Performance Models – and Their Affordances

I don’t do Task Analysis – except within a larger context of Performance.

And as a Process-oriented ISD practitioner, I look at both the process (tasks) and their Outputs/Inputs – outputs of the process that are inputs downstream where the adequacy of those Outputs-as-Inputs is really judged. If that is an issue – then you look at the process itself to see what needs fixing.

But I digress.

When I first learned to build Performance Models in 1979 we called them Job Models – until we used it to capture the performance of multiple jobs; and sometimes those jobs were from the same “function/department” – and sometimes they were from various functions/departments as a cross-functional team might be.

We had to add “Role/Responsibility” columns to the format to capture “who in the sandbox of performance” was responsible for what tasks – tasks that lead to outputs. Outputs with measures, sometimes standards – although standards are something that Master Performers understood despite the fact that seldom were they “written down” or otherwise communicated. It was something that the Master Performers had figured out on their own.

First…the data on the format:

We start with either the Outputs or Tasks – of performance – for a “block of performance” we call the AoPs – Areas of Performance.  

The Tasks are sometimes easier for the group of Master Performers assembled to define than the Outputs – to start with anyway. This set of data, the Outputs and their measures and their tasks – equate to the terminal learning objectives – the ability to perform tasks to produce outputs to stakeholder requirements – than the Outputs.

In my experience people don’t often think of the results of their performance as much as they think about the Tasks in their performance. Once they see an Output though, they usually can make the switch in thinking – at least for our data gathering and consensus building efforts in this step within the A of ADDIE.

Below is a graphic of a simple (one job and not multiple jobs – hence the missing “Role/Responsibility” columns in the middle of the format. You could for simple situations talk with the client during their request meeting and pin this down ont heir office whiteboard. Note: they really like to see actions leading to outputs early in your efforts – and this one can lead to them seeing what the focus is on and later – how to get there.

Isn’t the ability to perform those tasks and generate that output to those measures central to the Performance Improvement/ Learning endeavor?

Aren’t those the terminal objectives? Aren’t those the Level 2 evaluation test and the Level 3 evaluation test?

Right there – defined as you start?

So why collect the other data captured on the Performance Model – can’t you just drop that and get to development (or design leading to development)? Well, you could. But what would be lost?

I collect the other data-sets on this format to understand the predominance of “performance issues” otherwise known as “gaps from the ideal.”

And then I facilitate the group of Master Performers assembled, or the client in the room, to define what’s not happening – with those who perhaps are not performing at a level of Mastery that perhaps others are. And we start with the measures for the outputs – as in “where are we typically NOT getting Outputs meeting the measures?”

We capture that for all to see and ponder and concede to – or not.

What happens when a “gap” is brought up with no corresponding Measure? It means that the Measures captured were incomplete and need to now be amended. Add that Measure to the format (chart) and then add the “gap” associated with it.

Once the group/client is satisfied that we are fairly complete (is anything 100% ever?) we move to the “probable causes” of those gaps – based on the insight of the person/people in the room. This is where it is always better to have Master Performers assembled for this step than to rely on the Voice of 1 (the n=1) which might be a partial view – or wrong completely.

This is where we collectively discover whether or not “Training/Learning” has a prayer of solving this performance gap – of any incumbents (not new hires off the street who may know next to nothing about this performance).

This set of data become the fodder for the “monkey wrenches” we might throw into the Application Exercises later, downstream in the Development Phases (after Design) as these are the predominate “barriers” to performance and we should teach the new folks the best practices of the Master Performers on who to avoid in the first place – and if unavoidable, how to best respond.

This is where many “ah ha” moments occur in the process (the PACT Processes that is). The understanding that dEs and dIs cannot be corrected with Training/ Learning Solutions becomes a “shared understanding” and the solution-set becomes more imaginable for the people generating such data.

A Performance Model chart or two is usually all that is needed – for this one of many Analysis steps and Outputs in PACT – for a small scope effort. What about looking at whole jobs – or large processes, say the New Product Development efforts for 3-5 years to bring a new automobile to market? The complexity and bulk amount of data for just the ideal and gap Performance is often overwhelming. That’s why scalability is critical in the analysis efforts.

The following is adapted from a real project completed in the late 1980s. It is certainly not as complex as the work I did for the NPD efforts for an automaker – but much more complex than the earlier examples.

Note the lack of Verb-Noun or Noun-Verb “phrasing in this articulation” – because clients don’t talk like that – why would we want to take their words/wording and change it to our preferred style? It makes it much more difficult in reviews – and starts the separation between customer and supplier I see too often in the methods of ISD organizations that I work with.

The next graphic is the adapted PM chart for the first Area of Performance for the Store Manager’s performance.

Note the “R/R columns” in the middle of the format. There were more players/performers in this sandbox of performance than just the Store Manager. This captures “role clarity” – a component set of content in eventual training – defining who does what and in what situations – starts with this early recognition.

What questions can you use – or rather – paraphrase – to get after this data? I suggest that you use the following to come up with your own?

In my workshops I forbid the learner/Performers to use “My Questions” and force them to create their own – and “borrow/steal” from others who go before them in the workshop exercises – to paraphrased the questions – to begin to internalize the process and methods of PACT.

Knowing how to parrot Guy’s questions won’t help you get out of the ditch in-the-process if the person/group doesn’t “get” your first attempt at eliciting this data.

Here are “Guy’s questions.”

Here are the questions to get after the gaps and causes.


Besides what to instruct to (or enable with Job/Performance Aids) and what challenges to build into any instruction for more authenticity – what else does the Performance Model give you and your customer?

I and others use this data-set, the Performance Model, to systematically derive the enablers of performance, such as the Knowledge/Skills for Instructional Design efforts. Those equate to the enabling objectives – learn XYZ to enable Output/Task Performance 123.

Or to look beyond K/Ss to the other human asserts required to enable performance – things that Training/Learning won’t affect but that better recruiting/selection systems and processes would, such as the physical, psychological and intellectual attributes, and the personal values that the potential performers might bring to the performance context.

Or the non-human enablers of environmental support needed in enabling humans with the right stuff to manipulate to create the outputs – moving beyond Training to Performance (see my EPPI methods for more on that).

Practice Makes Perfect – Typically

Here is a blank format for you to practice on for yourself. Take a component (AoP) from your first paying job as a kid and complete this. Then do it again for another AoP from that same kid job.

Click on the graphic and then copy and paste that to wherever. And then print it out or do this online – whatever. Practice on simple job task-sets and work your way up to whole jobs and then to complex jobs and then to multiple job-performances.

This is covered in my book “lean-ISD” – a free 410 page PDF is available under the Resources tab at – and in Chapter 11 of the 3rd edition of the Handbook of Human Performance Technology (2006) which extends past performance and the enabling K/Ss to cover all of the enablers of Performance.

I am available to develop you and/or your ISD staff in formal workshops or informal coaching sessions. Or both.

I have done so since the mid-1980s for the ISD staffs at: Amoco, AT&T Network Systems, Bandag, Eli Lilly, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and at other client firms and with their contractors.

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