I am conTENT. My work is CONtent.

Posts Tagged ‘performance’

writing about policy using ABCDEs of performance objectives

Posted by contentgrrl on December 20, 2007

As part of my rather broad work in writing, I’m often asked for policy statements or alerts. In an effort to communicate completely about a policy, I like to concentrate on the ABCDs of performance objectives (interlaced with the 5Ws and the H from newswriting interviews):

  • A is for Audience: Who is required to perform a task or comply with a new rule?
  • B is for Behavior: What skill, task, or operation is required?
  • C is for Conditions: How are tools involved in performing the task or complying with the rule? Are there prerequisite procedures that must already be completed in advance? Are there certain deliverables, inputs, or variables that need to be given?
  • D is for Degree: Why, Where, and When is it critical? What are the measurable constraints (in time, place, budget) that determine whether the behavior is successful? Is there a minimum and/or recommended criteria? What resulting benefits and consequences may be persuasive motivating factors?

I come from an instructional design background. There, the standard ABCDs of instructional and performance objectives are used to design lessons and identify the criteria for testing whether a student actually learned the new skill. It’s based on the work of Mager, Gagné & Briggs.

The ABCD formula works in everything — from basic math drills to complex software troubleshooting labwork to sales techniques to regulatory compliance training. But it may not be obvious that the performance objective typically comes from an organizational need. The objectives are measured so that the people in one stage (such as a Kindergarten class or a network engineering division or a marketing team or a safety inspector) do their jobs well enough for the rest of the organization to take it from there and fulfill expectations.

But I’d like to take it one step further:

  • E is for Exceptions: Are there exceptions to the rule? How do you know if a rule or issue does not apply to you, or that you are outside its scope? Are there special situations that may apply, and if so, how do you proceed?

Understanding exceptions takes a level of expertise that may not always be available when writing policy or alerts. But if you can nail that down, it’s one way to set your communications apart and be truly helpful to your readers.

Posted in citizen, heroes, learning, performance, persuasion, reading, tools, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

quantifying personal IP

Posted by contentgrrl on November 11, 2007

Management likes to be able to monitor employee performance and development. And to do that, sometimes they need to be able to quantify personal IP. By “personal IP” I mean personal Intellectual Property, and not Internet Protocol. ;^)

It’s simpler than you think, especially with a team of people who know their jobs. Make a list of measurable skills and competencies, assign a value, assess your people, and add it up. It helps identify skill gaps, training needs, expertise, and compensation rankings.

You’re looking for concrete behavioral objectives, using verbs and objects and success criteria as needed. What should they be able to do, using what tools or methods, (and maybe under what conditions or limitations)? For example,

  • “Given a corrupt file or file needing conversion, runs XXX program to compress the file into fields based on Data Dictionary”
  • or, in the project management arena, “Explains the criteria of selecting a stakeholder or subject matter expert to approve various deliverables throughout the life of a project.”

For the software help desk at DDMS, we’ve made a list of the concepts, procedures, and troubleshooting methods that our techs should be able to explain and do, and assigned a value to a group of skills related to the software we support. Some skill groups are for Level I or II techs, and some are for specialists at each level. Our managers currently use a spreadsheet as an annual assessment checklist, reviewing calls, self-assessment, and asking spot questions.

Ideally, you turn those competency items into test questions or lab activities, assess your people’s performance, and periodically monitor their individual advancement. There are systems out there that incorporate a database with user rights and more objective assessment tools, such as online tests or 360-degree peer & workgroup feedback. I have used such a system for a former company’s clients.

And two organizations in particular have helpful resources on this topic:

Posted in learning, performance | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

if you can’t share tacit knowledge, you must use it or lose it

Posted by contentgrrl on November 2, 2007

Somehow, geniuses and inventors may be unable to articulate or write up why they make the connections that they do, but the greatest find a way to apply and manifest their tacit knowledge into discoveries and deliverables that fill a need.

Certainly, people learn explicit things in school or in books or other media, but don’t apply it, and soon forget. Hands-on practice and shared stories and experiences and culture make up parts of tacit knowledge. They give our brains the hooks on which to hang new information. And without that tacit experience, the new information is less likely to stay.

I may have learned some basic vocabulary and syntax for Spanish and French years ago, but since I don’t read, write, and hold conversations in those languages regularly, I’m by no means fluent, much less eloquent or inspiring. No, let me just admit it: I’m almost completely incoherent outside of English, other than a few phrases like “Hola, como estas? Lo siento. Yo soy muy bien, gracias. Buenas dias…” (Hello, how are you? I’m sorry. I’m very well, thank you. Good Day…). Oh, and “Frijoles Frio” (loosely, Cool Beans).

Same goes for programming; I may have learned the basic syntax and objects of a scripting language, but if I don’t have to code real projects every week, I’m not going to get very good at it, much less create something new and elegant.

Same goes for piano; I can tell once my brain has made a more fluent connection between the notes on the page or in my head and my hand’s motions on the keys and the sound waves in my ears. But that neural connection and fluency is not something that you can transfer to someone else on paper. It takes good old hands-on practice.

Same goes for drawing animation. And selling. And negotiating. And diagnosing and treating disease.

That’s why apprenticeships, internships, mentors, and job specialization have been so important in the history of civilization.

That’s another reason why hands-on practice, varied learning methods, and experienced teachers are so important to education and training.

That’s why it’s important to create an organizational culture that encourages trust, lasting connections, and a balanced mix of cross-functional collaboration and forward-driving competition.


Posted in culture, learning, performance | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »