July 2012


I just read a well-written article on front-end analysis.  In addition to providing practical insights into performance analysis the author does a good job differentiating human performance technology (HPT) from basic training development.

Human performance technology is a set of disciplines but it is also a way of thinking.  A thorough performance improvement effort requires specialized experience but everybody in an organization can help.  One of the best contributions a person can make is to conduct an informal front-end analysis.  Note the emphasis on informal.  This may sound intimidating or complicated but it isn’t and doesn’t have to be.

The author provides two goals for the front-end analysis but anyone can make significant progress on the first, defining the current and desired performance.  Most performance improvement efforts start with a problem.  The person who identifies the problem can probably provide valuable information about it and its causes without the guidance or involvement of an HPT professional.

Below are relevant questions I chose from the article.

  • Based on what evidence can you say you have a problem?
  • How will we know when the problem is solved?
  • What are the possible causes of the problem? (Lack of data, tools, incentives, knowledge, capacity, motives)
  • What is the probable cause? (Of all the possible causes which one is the most likely?)
  • Should we allocate resources to solve it?

The point of this process is to make an early attempt at understanding a problem.  In most cases these questions will bring focus and help determine if more people need to get involved.

You shouldn’t need a Rosetta Stone to figure out what each other are saying in your organization.  How many times has a problem surfaced simply because of confusion about the terms being used?

A lot of headaches, time, and expense can be avoided simply by making sure everyone understands what is being said.  Most people, myself included, do not want to interrupt a meeting or look foolish by asking what an acronym or term means.  In my experience, performance improves when everyone understands each other.  If people are using different terms to talk about the same thing, pick one term and agree to use it.

When it comes time to train or retrain your employees it will make things much easier.  Instead of having to explain the meaning of terms or phrases you can focus on the actual purpose for the training.