Human Performance Technology:

Frameworks and Thinkers

Human Performance Technology (HPT) integrates theories and concepts from fields such as psychology and instructional design to provide a comprehensive understanding of factors influencing performance and how to improve it. Following are frameworks developed by key thinkers in the field. These and other frameworks or concepts form the basis of customized HPT intervention models. 

Behavior Engineering Model

The Behavior Engineering Model (BEM) is a conceptual framework to analyze and improve human performance, and is considered a milestone in the development of HPT. It provides a systematic approach to diagnosing and addressing performance issues by considering 6 categories which are divided into 2 main types of factors: environmental (data, resources, and incentives) and individual (knowledge, capacity, and motives).

By analyzing these 6 categories, BEM offers a comprehensive approach to understanding the complex interplay between an individual's capabilities and their work environment. It investigates the presence of appropriate feedback, tools and training necessary for performance, adequate financial or promotional incentives, and assessing employee motivation or best fit.

BEM helps HPT practitioners to develop targeted interventions to optimize both the individual and their work environment. In doing so, this conceptual framework lays the foundation for a systematic, data-driven approach to performance improvement in various organizational settings.

Thomas Gilbert

Thomas Gilbert (1927–1995) started out as an educational psychologist and studied with B. F. Skinner. Often called the father of human performance technology, he was a pioneer in the field. He believed that performance differs from behavior and is best measured by focusing on accomplishments and changing the behaviors that produce them, particularly by focusing on environmental barriers to performance. Gilbert’s ideas continue to shape the field, and his highly influential book Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance (1978) presents a systematic approach to analyzing and enhancing human performance by identifying and addressing gaps in resources, environmental factors, and individual behaviors.

Front-End Analysis

Front-End Analysis (FEA) systematically examines performance issues and their causes, determining the most effective interventions before investing in the development of performance improvement solutions. Performance gaps create the disparity between an organization's current state and where it should be. Determining performance objectives and the most appropriate interventions to close the gap will lead to improved organizational outcomes.

A series of “smart questions” guides a performance analysis to identify performance gaps and a cause analysis to determine the underlying factors behind the performance gaps, such as skill or knowledge deficiencies, lack of motivation, or inadequate resources. Finally, performance objectives are defined, alternative solutions are explored, and only then should the most appropriate interventions be selected and developed.

By taking a systematic and data-driven approach to closing gaps in performance, Front-End Analysis helps organizations avoid costly, time-consuming, and potentially ineffective solutions, ensuring that investments yield positive results and better align with their goals.

Joe Harless

Joe Harless (1940-2012), a former student of Thomas Gilbert, was a highly influential performance analyst and instructional designer. He is often credited with originating the ADDIE instructional design model. Harless emphasized a systematic approach with a focus on accomplishment, multiple solutions, business outcomes, and client partnerships. He believed that understanding the cause of a problem is vital to finding the right solution, a concept that is still vital within HPT. He brought awareness to the financial implications of training solutions, particularly when other means may be more effective. Known for his JAWS (Job Aid Workshop), Harless once said, "Inside every fat course, there's a thin Job Aid crying to get out."

3 Levels of Performance

Rummler and Brache’s 3 Levels of Performance examines the connectedness between an organization’s structure and culture, its core processes and workflows, and individual job performance. All three levels can be addressed simultaneously to create a holistic system for empowering individuals and teams, maximizing organizational success.

Rummler and Brache’s Nine Performance Variables combine these three performance levels (Organization, Process, Job/Performer) with three factors pertaining to performance needs (Goals, Design, Management) to create a comprehensive improvement framework. This approach helps managers optimize goal setting, structure design, and management practices, ensuring optimal organizational success and meeting customer expectations.

Geary Rummler

Geary Rummler (1937-2008) was a pioneer in applying instructional and performance technologies to organizations. He co-founded the University of Michigan’s Center for Programmed Learning for Business and led early performance analysis workshops, and went on to provide performance consulting for major corporations and federal agencies. Instrumental in shaping the field of human performance technology, he developed the 3 Levels of Performance as well as the Human Performance System to troubleshoot performance problems. He co-authored the acclaimed book, Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization Chart.

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