Clients expect the performance consultant to provide potential solutions for the challenges uncovered in the analysis. The solutions usually start as brainstorms or suggestions that are generated with the client; the client generally builds on the suggestions and adds additional solutions that also might achieve the desired business goals. Most performance consultants identify more than one possible solution for the set of causes identified; offering more than one solution set encourages deeper discussion about each solution’s potential to overcome the influences and achieve the goals.
Busy managers sometimes get trapped into taking the path of least resistance. They want a solution and they want it fast! As Peter Drucker once said, “The search for the one quick fix is a universal human failing.” The most requested solution is usually training. Why? For years, we have trained managers to ask for training as the solution to their problems. After all, we have called ourselves trainers and we work in the training department. It is no wonder that they are confused now when we push back and want to link the solution to the influences and causes of poor performance. Remember, unless the performance consultant uncovers a measurable gap in necessary knowledge and skills, then the recommended solution cannot be a training solution.
So, how does the performance consultant convince the business unit manager to pursue a performance-linked solution and not the expedient (but incorrect) solution? Performance consultants must partner with the manager to solve the problem so that it stays solved. However, this is easier said than done. One helpful tip is to show how previous successes were linked to correctly identifying the root causes and applying the right solutions. Conversely, if the manager has had a performance problem that was not solved by implementing a training program or other quick fix, then this is a good time to help him remember that training cannot solve all problems!
Provide the evidence from the analysis that shows the performance challenges are caused by a particular set of influences. Add up the costs of applying the wrong solution across the performer group and the lack of achievement of the business goals; contrast the cost of applying the right solution to the performer group so that the business goal is achieved.
Additionally, performance consultants need to ask better questions. Throughout the project, we have to ask questions that look at the issue through a systems view. We must ask questions and analyze the situation from the organizational level (culture, structure, goals, policies, and resources), the process level (job processes, inputs, and outputs), and the performer level (the performer’s capacity, motivation knowledge, and skill sets). By asking questions that uncover influences in these areas, we are setting the manager up to want to solve those issues that the analysis uncovered. We must provide objective data, not subjective feelings, about what is causing a particular performance issue.
Performance consultants can also help the business unit manager choose a performance-linked solution by reminding her that there is no magic wand. Most performance issues have multiple causes and influences and these require multiple solutions. To implement a quick-fix solution is to waste precious resources, and potentially doom the project.
To explore selecting and implementing performance improvement solutions, please join me for ATD’s Selecting and Implementing Performance Improvement Solutions (SIPIS) Certificate program beginning on August 21, in Denver, Colorado!