This article will focus on how organizational consultants may use the concept of human performance technology to improve performance in an organization. In order to effectively make changes to the processes and structures, a change agent would need to have the ability to interpret various situations occurring within the organization. One field of study that evaluates how to effectively make change in people and systems is human performance technology. The human performance technology field aims to ensure that the knowledge, skills, motivation and environmental support necessary for employees to complete their work successfully is available through a systems approach. Human Performance Technology is important to the world's economic future because practitioners, such as organizational consultants, strive to provide organizations with solutions to their performance problems. An effective human performance technologist will use a systematic approach to improve the productivity and competence of the workforce so that organizations are able to compete in a global economy.
Keywords Change Agent; External Consultant; Human Performance Technology; Internal Consultant; Organizational Consultants; Performance Management; Systematic Approach
Management: Organizational Consulting
Organizations can be very complex. There will be times when the management team may decide the organization needs assistance with making changes throughout the different units in the company. As a result, individuals may be assigned to facilitate the change process. In order to effectively make changes to the processes and structures, a change agent would need to have the ability to interpret various situations occurring within the organization. "Reading" an organization requires one to be able to understand situations as they occur and know how to handle any problems that may occur. "Skilled leaders and managers develop the knack of reading situations with various scenarios in mind and of forging actions that seem appropriate to the understandings thus obtained" (Morgan, 1995).
One field of study that evaluates how to effectively make change in people and systems is human performance technology. According to the International Society of Performance and Instruction (ISPI), human performance technology (HPT) can be described as “the systematic and systemic identification and removal of barriers to individual and organizational performance.” The meaning of the concept can be broken down by each word in the phrase. "Human" refers to the individuals that make up the organization, and "Performance" implies that the activities of the employees can be assessed by measurable outcomes. "Technology" assumes that a systematic and systemic approach can be developed to resolve problems within the organization.
Human Performance Technology (HPT) draws from many academic disciplines such as psychology, instructional systems design, organizational development and human resources. The focus of the interdisciplinary field requires the practitioner to be able to (1) assess and analyze the performance gap between where the organization is and where it wants to go, (2) identify the causes for the performance gap, (3) make recommendations on how to close the gap and improve performance, (4) facilitate the change management process, and (5) evaluate the results to make sure that the desired change has occurred.
The human performance technology field aims to ensure that the knowledge, skills, motivation and environmental support necessary for employees to complete their work successfully is available through a systems approach. According to Jacobs (1987), the conceptual domain of HPT can be defined by three key aspects:
- Management functions — guides, controls and facilitates the development of human performance systems.
- Development functions — examines all aspects of a problem; relates results from a set of decisions to other decisions; and uses resources to develop performance systems.
- Systems functions — provides the conceptual means for viewing people, materials, events and resources required to achieve goals.
Performance tends to be measured in terms of quality, productivity, and cost. As a result, human performance is tied to the bottom line — organizational success. Both individual and organizational goals must be considered when implementing processes and policies that will improve performance. “Use of systems approaches to develop human performance systems is one of the most significant aspects of the field. The end result of using a systems approach is a combination of materials, events, peoples and strategies called a performance system. A performance system is the structure, within the work setting, in which people use resources and tools to perform their work. Human performance systems have five main components: (1) a job or context; (2) individual abilities, motivations, actions, decisions, and behavior; (3) responses required for performance; (4) consequences of the response; and (5) feedback on the consequences” (Jacobs, 1987).
In summary, organizations may require the services of human performance technologists to facilitate changes, such as process improvement, within the company. These individuals will act as consultants to the organization as it charts a new course and direction. Armed with the concept of HPT and performance systems, organizational consultants will be tasked with improving the bottom line of the company's initiatives so that it remains competitive.
Human Performance Technologists as Organizational Consultants
Human Performance Technology is important to the world's economic future because practitioners such as organizational consultants strive to provide organizations with solutions to their performance problems. HPT uses instructional technologies to improve individual performance so that organizational goals can be achieved. Being a good organizational consultant requires an individual to navigate the company through innovations, changes, and processes. An effective human performance technologist will use a systematic approach to improve the productivity and competence of the workforce so that organizations are able to compete in a global economy. According to Morgan (1995), these individuals must (1) have the capacity to remain open and flexible, (2) reserve judgment until all facts are known, and (3) gain new insight by viewing situations from different angles. These skills are required of both the internal and external organizational consultants.
In order to differentiate the concept from other disciplines, ISPI has developed a set of principles for human performance technologists to follow when assisting organizations in managing change. The principles are:
1. HPT focuses on outcomes. If an organization focuses on outcomes, the consultant may use tools that support obtaining data to determine whether or not a process is effective and whether the employees share the same vision and goals. In addition, outcomes can measure whether or not the performance gap has been closed.
2. HPT takes a systems view. There is a need to implement an approach that analyzes the performance of the employees in order to determine if the organization is on track with fulfilling its vision, goals and objectives. A system implies that the divisions and people of an organization are interconnected. The people must support the process. It is important to take a systems approach because the complexity within an organization has the power to affect the performance of its employees. The success of a single unit itself and the success of the entire organization at large are deeply dependent on one another. A systems approach considers the entire organizational environment including inputs as well as pressures, expectations, constraints, and consequences.
3. HPT adds value. At the end of the process intervention, clients should leave with a set of tools which will assist them with making choices, establishing measurable goals, identifying barriers and tradeoffs, and taking control of the destiny of the organization. Although the actual HPT techniques address issues such as improving quality, customer retention and cost reduction, there should be a link to how the efforts impact business goals and outcomes such as sales, profits, and market share.
4. HPT establishes partnerships. HPT is built on collaboration among all of the stakeholders in an effort to improve the overall performance of the organization. Everyone should be involved in the decision making process, and the advice and experience of subject matter experts (SMEs) should be taken into consideration. Working collaboratively includes sharing decisions about goals, determining the next steps to take in the process, and viewing implementation strategies as shared responsibilities. Partnerships are created from listening closely, trusting and respecting each other's knowledge and expertise.
5. Be systematic in the assessment of the need or opportunity. The needs assessment occurs in the beginning of the project. The consultant should analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of different aspects of the organization in order to identify the external and internal pressures affecting it. This process...
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