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Bricks, Mortar, and the Performance System. Think Again!

Thursday, April 19, 2012
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I’ve reviewed lots of “best practice” papers and award submissions related to organization learning and performance.  It’s always interesting to see how people view the “performance system.” How big is it and ultimately what is the field to influence?  Is it individuals in specific roles? Teams? Business units?  The gaggle of business units that make up a big organization?  The supply chain? Is the customer part of the “system?”  

Zooming out to the bigger picture may present problems for a learning and performance organization that is structured around functions (sales or technical training), levels (executives, supervisors), specific problems or solutions (ERP), or even strategic issues. But if we don’t, our interventions are more likely to fail or even have damaging effects.  

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So, before we propose any solutions we must map out the larger performance environment. Remember the NASA video that showed a picnicking family from the +10x perspective of space and also from the more quantum perspective of  -10x?  Recall Indian Chief Lakota’s admonition that we can only see the future as far as we appreciate the past? It’s all about perspective.

We must situate our work in a perspective that may be from two to seven times as large as our primary focus.  The insights we gain will ensure the solutions we offer create significantly greater ROIs than looking only at what is in front of us.

My question to you:  Where do and should you set your design boundaries?

About the Author
Pat McLagan’s life and career are all about helping people improve their performance and development. Her book On-the-Level: Performance Communication That Works focused on shared responsibility communication, Change Is Everybody’s Business helped readers learn about their role in change, The Age of Participation: New Governance for the Workplace and the World looked at the systemic issues of participation, and The Shadow Side of Power: Lessons for Leaders looked closely at leaders’ use of power. In 2017, she will publish a book with ATD to help empower learners in all learning situations. She has received awards for thought leadership, worked all around the world, and served in professional leadership roles. Her focus has been helping people unleash their power and work toward a higher purpose at work and in life.
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