This is part 3 of my overview of ISPI’s performance standards for human performance technology.  Here are the links to part 1 and part 2.

The third standard is adding value.  This standard is not about working for the lowest price.  The point of this standard is to ensure the performance consultant makes a measurable difference in the work they do and how they do it.  Simply stated the consultant should do more than show up, do what their told, and collect a paycheck.  A lot more.  Through the years I have worked with many so-called learning professionals who do just what the client tells them to do and nothing more.  One of the reasons I pursued my certification in human performance technology was to show that I do things differently.  I add value.

For me to add value I have to follow a process that helps my client understand the implications of any choice they make regarding a performance need.  This standard is a continuation of the work done in the previous two standards, focus on results and performance context.  The better we have defined the opportunity and environment in which performance occurs the better the chance we have for creating the right intervention.  The role of the performance consultant is to help the client understand their need or opportunity, facilitate the investigation into that need or opportunity and recommend an intervention that will successfully yield the desired results.

According to ISPI, the investigative process I referenced above includes “offering your clients a process that will help them fully understand the implications of their choices, setting appropriate measures, identifying barriers and trade-offs, and taking control.”  The last item in this list could be confusing.  By taking control, they mean providing leadership.   If a client has entrusted me with a performance issue it is my responsibility to invest the time and energy required to understand the issue and offer my perspective.

Let me provide an example of a project where I took control.  The project was to develop materials for an instructor-led course.  The subject matter was delicate and the development team was passionate.  When I joined the project a lot of effort had already gone into compiling the content.  In reviewing the work it became clear that a significant portion of the content was redundant.  It was my conclusion that the learners would be confused if the course was developed based on this content.  It was also likely that the development team would struggle to create effective instructional materials.  This would result in wasted time, missed deadlines, and cost overruns.

In this case, taking control meant clarifying the work that had been done already and making sure the development team was unified in supporting the changes.  My first contribution to the project was to reorganize the content to reduce or eliminate the redundancy.  Working with my sponsor we developed a plan to get the development team to support the changes.  In my first meeting with the team they approved my revisions and we were quickly able to move on to developing the instructional methodology.

Another way a performance consultant can add value is by presenting alternatives.  Anyone who has worked on training projects knows there is more than one way to address a performance need.  Usually there are trade-offs with each option.  When exploring the best way to resolve a performance issue, it is the responsibility of the performance consultant to provide multiple approaches for the client to consider and to help the client make the decision that best suits their needs.  When evaluating the options, the consultant should include information that will help the client select the best approach.  ISPI provides a few factors to consider when evaluating the options:

  • Cost to design, develop, implement, and maintain each approach.
  • Likelihood of adoption or use by the target audience.
  • Probability of each solution achieving the desired goals.
  • Implication or possible impact on the target audience, other employees, consumers, the community, etc.
  • Ability of the organization to support each solution (reward the appropriate behaviors and results, provide the appropriate communication/information systems and tools and equipment, maintain sponsorship, etc.).
  • Risks associated with the success or failure of each solution in terms of threats to safety, health, financial return, customer satisfaction, etc.

For each alternative the performance consultant should be able to explain how each approach accounts for the factors above, describe the potential value added for each and how that value will be measured.

If you have been reading each entry in this series it should be clear that there is rarely one solution to a performance problem.  Human performance technology does not solve the problem by itself.  However, it provides an effective framework for understanding a problem and developing the best way to achieve the desired result.  According to ISPI if the consultant is adding value, his or her client will be able to:

  • Identify what will be used as evidence of success, accomplishment, or worth and communicate that to all vested parties (stakeholders) at the start of the project.
  • Determine that a mechanism exists to determine whether the gain was realized and to track early indicators of success so corrections are made.
  • Determine if the assumptive base and the argument for or against a course of action is documented and communicated.
  • State what trade-offs were made and what value was gained, and conclude that the value outweighed the cost.
  • State that what the consultant does adds value and how he or she goes about his or her work adds value.

This is a standard I take very seriously.  If I am working with you and you do not think I am meeting the criteria listed above tell me.

Coming up next, partnerships.