What [the heck] is… “Human Performance”?!!

This is a Transcript of REPSradio.com Episode 007. To listen to the Podcast or download resources, Click Here.

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

On REPSradio.com, I have, until now, focused specifically upon YOU- as a leader, as a practitioner…as a rainmaker of positive transformation.

I’ve asked you tough questions such as, “Are you telling the truth,” “What do you REALLY want?” and “Are you playing to WIN (or playing not to lose)?

These are incredibly important questions for me to ask…and for YOU to answer.

Especially BEFORE you expend time, energy, or resources- whether they be yours or your organization’s…on ANY attempts to move things from where they are to your next level…your “Point B.”

To this point, I’ve offered you a selection of online and downloadable tools. The entire set is listed in the Resources section for Episode 6 on REPSradio.com-

Tools with which to gain additional insight, truthfully explore your answers to key “make things better” questions, and to shape effective INTERNAL decisions about your next steps.

NOW- we’re moving BEYOND.

Where we’re headed still does indeed have to do with YOU- that is, providing you are human- which I am anticipating you are…

However, we’re now moving DIRECTLY to the CORE of your efforts to effect positive change.

What is “The Core”?

Quite simply, the Core of Everything among your team members, within your Department, and across your entire enterprise is…HUMAN PERFORMANCE.

“Oh…that sounds interesting,” you’re likely thinking. “I’ve heard stuff like this before.”

You might also be thinking things like…

“That’s that set of “tools” people are supposed to carry in their pockets. We tried that- it didn’t work.” OR,

“Now he’s talking about trigger points- questions workers are to ask themselves before taking action. We did that training. Cost us a lot of money. It didn’t ‘stick’.”

OR (maybe something like),

“No more ‘group hugs’! We need more systems and controls…not more ‘get-in-touch-with-their-feelings’ crap!”

And, depending upon your experience, I can’t blame you for feeling this way.

I continue to be baffled by the ongoing general lack of awareness and understanding (let alone focus) associated with the concept and context of Human Performance.

When we look to the current state of affairs, however, it’s easy to see why many remain confused, choosing to avoid this Core Element of organizational performance.

For example, here’s an excerpt from a recently-published article on how to approach “human performance” (written, not surprisingly, by a PhD)…

It begins-

“A Systematic Approach begins by establishing the current situation; then identifying the desired or future situation (the level of desired performance).”

Okay, I like, and absolutely agree with, this part; HOWEVER, the article then goes on to say…

“Diagnostic activities such as clarifying the problem or opportunity, and defining desired outcomes or what success looks like are crucial. Steps include assessing performance, conducting gap analysis, identifying factors causing the gap, along with developing intervention options, completing feasibility studies, and/or, depending upon the performance gap, other types of analyses.”

Whew! Who the heck has the time, energy, or resources to do this?!

It’s no wonder that so many remain mired in stagnation and overwhelm when it comes to Human Performance!

The article does continue, however, with some sage advice:

“For the field to expand and develop, it is imperative to have clear definitions for what we do, how we do it, and what the value is that we provide to the organization.”

If you’ll hang with me for the next few minutes, I am going to do precisely that. I am going to provide you with a simple definition and workable understanding of Human Performance.

To give you more insight than I have time to do in this broadcast, I’m also giving you free access to download a pdf copy of Chapter One of 6-Hour Safety Culture. All you need do is go to REPSradio.com and use the access link in the Resources section for Episode 7. That’s REPSradio.com.

Combined with additional understanding, Chapter One also gives you a bit of history behind Human Performance, and how it has, until now, evolved to its current state of confusion and complexity.

For now…forget complexity. Forget extensive costs and time to implement.

Despite what so-called ‘experts’ continue to say, you need not be paralyzed by limited resources in the face of the overbearing expense and overwhelm of additional assessments, more studies, and never-ending analyses.

Why make things so frickin’ complicated?

Think of it this way…

Imagine an apple tree packed with fruit. Once you pluck all the apples from the lower branches, you are effectively finished. No more fruit. From your limited perspective, apples are now scarce. Further improvement is out of reach. However, once someone invents a simple piece of technology called a ladder, everything changes. You suddenly have a brand-new reach.

Here’s your ladder…

The simple concept and context of Human Performance.

And I want you to note that for this discussion, I am specifically, intentionally, and with forethought, eliminating any add-on terms- terms that might currently be adding to your misunderstanding or confusion- terms such as, “technology,” “engineering,” or “factors”. I am even eliminating the word “improvement”. No HPT, HPE or HPI.

Simply…human performance.

So- WHAT is it?

If you’re able, this is a point where you may want to take some notes. But PLEASE don’t attempt to write things down if you’re listening while driving or riding a bike. You can always listen again later, or download the transcript using the links at REPSradio.com.

If you’re a formula person, here you go:

The formula (or ‘recipe’) for Human Performance is: HP = W (R + B).

That’s HP = W (R+B).

Where HP obviously denotes Human Performance, “W” stands for “WHY”, the “R” represents Results, and the “B” encompasses Behaviors.

If you don’t care for formulas or ‘recipes’, here’s the word definition:

Human Performance is WHY we do WHAT we do the WAY we do it.

How’s that for ‘rocket science’?

My goodness that’s COMPLEX…isn’t it?

“WHY we do WHAT we do the WAY we do it.”

If you are honestly interested in making a true sustainable difference in performance…performance of any type…understanding this simple definition is critical. It forms the foundation for everything else you do.

Now- consider this definition relative to your team or organization- to WHOM does it apply?

It’s a no-brainer- no matter what the role, the size of the paycheck, or time with the company, it applies to…EVERYONE.

Okay. Now that you get that Human Performance applies to EVERYONE, to WHAT does it apply?

Well…so long as you still have people designing, running, monitoring, fixing, modifying, and administrating the ‘stuff’ of your business, it doesn’t take a Nobel Laureate to recognize that it applies to…EVERYTHING!

So there you have it- a very simple formula, recipe, or word definition, whichever you prefer, releasing into your very hand, the keys to the vault of sustainable performance improvement.

And I’m not talking incremental improvement either. I’m talking sustainable performance TRANSFORMATION!

Now let’s break things down a bit further...

To begin, let’s talk about the “R” term in the equation: Results- WHAT people do.

This is the piece of the puzzle upon which many organizations, and indeed most senior leaders continue to place their focus. We’ve discussed why this is so in previous episodes of REPSradio.com…

Results are tangible. They’re measurable. They represent what most people are accountable to. The safety rep is accountable for the latest injury, the number of days since the last “Lost Time” accident, the OSHA Recordable rate. The Six Sigma Team is accountable for production numbers. The CEO is accountable to the Board for quarterly profits. And on it goes…

Unfortunately…Results are ‘back-end’.

They reside at the end of the process- oftentimes not even discoverable or calculable until WAY after the fact.

Quite honestly, attempting to improve solely by focusing on Results numbers is like attempting to drive your car by looking in the rearview mirror.

It’s like resting your ladder against the boxes of apples you’ve already picked-very difficult…essentially impossible…to increase the number of apples.

Moving onward, it has been mildly heartening over the past several years to see that some percentage of organizations have evolved to focus upon a second part of the Human Performance equation. A bit deeper aspect- Behaviors.

Yes…the “B word” - Behaviors. Beyond simply WHAT team members do…to HOW they do it.

And I’ve got to be honest with you, I never much used to like this word. Back in the day, when my mom saw fit to ‘have a talk’ about my behavior, it typically was NOT a very pleasant conversation!

Scott Geller popularized “Behavior-Based Safety” in 2004. And it stuck. The work done by Geller and many others since has effected an associated shift in context, as well as in the observation and documentation of safety-related Behaviors in the workplace. Such efforts have helped elevate awareness of the importance of HOW people do what they do while performing work.

In its pristine form, “Behavior-Based Safety” is a great concept. Unfortunately, many organizations have diminished its implementation to the collection of info through multitudes of observations. Accumulated data is then put into some software program, with the hope that the digital interface will magically identify how to “fix” people and their associated behaviors.

This type focus on performance improvement¸ whether it’s tied to Behavior-Based Safety or traditional “observation and coaching” databases, is like leaning your ladder against the wrong tree. It looks like a good idea, and you can climb above the ground; however, you ain’t gonna find any apples!

Another metaphor I simply can’t resist- attempting to change behaviors solely based upon info from a database is about as effective as pushing on a rope.

This being said, awareness of the importance of Behaviors within the definition of Human Performance is (at least) a MAJOR step in the right direction!

So then, if solely targeting Results (WHAT people do) and/or Behaviors (the WAY they do it) is NOT efficient, effective, or sustainable, what IS the KEY?

Quite simply, the locus of any effort to improve performance MUST converge on the Core of the Core…the “W”…the WHY.

Let’s take one more look at the formula for Human Performance…

Human Performance equals WHY times the quantity Results plus Behaviors.

It should be clear that not only does the WHY directly impact both Results AND Behaviors, it does so in an exponentially important way.

As I said, WHY is the Core of the Core.

You MUST begin to FOCUS on the reasons WHY your team members do what they do- WHY they make the choices and decisions they make under the conditions in which they make them.

Remember this-

Human Performance is your KEY to SUSTAINABLE PERFORMANCE TRANSFORMATION.

Getting to the WHY- WHY human beings do WHAT they do the WAY they do it generates your ‘holy grail’- your pathway to sustainably achieving whatever performance improvement you seek.

I do my best to keep each of these episodes short and to the point- hitting ONE aspect of the performance improvement journey at a time.

For now, I’m going to let you sit with this:

First- you must begin to focus on the Core of all organizational performance- Human Performance.

THEN to move your needle in and exponential (and sustainable) way, you tap into the Core of the Core, the WHY.

I’ll be giving you your first insight of HOW to do so in the next episode.

In the meantime, I want to challenge you to do a couple of things.

The biggest enemy of next-generation performance improvement is dogma- the beliefs, paradigms, and latch-onto-the-bone perspectives of the past. I want to challenge you to let them go. Engage in a bit of unconditional curiosity. Dance…even if you think you don’t know how.

Second, and this is for you over-achievers…I have a book for you to read. It’s called Start With WHY. Written by Simon Sinek, it is, in my humble opinion, a MUST READ for…essentially ANYONE.

And if you don’t care to read a book, I’ve provided a link to his TED Talk in the Resources section for this episode at REPSradio.com.

We’re currently working to get Simon as an initial guest on REPSradio.com. Be watching for the announcement!

And here’s a question for you to ponder between now and our next time together:

“How do you get a team member to do the ‘right thing’ at 3:00AM when no one is watching?”

Until next time, this is Tim Autrey, trusting in your great health, your conviction, and in your seizing ongoing opportunities to help make our world a better and safer place.

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