ATD Blog

A Final Word on Shifting the Performance in Your Organization

Thursday, December 5, 2013

It’s been a privilege to share our research and methodologies with the Human Capital Community of Practice through blog posts this fall. We are grateful for those at ASTD who made this possible, especially the efforts of community manager Ann Parker.

An underlying premise of ours at Exemplary Performance is to enable teams and individuals in an organization to be as successful as intended to be on the day they were hired or their team was formed. The newly hired are easy to spot: they are the optimistic and enthusiastic ones—the engaged and “glad to be here” folks that every organization is happy to have, spreading infectious energy and commitment everywhere they go.

Unfortunately, all too soon the enthusiasm of new hires dissipates—due in large part to the inadequate work systems that organizations allow to evolve and continue. Within six months, the new hire’s optimism is over and, after a pitched battle, organizational reality is the hands-down victor. The vanquished new hire is forced to skulk off the workforce battlefield muttering bitterly, “How did I get myself into this mess?”

“Hold on!” you might be thinking. “My company has great processes and systems and our workforce is committed and our performance excellent.” You might be correct that some systems are excellent, but we’d be willing to bet that a closer look would reveal some significant holes in the entire spectrum of work systems that directly impact individual performers and teams. Our research and experience tells us that you need to align six distinct work systems to enable exemplary performance. These systems are:

  • expectations and feedback
  • rewards and incentives
  • motivation and preferences
  • skills and knowledge
  • job fit
  • work environment and systems.

As a leader, your primary accountability is to be an architect who integrates and aligns work systems in order to enable high performance. To state this in another way: our role as leaders is to develop high-performing individuals and teams who routinely produce accomplishments that meet or exceed expectations!

As the leaders at Exemplary Performance, we’d like to hear from you to know whether this blogging series has been an effective tool to help you shift the performance curve in your organization. We know through analytic tools that these blogs have been well-read. We also know through social media that those who read the blogs used the Twitter account to retweet. But what we need to know from you is whether such a platform for discussion is effective for considering organization change with the focus on performance and a systems approach. And more importantly, have you applied any of the principles we have discussed.

Please feel free to contact us at [email protected] or [email protected]. For more in-depth information on this topic, you can purchase our book through ASTD’s online store: Exemplary Performance: Driving Business Results by Benchmarking Your Star Performers. Browse the full blog series here.

About the Author

Al Folsom, PhD, joined SNAP in April 2016 and serves as vice president for its US Department of Defense and US Coast Guard (USCG) programs. In that capacity, he also oversees and provides program management for the USCG Advanced Distributed Learning BPA and orchestrates all aspects of SNAP’s DoD programs, including Army, Navy, and Air Force projects. His previous industry experience includes leading the corporate practice of strategic business partner and performance consulting skills workshops at Exemplary Performance LLC, including the entire legacy SABA/Harless suite as currently used by the USCG. With those workshops, Folsom helped people and organizations make the transformation to accomplishment-based approaches as strategic business partners and performance consultants. He brings more than 30 years of experience in the field of training and human performance technology.

Folsom’s expertise is in human performance technology and its specific application throughout the USCG, where he retired as chief learning officer as a captain (O-6) after 24 years of commissioned service. Folsom is co-author, with Paul Elliott of Exemplary Performance: Driving Business Results by Benchmarking Your Star Performers, which was awarded International Society for Performance Improvement’s 2014 Award of Excellence for Outstanding Performance Improvement Publication.

Folsom is a 1984 graduate of the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and earned an MBA from the Florida Institute of Technology and a PhD in instructional systems from Penn State University.

About the Author

Paul H. Elliott, PhD, is principal consultant at Exemplary Performance, which he founded in 2004 based on his desire to improve business results by replicating the accomplishments of clients’ highest performers. His expertise is in analyzing human performance and designing solutions that optimize human performance. Elliott has worked with Fortune 500 companies including BP, ExxonMobil, DocuSign, Agilent, FedEx, JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, AstraZeneca, GM, Proctor and Gamble, and Ford. Additionally, he has supported Microsoft in defining and applying techniques for optimizing individual and team performance for more than 20 years.

Elliott co-authored, with Al Folsom, Exemplary Performance: Driving Business Results by Benchmarking Your Star Performers. It was awarded the International Society of Performance Improvement’s 2014 Award of Excellence for Outstanding Performance Improvement Publication.

Elliott received his PhD in educational psychology from the University of Illinois, and his BA is from Rutgers University. He served on the of the American Society of Training and Development’s board of directors from 1993 to 1995 and was ASTD’s Executive in Residence when he crafted the organization’s strategy and approach to human performance improvement.

Throughout his career, Elliott has written extensively, including chapters in The ASTD Handbook: The Definitive Reference for Training and Development (“Linking Learning to Performance”); The ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals (“Identifying Performance and Learning Gaps”); Moving from Training to Performance (“Assessment”); and Handbook of Human Performance Technology (“Job Aids”). He also co-authored “Helping Every Team Exceed Expectations” in TD magazine.

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