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Creating a Living Endowment for Ensuring Performance

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Richard C. Gillespie and Gene E. Fusch introduce their book, which describes techniques to create a workplace where members of an organization continuously strive for performance improvement. Creating such a workplace often leads to dynamic leadership, empowerment, personal ownership, and a place where people want to be every day.

This book describes techniques to create a workplace where members of an organization continuously strive for performance improvement. Creating such a workplace often leads to dynamic leadership, empowerment, personal ownership, and a place where people want to be every day (Fusch, 2001a). Before we focus on techniques to create a feeling of utopia in the workplace, we’ll discuss organizational performance from a human performance improvement perspective. Human performance has been at the forefront of many organizations in recent years. Dr. Thomas F. Gilbert (2007), who is referred to as the father of human performance technology, pointed out the significance of human performance to the organization through his Human Competence Model, shown in Figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1. Human Competence Model

Gilbert (2007) found two main factors affected human performance in the workplace: environmental issues and worker behavior. In Gilbert’s Human Competence Model, environmental opportunities for improvement are above the horizontal center line, and worker behavior opportunities for improvement are below the line. We adapted Gilbert’s model to clarify that environmental opportunities for improvement above the line fall under what we will call the hard side of management. Worker behavior opportunities for improvement below the line fall under what we will call the soft side of management. It is clear from viewing Gilbert’s model that the hard side of management (above the line) deals with issues that can be changed by management decisions and changes in the workplace environment. It is also evident that worker behavior on the soft side of management (below the line) is under the worker’s control.

Gilbert (2007) further defined three subcategories for Environmental Supports and Worker Behavior: information, instrumentation, and motivation. Gilbert identified Information on the hard side of management as communication, data, and information available to the worker when needed to optimize workplace performance. Likewise, Gilbert defined Information on the soft side of management as the worker’s knowledge and ability to take useful information and effectively perform required tasks.

In his second subcategory, Instrumentation, Gilbert described the hard side of management as having effective ergonomically correct working conditions and equipment to maximize workplace performance. The notion of effective instrumentation in the workplace environment has been evident ever since Elton Mayo’s experiments at Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne Works from 1927 to 1932. Mayo studied the effects of changing the physical work environment and adjusting work schedules. The changes resulted in a motivational effect not only for Mayo’s test group, but also for externalities of the teams who emulated the test group on their own initiative (Mayo, 1949). Given that we have adequate instrumentation above the line, Gilbert (2007) noted that workers need the psychomotor abilities and skills on the soft side of management to perform a task.

In his third subcategory, Motivation, Gilbert pointed out that on the hard side of management, workers need motivation and incentives to want to perform. He noted that this needed to go beyond the basic monetary salary for workers to willingly perform at their best. It is interesting that Gilbert’s final subcategory, Motivation, is on the soft side of management and is totally within the worker’s control. Workers have total power over their behavior to perform in the workplace. However, any change, good or bad, above or below the line in any of the subcategories influences worker behavior to perform in the workplace. Gilbert’s (2007) model provided a scientific framework to analyze worker behaviors and encouraged organizational leaders to look beyond training as the cure-all for lack of desired workplace performance.

Likewise, Binder (2009) worked to put a pragmatic “how-to” spin on Gilbert’s work in what he coined Six Boxes. Boxes 1 through 3 are above the line (the hard side of management), and boxes 4 through 6 are below the line (the soft side of management). Binder argues that if you influence the first five boxes, box six will take care of itself. If you fail to influence the first five boxes, box six will be a chronic problem.

Indeed, box six (worker behavior) is paramount to workplace performance. Considerable research has been conducted on motivation, leadership influence, and why people decide to perform at a particular level. At a foundational level, Maslow (1970) maintained that the individual has needs, wants, and desires that, if left unfulfilled, may hinder self-esteem and self-actualization. On the surface, Maslow’s findings make sense. People do have different levels of needs and fulfillment, and people in Western organizations tend to identify with their work. Think of one of the first icebreaker questions people use at social events when meeting someone new: “What do you do?” However, Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs may fall short in motivating a worker to perform to a higher level.

Enhancing worker motivation and behavior in box six may be better illustrated by Vroom’s expectancy-valence theory. It states that workers believe that performing will have certain desirable consequences (expectancy) and that they perceive their performance as a means to satisfy their needs (valence) (Vroom, 1959; Vroom, 1964; Mathieu and Martineau, 1997). Vroom further found that a worker’s aroused motivation to perform was a “multiplicative function of strength of motive, the value of the incentive offered in the situation, and the expectancy that the acts will lead to the attainment of the incentive” (1959, p. 66).

As we influence the first five boxes with apparent incentives through information, instrumentation, or motivation, we affect the worker’s attitude toward workplace performance. Building on Gilbert’s (2007) Human Competence Model, let’s look at a comprehensive organizational approach to performance.

Organizational Performance

In our ever-changing global economy, organizational leaders are striving to enhance workplace performance. With the realization that training is not always the best answer, the organizational performance profession began focusing on results-based interventions that are linked to the organization’s strategic and operational plans. As a response to global competition in the past few decades, numerous academic and industry studies found that U.S. business focused primarily on activities instead of end results. One good example in the 1980s was the American automotive industry response to a loss in market share to the Japanese. It led to studying the organizational structure of the Japanese enterprise and a shift in focus toward performance improvement initiatives with measurable end results (Morgan, 1986; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995).

Following the trend toward focusing on performance improvement and measurable end results, human performance technologists supported by the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) and the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) began developing performance improvement approaches to help organizations improve workplace performance. We took into consideration current and past performance improvement strategies such as Gilbert (2007), Binder (2009), ISPI, ASTD, and other leaders in the performance industry. We recognized the critical need to integrate performance measurement, real-time strategic and operational managing, with the understanding that all businesses are in business to acquire wealth to gain additional capital to grow and prosper. This includes the absolute necessity of doing so in Valuing Ways. Our performance improvement model, shown in Figure 1.2, provides a comprehensive approach to analyzing the organization.

Figure 1.2

Figure 1.2. Performance improvement model

Our performance improvement model includes the organization’s directions and movements, its end results, and the gap between its desired end results and its actual performance in both what is going well and what is not going well. We call this the performance gap. This chapter navigates each step of our model: performance analysis, gap/cause analysis, intervention selection, evaluation planning, implementation, and measuring end results (see Figure 1.3). The following chapters focus on continuous improvement for what is going well. They describe interventions to reduce the performance gap with practical, proven, how-to strategies that we call Work/Life Approaches.

Figure 1.3

Figure 1.3. Performance improvement process steps

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