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.