Design and Use of Standard for Human Performance Measures

by Wally Hauck, Phd

The Design and Use of a Standard for Human Performance Measures

You arrive in your hotel room, about to plug in your computer to do some important work, and find the plug doesn’t fit in the wall. How do you react? Frustrated? Bewildered? Fearful you might not be able to do your work and your boss and colleagues will think poorly of you?

Sound ridiculous? Maybe, except this can be a true story if you travel to Europe and you forget their electrical system is different in two basic ways: their voltage and plugs. This doesn’t happen to a US citizen at home because our electrical system is standardized.
Adopting standards offers tremendous advantages.They save time, reduce costs, and increase productivity. We can realize these benefits by adopting standards in human performance measures. To enjoy the benefits of human performance measures, we require a combination of clarity, a useful mindset and useful practices. These conditions optimize our ability to achieve optimum performance results, employee engagement, and customer experience.

A Useful Mindset
Three thoughts are most important when adopting human performance standards. First, think of a standard as an ideal goal not a policy. An ideal goal suggests we need continuous method improvement and skill development to achieve it. A policy assumes people can automatically manage all the factors to achieve it.

Second, when humans are involved, there will always be variation and that variation must be managed. Third, if we want people to behave consistently with any standard, we must be willing to partner with them (avoid evaluation or criticism) to uncover the root causes of any variation and to help them develop their skills.

Partnering with the employee helps us focus on optimizing the learning and skill development of employees. Employees feel empowered, acknowledged, and motivated to improve. This leads to loyalty.

Three Useful Practices
There are three useful practices which can enhance the application of human performance measures:

First, define the standard in specific, clear, and observable, behavioral terms.

Second, train coaches to facilitate trusting discussions about how to achieve the behaviors.

Third, use the learning cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act to continuously improve and continuously develop skills.

Clear understandable descriptions of the specific behaviors offer the best opportunity to learn and improve methods to achieve that behavior (standard). The focus is on the employee methods and not about their character or personality. This enables a coach to manage the trusting conversations.

The use of the learning cycle enables the entire team to share in the learning. The learning cycle requires experimentation. Here are the steps:
  • PLAN the method you want to use (make an agreement)
  • DO the method
  • CHECK if the experimental method achieved the desired outcome
  • ACT to either try something else or adopt the method because it worked.
When an experiment is successful with one employee, it can be shared with others.  The learning and development then become a team effort not just an individual effort.

We can achieve significant benefits if we adopt human performance measures successfully. When we start with a useful mindset and a set of useful practices, we can have a profound impact on the experience of our customers, our employees, and our organization’s performance.
Dr. Wally Hauck is a Communico facilitator and author of Art of Leading: 3 Principles for Predictable Performance Improvement and Stop the Leadership Malpractice: How to Replace the Typical Performance Appraisal. You can follow him on Facebook.
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Before and After
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