Hello! It’s nice to meet you. My name’s Elisha James LeBlanc. Since everyone slaughters my first name, feel free to call me EJ. I’m a human performance and learning architect. For the past 20 years or so, I’ve been a trainer, educator, instructional systems designer, multimedia developer, performance analyst, and all kinds of things in between. The theme of my professional life has been striving to help people learn and improve their work.
Guy Wallace invited me to write on the second Thursday of each month. I very much appreciate this opportunity to share. Since this is my first post here on Human Performance Technology (HPT) Treasures, I thought it best to both introduce myself and use this as an opportunity to reflect on the value HPT has brought throughout my career.
Specifically, I’d like to share how much I appreciate:
- The HPT Model
- The human performance mindset
- The beginner’s mind
The HPT Model
I am incredibly grateful for the Master of Science in Instructional Design and Development I got from the University of South Alabama. There my instructors taught me to look at Instructional Systems Design (ISD) as a portion of the HPT framework. In my mental model of HPT, HPT revolves around identifying and meeting performance needs. If that’s a learning need (where there’s a gap in knowledge, skill, or abilities – or KSAs), great! I put on my ISD hat and work towards designing and developing a solution that will meet the learning need. But more often than not, it’s actually a performance discrepancy that has nothing to do with training or learning at all. Then I strive to figure out what factor might actually be causing the problem and work with a team to address it and collaboratively craft the performance intervention.
Thus, HPT is a massive umbrella that covers not only Instructional Systems Design, and any human learning methodology, but also any performance and process improvement methodology (such as Lean Six Sigma, Human Factors Engineering, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Kanban, Scrum, DevOps, etc.). The key is that the method used to analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate a performance problem/intervention must be “systematic” – meaning that you can follow your process and retrace your reasoning, and that there is always data to support that reasoning.
The human performance mindset
My goal is to add value by identifying and meeting performance needs. In my projects, I try to figure out what the performer needs to accomplish on his or her job. I don’t figure this out on my own. I do it by watching and listening attentively to the people who need my help. Ideally I do so while being “a fly on the wall” at their place of work while watching them do their jobs. Some of my best projects have come from overhearing people loudly voice profanity-laced complaints at their workstations.
I’m rarely asked to create the solution that my customers actually need. Because the majority of my career’s job titles have revolved around human learning in one way or another, and I do love teaching and learning, people typically approach me to create some kind of learning solution. Most of the time it’s for an e-Learning project.
When I get an order from a customer who is asking for e-Learning, I give them the e-Learning they ask for, and I do my best to make it “meaningful, memorable, motivational, and measurable.” AND wherever I am able, I also, during the course of the project, figure out what the customer actually needs. This “Yes, and…!” approach to address the customer’s requests and their actual concerns builds trust and allows me opportunities to partner with those I work with.
This allows me to shift from an “order taker” mindset – or that of a hired hand – to a performance mindset – one which allows me to become a servant leader who partners with organizations to accomplish their goals.
The beginner’s mind
I cannot understate how valuable – what a treasure trove! – the performance mindset and the HPT model have been for me. They have served me well as a wonderful way to approach projects with “the beginner’s mind.” I find striving for the beginner’s mind, facilitated by the HPT model, allows me to repeatably achieve a state of putting aside what I think I know and letting stakeholders and Subject Matter Experts guide me to where their actual problems are taking place, which further allows me to collect “good data.” That is, I strive to allow the stakeholders I serve to clearly express their problems so I can capture that as data – data as unbiased and untainted as possible.
I recently heard an experience architect state, “You know, more than half of what we do is helping the client figure out who they are and who they want to be.” In her book Clarity First, Karen Martin states that “Ambiguity is the corporate default state, a condition so pervasive that ‘tolerance for ambiguity’ has become a cliché of corporate job postings, a must-have character trait for candidates.”
While it is true we will always have some measure of ambiguity, or even what Daniel Kahneman calls “Noise”, in every process and system, we can’t blindly accept this as the default. Rather, we should always be striving to approach every problem with a beginner’s mindset, leveraging the tools and techniques the performance discrepancies call for to achieve clearly demonstrable improvement in performance – for the ultimate goal of helping the people and organizations we work with excel in achieving their goals, objectives, and key results.
The International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) is about to celebrate its 60th anniversary. The decades of experience ISPI and HPT practitioners offer still provide value today – and should always be relevant as long as there are people who need to get better at their jobs. These decades of experience, and the methods and techniques embraced by ISPI, are supported by their ten standards for competent HPT practitioners. These standards allow the HPT practitioners to add clarity to performance discrepancies and empirically demonstrate value. The standards are:
- Standard 1: Focus on Results or Outcomes
- Standard 2: Take a Systemic View
- Standard 3: Add Value
- Standard 4: Work in Partnership with Clients and Stakeholders
- Standard 5: Determine Need or Opportunity
- Standard 6: Determine Cause
- Standard 7: Design Solutions including Implementation and Evaluation
- Standard 8: Ensure Solutions’ Conformity and Feasibility
- Standard 9: Implement Solutions
- Standard 10: Evaluate Results and Impact
These standards, the HPT model, the performance mindset, and striving to have a beginner’s mind allows me to add value as long as there are humans who will need to get better at their jobs. The specific tools and techniques and methods might change (and boy are they changing rapidly today!), but the heart of serving people by using data to identify and meet their needs will never change – because people will always have “the never ending debt” of needs to be addressed.
The ISPI standards, the HPT model, the performance mindset… these have enabled me to improve performance at the individual, workplace, and organizational levels, thereby becoming treasures not only to myself, but to those I serve. People like Joe Harless have used these treasures to attain societal improvement and facilitate meaningful educational reform. I encourage you to embrace this framework – or perhaps dust it off – and see how relevant and valuable theses treasures can be for you today.
Thanks for letting me share! See you next month. Please feel free to leave a comment or question. If you like this article, don’t hesitate in sharing this or any of the other HPT treasures found on this site.