Capturing the Expertise of Your Stars

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

We learned to read left to right.  However, we analyze performance right to left!

Our approach for capturing the expertise of exemplary performers is by using a “right to left” analysis. This tactic enables managers to move from strategy and goals to critical accomplishments, then from accomplishments to the key activities and decisions that produce those accomplishments. From those key behaviors, managers can move to the identification of essential support required across the six components of a high-performance work system—the Exemplary Performance System.

The most effective and efficient way to capture expertise is to work with your existing accomplished performers—your internal benchmarks. These are the individuals who have established methods to their work that produce the desired accomplishments at a consistently high level. These exemplary performers are often unconsciously competent, so you will need to capture their expertise in a way to make it explicit and transferable to other team members.

Our experience has shown us that asking stars why they are good at what they do or how they go about doing their work just leads to meaningless banter about their education, work history, intelligence, competencies, and other variables that have little or nothing to do with how these individuals produce exceptional results.


Instead, the analysis of accomplished performers must be context-intensive and case-based.  For example, if you're working with a sales team that consistently wins competitive displacements, it’s best to ask them to walk you through several recent wins in a detailed and methodical way.

Exemplars make the assumption that their colleagues approach their work using the same rich mental models that they have developed based on codifying years and years of experience. In fact, it is the rich models of behavior that differentiates the star performers from the merely solid performers. 


By capturing these models (a key element of the star’s profile) you can shorten the ‘time the competence’ for the other members of the team.  We’ll get specific during the next two blog entries, when you’ll start creating a Profile of Exemplary Performance (PEP).

For more on how to shift the performance curve, check out Al’s previous blog article in this series.

About the Author

Paul H. Elliott, PhD, is president of Exemplary Performance LLC based in Annapolis, Maryland. Dr. Elliott’s expertise is in the analysis of human performance, the design of interventions that optimize human performance in support of business goals, and strategies for transitioning from training to performance models. Dr. Elliott assists organizations in performance analysis, instructional design, product and process launch support, design of advanced training systems, and the design and implementation of integrated performance interventions. Co-author of Exemplary Performance: Driving Business Results by Benchmarking Your Star Performers (Jossey-Bass, March 2013), Dr. Elliott offers business leaders, human resources professionals, and organization development practitioners the tools and processes to identify star performers, capture the high performance attributes of these employees, and disseminate this valuable information throughout the organization.

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