude of the problem has to
be examined in terms of cost and benefit. You should consider what would
happen if you left the problem alone, what it would cost to close the gap, and
what it would cost if you do not close the gap. After you finish the prioritization,
you select the most important gaps to solve in
Phases 2 and 3.
Example. For the morale example, you were able to identify a set of specific job
performance requirements for supervisors that are supposed to achieve the
organizational goals. A sample of these is listed in the left column of the
following diagram. You also determined that the supervisors, as a group, are not
achieving these performance levels. A corresponding sample of their actual
performance is summarized in the right column.
Sampling of Desired Supervisor
Sampling of Current Supervisor
Vacation time awarded in accordance
with established policy and procedures
which accounts for seniority, work
schedule (i.e. don’t give vacation to
someone when a major report is due, or
when other people depend on that
person’s inputs), etc.
Many employees complain of
favoritism being shown in assigning
vacation schedules, overtime, and
dissemination of information about
career opportunities.
Work assignments are distributed
All employees are given timely
information about career development
Conflicts are managed promptly and in
accordance with established
Policies and procedures for approving
vacation schedules are frequently
Overtime records are not up-to-date
and accurate.
Conflicts are sometimes allowed to
grow until uninvolved employees
“takes sides” before the problem is
There are numerous gaps in this example. You start to prioritize them, and then
you decide that they are all related. All of them revolve around the supervisor’s
willingness or ability to perform specific employee management skills
effectively. You decide to do a causal analysis before attempting to rank order
these problems.
PH ASE 2 - C aus al Analys is
Step 3 - Identi f y the Symptom (s )
Coll ect i nformat ion by:
? Obs ervati on
? Int ervi ew & s urvey
? Studyi ng exi st ing dat a
Step 4 - Analyze the Caus es (s)
Is the reas on a l ack of:
? Skil l / knowl edge?
? Incenti ve?
? Mot ivati on?
? Environment ?
Identify the symptoms
During Step 2.2 above, you probably identified some of the more obvious
symptoms of the problem, but you might not have all of the critical ones. In this
step, it is important to identify and quantify the extent of all symptoms through a
more detailed analysis. This step is crucial to the PDS approach because these
symptoms provide the basis for determining what the actual cause of the problem
This detailed data collection phase requires detective work on your part. Become
a sleuth, look for clues and critical incidents. Identify factors which may have
some indirect influence or impact on the less than desirable performance.
Techniques for gathering problem-related information are numerous and include:
observing the workplace,
interviewing the performers, managers, employees, clients, and vendors or
using questionnaires and other survey methods, and
studying existing data such as reports, policy statements, logs, and other
records of performance.
Individual and focus group interview techniques can be useful. Methods that get
buy-in from the stakeholders are usually very effective. It is often helpful to use
more than one technique as a way of obtaining different perspectives on
Example. You decide to use several techniques to identify the potential causes
of the performance gap. You talk to a sample of employees, supervisors, and
managers. You also interview people in personnel who process the outputs from
supervisors and resolve issues that arise from performance problems. Finally,
you examine files to see how forms were processed, how records were kept, and
how information was recorded. Based on these forms of data collection, you
obtain a great deal of opinions and facts. These data indicate that supervisors:
do not take some of their responsibilities seriously
“play favorites” when giving vacation assignments
also “play favorites” when giving information about career opportunities
do not know how to implement conflict resolution procedures
do not have enough time to fulfill all of their duties
lack examples of correctly filled-out forms and correctly-implemented
create special opportunities for friends
lack a personal time-management systems for performing their duties
cause poor morale
You realize that some of these symptoms are cues to the real problem, and others
are consequences of the problem, not causes of it.
After listing these symptoms, your next step is to identify the actual causes of the
problem and to separate the causes from the rest of the symptoms.
Analyze the causes
What are the real reasons for the performance gap? After sorting through
symptoms and identifying the problem, you are ready to seek out the root causes
of the discrepancy. Typically, your performance problem will fit into one or
more of four categories: lack of skill or knowledge, lack of environmental
support, lack of appropriate incentives, or a lack of individual motivation. To
help identify the cause(s), examine past remedial efforts and the reasons for their
success or failure. Also, ask the question:
Could they do it if their lives depended on it?
If the answer is "No", then there is either a skill or knowledge deficiency, or an
environmental problem. If the response is "Yes", then other issues such as
incentives or motivational factors are most likely the cause.
Following are several questions that can help you identify which cause or
combination of causes to select.
A lack of skills or knowledge.
Is it a skill, knowledge or attitude deficiency ?
Have they not been able to learn the skills by watching others?
Did the person once know how to perform the task, but has forgotten what
is required?
Remember Cram's Law "People don't do things for the darnedest of reasons!"
A lack of environmental support.
Are there any obstacles to performing as desired?
Are the necessary resources available?
Is there enough time and opportunity to perform as desired?
If the answer to the question, Could poor performers do it if they had to?, is yes,
then a range of other causes might come into play:
A lack of appropriate incentives.
What are the consequences of performing as desired?
How great are the consequences of non-performance?
A lack of individual motivation.
Do employees realize how and why their performance is important?
Are people's needs for achievement and self-determination being met?
By using these questions to review the symptoms and then verifying the results
with your customer, you are more likely to correctly identify the root cause of
the problem.
Example. Of the symptoms identified in Step 3, some will be key indicators of
the problem, whereas others may give a distorted perception of what is really
happening. In the present example, a survey of employees indicated that quite a
few people identified favoritism by supervisors as a problem, and a perception
that supervisors did not fill out forms correctly because they didn’t take them
seriously. However, you learn that almost all of the supervisors are not “playing
favorites.” They give information to whoever is near them because they are so
busy and do not have a good information dissemination plan. This appears to
others as “playing favorites” which is not the intention of the supervisors.
In reality, many of the supervisors had been newly assigned to their positions.
They, in keeping with past practices, received generic supervisory training and
were expected to learn job-specific personnel management skills on the job by
getting advice from managers or asking experienced supervisors. In the present
situation, there were too many new supervisors to do this, and there were several
new regulations that made the job more difficult.
Consequently, the supervisors lack sufficient knowledge of agency policy, and
they lack skills in completing appropriate personnel documentation and
managing subordinates. They are also under extreme time pressures and tend to
take shortcuts to meet deadlines. In this case, their complaints about not having
enough time are legitimate because several new tasks were added to their job
after the new regulations were put in place.
Therefore, the major causes of the problem are lack of supervisory skills and
environmental factors. The environmental factors include a lack of time to do
their job and a lack of coaching support combined with a lack of adequate
models of correct procedures. Based on your analysis, you do not have evidence
to suggest that the real problem is one of supervisor motivation or lack of
incentives. On the contrary, the supervisors are frustrated because they want to
do a good job.
Based on this identification of causes, you have determined that the problem is
with supervisors, not employees, as was originally presented to you.
Furthermore, it is not a problem with supervisor motivation. Instead, it is a
training and environment problem you are now ready to solve.
PHASE 3 - Determining HR Solutions
Step 5 - Developing Solutions and
choosing the "Best"
5.1 - Generate options
5.2 - Select the "best" solution(s)
5.3 - Develop and test solution
Step 6 - Implementing the
6.1 - Develop an implementation plan
6.2 - Implement new practices
Step 7 - Evaluate for Continuous
7.1 - Develop evaluation opportunities
7.2 - Review new practices
7.3 - Revise new practices as required
Develop Solutions and Choose the "Best"
After the real problems have been analyzed it is time to identify a range of
possible solutions and select the best solution or combination of solutions. These
will come from the four major categories of solutions: human resources
development, organizational development, human resources management, and
environmental engineering.
Step 5.1 Generate
The first task is to produce a list of potential solutions that are related
to the causes you identified in Phase 2. Following is a structured process that has
proven to be helpful.
Brainstorm to develop as many ideas as possible. Techniques such as
nominal group processes and decision support centers, like the Team
Technology Center, can be helpful.
Classify the ideas according to the four categories of causes. Some typical
types of solutions for each type of cause are listed in the following table.
Apply real organizational constraints (funds, time, resources) to focus on
potentially realistic solutions.
Weed out unworkable ideas.
Identify advantages and disadvantages of each remaining solution.
The following table provides a guide for linking possible solutions to particular
Possible Causes Lack of:
Possible Solution s Look at:
Skills / Knowledge
Training - formal or OJT
Job aids
Computer-based modules
Environmental Constraints
Work redesign
Improve workplace factors
The right tools
Appropriate Incentives
Recognition for excellence
Promotion based on performance
An awards program
Individual Motivation
Confidence building
More autonomy and responsibility
Step 5.2 Select the
From the list of alternative solutions, estimate the costs and benefits
“best” solutions
of each to determine where you will get the bigger return on investment. Mager
and Pipe (1984) suggest the following criteria:
The value of the solution must be positive. (How will it contribute to the
goals and mission of the organization?)
The solution must be economical. (Will it be at considerably lower cost
than the problem?)
It must be practical. (Are the means of implementing the solution
It must be feasible. (Will it be acceptable to the people affected?)
In this context the use of cost-benefit analysis, including return on investment
estimates, can be useful for planning. See FAA’s How to Estimate the CostBenefit of Training for further guidance.
Following is another example. Based on the list of symptoms, it lists a set of
potential solutions and the choice of best solutions. This example provides a
brief, “bird’s eye” view of the logic in this process.
An Exampl e of Pay Cler k performance.
Problem: A sig nificant number of compl aints r eceived on the backl og of pay and all owances for
Sym ptoms
The foll owi ng wer e identified:
Possible Causes
A combination of:
Possible Solut ions
Look at:
Err ors:
No. of err ors i n pay.
Inconsistent pay ti me.
Delays in amending pay.
Ski ll s defi ciencies. Poor
tr ansfer of trai ni ng .
1. Refr esher tr ai ni ng on
automated pay system.
2. Devel op a job- aid.
Lack of incenti ves. No
r ewards or feedback.
3. Reward accur acy.
4. Gr eater super vi sor
r ei nforcement
Lack of motivation. No
r el evance to future career
opportuni ties.
5. Pr ovide career path and
g uidance.
6. Establish self- inspecti on.
7. Emphasize r ole of r ewar d
on morale.
Poor working envi ronment.
Eq uipment not working
proper ly and out-of- date
8. Iron out bugs in system.
9. Devise better wor k flow.
10. Impr ove ventilati on and
l ig hting .
Conseq uences:
No r ewar ds for er ror -fr ee wor k
Get extr a wor k if effi cient
"It' s just a dead-end cl erk job."
"What's their beef? They g ot
their pay di dn't they".
"The Boss will fi x it anyway! "
Envi ronmental Condi tions
Bug s in new automated
pay system.
Over -wor ked.
Hot, stuffy office.
Best Solutions:As a conseq uence of a cost- benefit anal ysis of the 10 optional sol utions, it was
determi ned that Options 2, 4, 7, 8, and 10 woul d be the best combinati on of sol utions to close the g ap in
per for mance of pay clerks. These would then be developed, tested, impl emented, eval uated and
continuously impr oved.
Step 5.3 Develop &
After selecting the solutions, a set of interventions has to be
test solution
developed. If time and resources permit, the interventions should undergo some
form of evaluation. First, conduct reviews with stakeholders and experts. Then,
attempt to pilot test the interventions with one of the target groups and revise as
required. If a pilot test is not possible, then you will be limited to the expert
Example. In the supervisor example, the solution is relatively straightforward. It
is a combination of training and environmental factors to include job redesign
and supporting tools such as job aids. The training will focus on the “nuts and
bolts” of the supervisor’s responsibilities. The job redesign will require an
analysis of which duties can be shifted to another person, how some of the
responsibilities can be streamlined, and whether there are some job requirements
that are no longer necessary and can be eliminated. Workplace support will
include the development of a supervisor’s handbook that contains examples of
forms and procedures in a “ready reference” format. You have your plan
reviewed by several experienced supervisors and managers.
Implement the Solutions
Having developed the solution or set of solutions, a plan of action to implement
the new practices is essential.
Step 6.1. Develop an
Many examples exist of great solutions that were not as effective as
implementation plan
they might have been due to a lack of planning. Successful implementation of
new practices requires adequate planning. There are a variety of project
management techniques and software packages that can be used to help in the
planning process.
Remember to keep sight of the people who will be affected by this new practice.
Never get too caught up in "the solution" and forget about "the people". The
implementation plan should identify a strategy for the adoption of the new
Step 6.2 Implement
Once the plan has been developed, it is time to implement the
new practices
new practices. As a general principle, the implementation plan should be
followed; however, when contingencies arise, flexibility is required to adjust the
plan to respond to the new situation.
Example. Implementation of the solutions to the supervisory example requires a
three-pronged approach combined with a coordinated management plan. First is
the development of a training program. This will require application of a
systematic course development process to determine exactly which skills and
knowledge to include in the course, and to design learning activities that are
skill-oriented. A lecture course will not solve this performance problem.
The second task is to assign a team to analyze the job and produce
recommendations for changes. This will require that changes to the supervisor’s
job definition be coordinated with any other jobs that are affected by the
The third task is to design the supervisor’s handbook. It will be necessary to
conduct analysis to determine what should be in the handbook, and to design the
appropriate contents.
It will be important to manage this process so that the solutions are coordinated
and integrated, which is a key feature of the PDS approach. For example, the
course design team will require input from the job redesign team. Also, it will be
best if the handbook is prepared before the course is taught so that it can be used
in the course.
At this point, you have an integrated set of solutions that are tied to the real
performance problem and the organizational goal. The next step is to determine
how you will know if your solutions are successful.
Evaluate for Continuous Improvement
Effective evaluation is planned during the early stages of developing and
implementing the solutions to an existing problem or the new practices that lead
toward a future opportunity. When you identify organizational needs and
performance requirements, you are in a position to define the outcomes that you
wish to achieve. These outcomes become the measures that are used in
evaluation and are compared with the status of the organization prior to
implementing the new practices.
When evaluation has not been planned ahead of time, then it is necessary to
identify the pre-existing status of the organization and the expected outcomes as
well as possible. This information is used to guide the planning and
implementation of the evaluation.
Step 7.1 Develop
It is very important to incorporate evaluation into the PDS process.
an evaluation plan
Because it is a system, the PDS is not complete without the evaluation that
occurs throughout the process and during the implementation cycle. The
evaluation plan should include process evaluation with checkpoints for
determining how well each phase of the process has been conducted. This
information is used for process improvement.
The evaluation plan should also include outcomes evaluation for each of the new
practices that are included in the total solution to the problem. For example,
training should be evaluated with as many of the four levels of evaluation
(participant reactions, learning, transfer, and organizational results) as are
appropriate. See FAA’s How to Do Training Evaluation for additional
The evaluation plan should include both process and outcomes evaluation, but as
with every other aspect of the PDS process, the evaluation plan should be
responsive to the situation and cost effective. In other words, the evaluation
should include as many elements as will be of direct benefit to the project, and it
should be simple enough to have useful information in a timely way. Some
projects, due to their size and the criticality of their outcomes, might require
complex evaluations, but in most cases, a fairly simple approach is sufficient.
The important thing is to do it, and to use the results in decision making about
the current project or future ones.
Step 7.2 Implement
Once the evaluation plan has been developed it should be followed.
This review of the new practices is required to determine if the solution fills the
gap in performance and whether there is a need to adjust or modify the solution
or its implementation. Process evaluation will have long-term benefits because it
helps you improve both the current project and your overall development of the
PDS approach. Outcomes evaluation helps you improve the quality of the
solutions that you are implementing, and it will help you design better solutions
in the future.
Step 7.3 Revise new
If the new practices are not producing the desired performance, then
practices as required
something has to be done about them. Recognition of the new gap isn't enough there has to be remedial action to modify the new practices. Once the cause of
the deficiency has been identified and the new practice modified, the
implementation, evaluation, and review processes are again instituted. Make sure
that the revisions become part of the accepted improved practices. Policies and
procedures should reflect the latest changes.
The cycle of continuous improvement closes the gap between "what is" and
"what should be" and results in performance that accomplishes the organization's
mission. Aligning workforce performance with desired performance
requirements is the goal of the PDS process.
Example. In the supervisor example, you decided to use a combination of
process evaluation and training evaluation methods to provide quality control.
For the job redesign and handbook development projects you use process
evaluation to ensure that each step of each process is being accomplished
acceptably. This evaluation includes expert review of products, your review of
products and accomplishments, and target audience reviews of the feasibility and
applicability of the new job requirements and handbook contents.
For training, you require all four levels of training evaluation (see FAA’s How to
Do Training Evaluation.. This means that you will obtain participant reactions to
the training (Level 1 evaluation), a measure of how well they have learned the
content (Level 2 evaluation), how much they transfer to the job (Level 3
evaluation), and whether training in combination with the other solutions
contributes to solving the organizational problem (Level 4 evaluation).
Following the implementation and evaluation of the package of solutions, it was
found that grievances had been reduced by 66% and procedural complaints had
almost disappeared. Some other consequences flowing from the more equitable
application of scheduling included a more harmonious and cooperative work
environment. The perception that supervisors showed favoritism stopped
altogether. Thus, solving the real problem also removed the extraneous
symptoms of the problem.
The PDS process offers an opportunity to provide more integrated, effective, and
cost efficient solutions to developing people and helping the organization
achieve its goal. This booklet provides a brief overview of the process. A key
point to take from this book is that it is the logic represented by this process that
is critical to human resource development. You might not have time, and it might
not be appropriate, to do a lengthy and expensive needs assessment or job/task
analysis. But, this does not mean that you should skip these steps.
It is always important to find out what the real organizational needs are and what
the critical performance requirements are before expending funds on solutions.
By employing this process, you will strengthen the effectiveness of all of the
human resource programs. It is an aim of AHR to continue implementating this
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Mager, R.F., & Pipe P. Analyzing Performance Problems: or You Really Oughta Wanna. Belmont, CA: Lake
Publishing Co., 1984.
Rosenberg, M.J. Performance Technology: Working the System. Training, Feb. 1990, 43-48.
Rossett, A. Training Needs Assessment. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications, 1987.
Zemke, R., & Kramlinger, T. Figuring Things Out: A Trainer's Guide to Needs and Task Analysis. Reading, MA:
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