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.
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