Thursday, October 06, 2005

Don Tosti

Don Tosti
October 5, 2005

I described the Tom Malone thesis on networks. Don pointed out that we retain vestiges of tribalism. When tribes such as “marketers” meet a tribe such as “engineers,” sparks fly. If a person goes to the other side to try to patch things up, he is branded as disloyal. His tribe fears he has “gone native.”

A bank disbanded its executive dining room…and found its executives had no place to schmooze

Quality movement: reduce variance rather than innovate. It’s deficiency-driven.

GAP has been perverted. The goal was once to bridge the gap between initial condition and desired state, not to fill it.

Gilbert’s world view was limited to three inside variable and three external variables

The culture Job Aid: express concern by “playing this card.” (Boss warns to temper it with respect.)

UI vs delivery
What does it take to win?
Delivering the branded experience. (BA)

Ask operations the same questions as the board. Shows respect.

Merger madness: BEA (former bomber pilots) + BOAC (fighter pilots)

Legitimization. Yeltsin climbs on the tank.

It is us. Acculturation. Legitimize training. (Send Don the Cluetrain)

“Ownership” because it’s our lives we’re talking about.

Work backward from results, not from top down.

Little girls run the distance. At end, motivational feedback: You did great! At the new beginning, normative feedback like “This time run a little faster.”

Managers get no feedback. It’s fluency vs competency.

EI: why the E?

Most problems are lack of clear instructions and direction.

Forced card sorts. What do you need to do every day to fulfill the promise to your customers? 2nd Sort: Which are you doing? Which are you vaguely aware of? Which are under the radar?

No gurus, no norms…. Just what you said you want to accomplish.

GM course on positive leadership rather than communications when facing down unionization of white collar workers.

Don's article in the current Performance Express goes after the limitations I see in traditional ISD:

by Donald T. Tosti, CPT, PhD

There are several ways we can view improvement in any situation. One way is that which is exemplified in quality efforts. This approach focuses on reducing variation and, therefore, searches for the root cause of the variation and corrects it. Such a “mind set” is a logical development since quality grew out of industrial quality inspection. Inspectors look for defects and errors. So those who use quality improvement methods strive to reduce or eliminate as much error as possible. They can be seen in the current, most popular quantity method called Six Sigma. The name refers to the goal of reducing variance to one part in a million.

A second approach, which is often termed an engineering approach, characterized much of the early development in the field of Human Performance Technology (HPT). Our field has its origins in the psychological learning and performance laboratories. There the focus was on determining what facilitated or inhibited performance. Rather than focusing at what reduced variance in behavior these researchers were more concerned with what could be controlled to shape it in a desired direction. When these people left their laboratories, they were more inclined to take an engineering approach to finding ways to achieve their objective.

Both are legitimate, but each starts with different assumptions and, therefore, often leads to different outcomes. They also use somewhat different processes, although there is a great deal of overlap between the two.

Michael Liebman (2005) describes what this difference is: “Unlike those who tend to approach problems from a ‘bottom-up’ perspective by collecting data and seeking patterns, engineers take a ‘top-down’ approach, probing a specific system for clues, taking it apart and considering how each component can be handled in a tailored solution.”

Henry Petroski (2005) says, “Engineering is more akin to writing or painting, and that it is a creative endeavor that begins in the mind’s eye and proceeds into new frontiers of thought and action, where it does not so much find as make new things.”

The biggest difference is that engineering improvement focuses on means and enabling it, and quality improvement focuses on cause and eliminating it.

Engineering solves problems more through analysis and design than through troubleshooting and repair, although both are accepted as legitimate processes.

Over the years, some feel regrettably so, HPT has tended to drift more toward a quality or correction approach than the engineering or innovation approach to problem solving it used in its formative years.

My concern and those of others in the field (Wittkuhn, 2004) is that a linear focus on cause is incompatible with taking a true systems approach. Systems logic views everything as interdependent. Hence, there is any number of alternative ways to produce a given result. A range of “solutions” is possible, not just one that addresses a “root cause” issue.

An engineering perspective treats the organization as a system or a set of subsystems that has been acted on differentially by many elements that influence its state at critical points over time. Our job as HPT analysts, then, is to identify the various critical points to determine which can be controlled to produce the desired improvement. The requirement is to select from a number of possible interventions that would be most cost-effective given the resource requirements. There is almost never one solution, although there may be one best solution.

Quality is popular. It promises managers cost reductions and greater efficiency. Because it sells so well, the tendency within our field is to allow ourselves to be solely defined as “fixers” rather than “innovators.”

We have learned much from the quality field, but it threatens to limit our perspective to repair and correction as our main problem-solving focus.

If we also focus on innovation and the power of using HPT engineering methods in addressing performance issues, we can open new opportunities that just being gap fixers never would provide. It also can position us at a more strategic level in the organization since innovative solutions are more likely to impact revenue and competitive issues.

Through a wide range of present and yet-to-be-determined innovations, we can help individuals and organizations do a better job of creating value for all those who are their stakeholders. We are only at the threshold. The real promise of Human Performance Technology and its benefits is unlimited.

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