Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Mystery of Poor Performance

We all experience the impact of poor performance. Think about a time when you sat in waiting room for eons, shifted uneasily for the hundredth time in an airport boarding area seat, couldn't understand the person taking your order (and wondered whether or not they understood you), and hundreds more similar situations.

Many years ago in a long-forgotten era, my sister and I travelled to a family funeral in a rural US location where airline service is not and was not frequent. Basically, we flew into a city that did have national airline service and then drove the rest of the way. On the return flight, we have several boxes of knick-knacks from our deceased grandmother's house. When putting them through the airlines baggage claim, we were presented with a three-page page form describing the rules, responsibilities and reparations. I read fast and was done before my sister even got started. The gentleman (and I use that term loosely) behind the baggage claim area made a nasty comment about the time it took us to read the legalese, which made my sister uncomfortable. She was willing to sign on the dotted line without read. At that point, I told her to take her time. There was no one in line and it was important that she know what she was signing. Then I added, "Besides, as a customer service trainer, I know that its important for us as customers to stand up for what we need... and you need time to read and understand three pages of legal."

Later, as we boarded the flight, the gentleman who had been at the baggage drop off was now our ticket taker for boarding the flight. This time, he was all service and smiles.

The point of the story? Did this employee of the airline think that one set of behaviors was acceptable for baggage work and a different set acceptable for boarding? Had he been trained that way? Or, had he taken my comment about customer service to heart?

That's the mystery of poor performance. Why can a good person give both bad performance and good performance within minutes?

The six boxes of performance, http://www.sixboxes.com/sixboxesgraphic.html, give some hints. Which did I impact as a customer merely commenting on my perception of my role as the consumer? For more details on Dr. Carl Binder's six-boxes methodology and the performance chain, try http://www.sixboxes.com/The_Model.html. This model is a wonderful tool for talking with management and other interested players about the role of performance improvement in the workplace... school, non-profit... or home.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Detecting Performance -- Discovery

As a mystery fan and an instructional designer/performance improvement practitioner, I find a certain similarity between mysteries and performance improvement. Care to guess what they are?

First, there is the discovery phase where both mystery readers and performance improvement practitioners identify a problem that needs to be solved. For me, the problem has to be one that hooks my interest. It has to be big enough to show a definite need -- a reason for doing solving the problem. It has needs to feel solvable. This phenomena might be called the "bigger than breadbox" phenomena. (You know... bigger than a breadbox but smaller than barn... a guessing game where the guesser hones in the item in asking, "Is it bigger than...?" Also call "Am I getting hotter or colder?")

Discovery is really rather creative. It uses the practitioner's best logic and intuition matched with insight and knowledge about the specific field in which one is working.

Think about the last mystery you read. The whole plot is based on the protagonist (the hero and/or heroine) finding a body or some other valuable object that starts them looking for answers. Finding and definine the problem is the first challenge of both a mystery and business in need of performance improvement. Until the problem is discovered, the action can not begin.

Look around you. What mysteries are you solving? Are you a performance improvement mystery junkie?