PM Chronicles #6: Some Rules of Thumb About Performance Management, by Fred Parker

In PM’s office. Present are:

  • PM – Performance Manager
  • LT – Learning and Talent Development Coordinator
  • TC – Training Coordinator
  • HG – Consultant (Hired Gun)

PM         A while back I remember you said something about rules of thumb for performance management. I didn’t think much about it at the time. Now, however, I am curious what you mean.

HG         Tell you what. How about I email a list to you later today? Then we can discuss these more later.

PM         Good idea. That will give us a chance to discuss them ourselves in the meantime.

Later that day PM receives the following via email from HG.

Here are the first several of my personal “Rules of Thumb,” developed in the schools of hard knocks and field experience. We have talked about a few of these a little bit, but they bear repeating.

               As always, remember “Training is a contact sport.”

  1. Multiple choice questions, at best, are a waste of time and, at worst, hamper development.
  2. Too much technology gets in the way of training or learning. A workbook, flip chart, or white board may be all you need.
  3. Most training programs fail. They fail through a lack of supervisory follow-through.
  4. I don’t really care very much what people need to know. Tell me what they need to do, and the rest will fall into place.
  5. The Marines still use the SAT (Systems Approach to Training), which includes CRI (Criterion Referenced Instruction), as adopted in 1977. If it’s good enough for the Marines, it ought to be good enough for you.
  6. In a crisis or emergency situation people will respond only to the level of their development.
  7. All of the models and theories related to performance management are just that, theories. Choose the simplest ones that meet your needs and move on.
  8. There are limits to what training can do. Don’t try to train a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
  9. Performance problems often are not training issues.
  10. The Performance Manager (L&D Manager, etc.) should have primary reporting responsibility to the Operations Manager.


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Fred Parker is the Director of Course Design and Development at Fred has half a century as a Performance Management Consultant designing, developing, and delivering performance-based training including all manner of technical training, individual development soft skills, and basic leadership. Clients include all sizes from a local sandwich shop to the military to fortune 500 multinationals. Now Fred is converting previous ILT courses to remote delivery courses available on our web site.

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