I Learned to Share at NSPI – Back in the Day

My list of Publications – over 85 items in total – where I share my journey and mission and lessons learned – of

Pursuing Performance

– is here on this web site. Many of those articles, chapters and some of the books are available for free (as PDFs) here.

I was a Journalist in the US Navy back in the day – and attended Journalism classes in college while getting a Radio/TV/Film degree. I backed into ISD/ID and Performance Improvement back in the day (1979) due to my part-time-job during college, post-Navy, for a Do-It-Yourself Lumber Company in my college town. I left Lawrence Kansas for Saginaw Michigan in late August 1979.

My first NSPI (now ISPI) Chapter meeting was in September 1979 and on the car ride from Detroit to Saginaw after the evening meeting I was informed that I had been signed up to the Newsletter Committee.

That’s how it was back in the day. Just as I was “volunteered” to write for our company (Wickes Lumber) newsletter –  by my boss – she had next signed me and another of my co-workers to that committee – knowing that it would be good for us – in terms of professional development.

Boy – was that on target.

NSPI became my professional home – solidified by my attendance the very next April, in Dallas, at the National Conference. There I was introduced to Geary Rummler, Bob Mager (who signed my copy of Analyzing Performance Problems – which was later liberated by some scoundrel/colleague), Joe Harless by the members of my chapter – MSIT – the Michigan Society for Instructional Technology – known to others as the Michigan Mafia (in a fun way, of course). Solidified because I felt that it was a no BS kind of place. Phrases such as “research-based” and “measured results” were bandied about throughout the Conference. Yes – bandied!

The next year I moved (back) to the suburbs of Chicago and joined the Chicago Chapter of NSPI – the National Society for Performance and Instruction. I recall, and was recently reminded by, Joe Harless saying that that was like having the Society for Transportation and Bicycles.

The thought leaders of NSPI had move on, way on, from their roots as the National Society for Programmed Instruction – having correctly concluded that Instruction was so often NOT the silver bullet of Performance, creation, sustainment or improvement.

NSPI became NSPI – from Programmed Instruction to Performance & Instruction – and then it became NSPI – for Performance Improvement.

Then it became – or recognized its International membership (small but growing) and the N became an I.

Throughout all of that many – the old guard especially – watched over the comings and goings of members, presentations and publications – occasionally call out the equivalent of “Pants on Fire” – when some statement or content violated what they knew about the research.

That always endeared me even more to the old home – my professional home.

Sharing Through Authoring

Recently I co-authored an article with one of the new guard at ISPI – Brett Christensen – and we published our article ” Only 20 Percent of Performance Issues Are Rooted in a Knowledge and Skills Deficit” outside of ISPI – at eLearning Magazine here – because he was running for the Board – and it felt good – it felt “in the tradition of sharing” – and I felt as if I was finally making some headway in paying it back by paying it forward.

I had  promised the late Geary Rummler, who had redesigned my 1999 “lean-ISD” book cover and wrote a fantastic review/endorsement, that as I could never repay him for all that he had done for me, I would have to pay it forward. He remarked that that was what he had been doing. That led to a conversation about attributions. I asked him to tell me how one should properly attribute – to give credit where credit is due – as I was not raised in THAT tradition – that academics practice as a matter of course. So he shared that with me and that is how I attributed his influence on my work in that book.

I was one of the lucky ones – and I know there were many – who got to work up close with the good doctor. After meeting him in 1980 at NSPI – I got a chance to work with him after I left Wickes Lumber – and joined Motorola. At Wickes I had worked alongside his brother-in-law, and two who had worked with his brother at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Detroit. Me becoming a Rummler-ite couldn’t be helped – although I was greatly influenced also by the writings of Bob Mager and what I learned second hand of the work of Joe Harless.  Two other gurus from NSPI/ISPI.

Guy and Geary at Guy’s boss’ offices in Phoenix in 1982. We were working on “The Kit” – “The D-I-Y Geary Rummler Consulting Kit” as my boss Paul called it – from my 1982 White Paper about combining the Process orientation of Rummler with the Communications models of Huthwait (Neil Rackham of SPIN Selling fame) and the Quality Tools/Methods of Deming and Juran.

Paul’s picture is next. I wrote about this effort years ago – here – and here.

When I left Motorola in October of 1982 Alan Ramias took over my several projects with Paul and Geary. Alan wrote about Geary and his contribution to Six Sigma in The Mists of Six Sigma  – published in 2005. Alan also talks about that – in this 2-hour video – a Tribute to Geary Rummler – recorded at ISPI 2009 – and which I edited/did the post production for son Rick Rummler and ISPI.

I watching that video over and over again – some of you may understand the editing and post production drudgery – it struck me just how much many, many others saw how generous Geary was. He was generous with his time, and with his writings. Alan speaks to that in the video, but so do others.

Informal Learning/Oblique Learning

Geary did not teach me to share. He simply modeled it.

And for that I am very lucky. To have in my possession many Geary Rummler artifacts – including this video of him at MTEC presenting on Performance Based Training – and this HPT Practitioner Video Podcast interview – done in 2008. He had promised we could do a 2 hour interview the next year – at the next conference. That conference came and went – without him there physically – but he was there in spirit. That is attested to by those who gathered in his memory for the tribute (on the video).

And he continues today – inspiring many – with all of the writings and work he has left us.

I am really looking forward to this next ISPI Conference. It’s the 50th Anniversary Conference. It’s THE place where valid approaches to performance improvement are shared by many. In the tradition established and practiced by many.

It’s a worthy tradition.

I hope to see some old and new faces there – to continue the tradition.

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One comment on “I Learned to Share at NSPI – Back in the Day

  1. Pingback: Rummler Video Mania – A Tribute Of Sorts | EPPIC – Pursuing Performance

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