Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An Outsider’s view of Human Performance Technology (HPT)

I spent that latter part of last week at the annual US Coast Guard’s Human Performance Technology Workshop.  It is free, open to the public, and based on my past life of being exposed to HPT through my role as an instructor and Subject Matter Expert for the Navy’s Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Black Belt curriculum, I have attended the last three workshops.  Besides meeting new folks, I get to catch up with local performance improvement practitioners.  This year I manned the ASQ’s Six Sigma Forum booth.
For those folks unfamiliar with HPT and the appropriate professional society, the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) I recommend using the hyperlinks in this sentence.  Please understand my comments are solely based on a limited data sample based on exposure with the Coast Guard application of HPT and the Navy’s application of HPT, started about 2002 and shut down in 2007. I have not attended ISPI’s annual conference though I have perused the last 3 year’s programs that are included on ISPI’s website.
There is a natural synergy with HPT and Quality.  I liken HPT as a broader aspect of Big Q.  Their performance improvement model includes all aspect of performance, from training to process to work environment.  If you have followed my blog you will get a sense that for change to occur these three areas need to be addressed.  My expertise is in process performance and training delivery. 
Where I stray from the HPT being of value is my sense that HPT starts and ends with large scale instructional system design “interventions.”  I am painting with a broad brush but this statement comes from these observations:  1) the USCG implementation of HPT is closely tied to their training command.  2) Over 90% of the USCG workshop presentations the last 3 years have dealt with some facet of instructional system design or training intervention as opposed to a process improvement or an organizational development change.  A similar percentage is noted in the ISPI annual conferences. 3) Before the Navy closed down their HPT capability, a lot of their HPT folks came through my class for Lean Six Sigma Black Belt training.  From these students, I picked up on a bit of HPT arrogance; HPT is better than LSS.  I also overheard some of the same comments as some of the USCG seasoned practitioners walked by my Six Sigma Forum booth (I have a thick skin; there are some Lean zealots out there that have the same contempt for Six Sigma).
To stimulate dialog, my rhetorical question in all of this is why?  I see the same failings of HPT as I do with Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, Learning Organizations, Knowledge Management, etc.  If all performance improvement practitioners are out to do good, why are we not willing to embrace other tools as freely as we embraced the one we are espousing?   Even further, how do we make IMPROVEMENT, no matter what flavor it is acceptable by leaders so that is practiced and appreciated?  
Your comments are most welcome.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fast Quality? Slow is Faster

Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy

-The 59th Street Bridge Song: Paul Simon

This month’s ASQ Influential Voices theme is on how quality can respond to a faster change pace.  My immediate thought was the classic Simon & Garfunkel song whose lyrics are above.  The human reaction to going faster is to cut out the speed governor, that thing that prevents you from going faster.  In Lean terms it is all those non-value added things that are in your process that prevent value from getting to the customer faster. However, as soon as we take away that governor, I start seeing the Sammy Hagar music video of “I Can’t Drive 55!”

I would contend that in order for us to be more responsive in an ever changing world we need to slow down and operate with discipline.  What we often find is that when we do make a process go faster the discipline behind the process disappears. For those who work in a schedule-driven environment, how often has quality suffered when you had to break into a schedule because a customer had to have it NOW?  In a good number of cases, the order usually gets rejected by the customer for some quality issue.  The order is then redone with discipline (more quality oversight than usual) and is completed, usually about the same time as if we had not broken the schedule to meet the original demand, all at double the cost.
So what drives this management decision to go faster?  A lack of trust:  in maintaining discipline and a lack of process for ongoing improvement.   Many management gurus have said that you need to plan.  Unfortunately, we plan to execute, we don’t plan for contingencies.  “We don’t have time” is often the lament.  Yet, that is what leaders are supposed to do: create the time to develop the discipline to execute and plan for the contingencies.
As quality professionals how should we respond?  Show discipline to the process.  Reinforce the value of Big Q.  Don’t compromise on your integrity.  There will be pressure to go faster but faster is not more responsive.  Being responsive requires time to gather data and to reflect.  Being responsive requires looking to the future and understanding capabilities.  Being responsive means incorporating little q and Big Q in management decisions.  Being responsive is doing the right thing by the customer. Once you are ready to execute, execute with alacrity!