L&D: Clarify Learning Needs via Performance Tests

No Learning Need Apply

That’s what happened. The client decided that a Curriculum Architecture Design (CAD) effort wouldn’t be needed after administering over 2000 Performance Tests to over 20 technical populations as as a central part of their new Pay Progression Program.

The year was 1987 … 30 years ago.

The location was the cold cold cold (did I mention that it was cold?) Performance Context of the oil fields of the North Slope of Alaska in Prudhoe Bay.


No MCD (my ADDIE-like Project Planning & Management Framework) efforts to follow the development of the CAD efforts’ T&D/Learning Paths where existing T&D/Learning was to be rationalized and gaps identified and then prioritized after the administration of the tests.

I was brought in to develop the methodology to be used by my two business partners and staff and several sub-contractors we brought in for what would be (at the time) our largest consulting engagement to date.

2007-11-01 004

I was up-to-my-neck with another client implementing a large scale Content development effort, post-CAD.

But as I was the firm’s expert in CAD – advancing the methods and tools and techniques – and this was an effort to both define the Performance Expectations, define the Performance Competence requirements across the 20+ populations (the number changed during the project as reorganizations were going on simultaneously with our effort) with our team – and consistency our consultants’ efforts from one Target Audience to the next had to be close enough to perfect that Tests that could be shared would be shared – one of the things I strive for in all my efforts.


My small role in the project was to create the methodology – structure the Analysis Meetings for use 20+ times, and structure the long post-Analysis Design Meeting (5 days if I recall correctly), design the Test formats (so we could begin with the end in mind) and then Pilot Test the methodology.

My Methodology Pilot-Test group did the maintenance of all vehicles on site – where we let our assigned trucks run 24/7 so that they wouldn’t freeze overnight – did I mention that it was cold out? – where they had an entire Fire Engine in spare parts warehoused because ordering a needed part would result in a 8 hour delay as things were shipped from Anchorage – and that would be unacceptable as it would mean less ability to fight any fire – at an oil field.

A Souvenir In My Collection

2007-11-01 008

Over 2000 Performance Tests Developed

These Tests were Open Book and each followed one of three types:

  • Real Work
  • Simulated Work
  • Talk-Thru-Troubleshooting

The Test method preference followed that order.

Perf Tests

The Target Audience – it should be noted – were all seasoned veterans in their Technical Disciplines. Our client had a need to prove that and build that in to their Pay Progression Program.

Open Book meant that the Tests were available for review before any Testing occurred – and that any reference tools that could be used on-the-job would also be allowed during testing.

And because the effort “had everyone by the wallet” so to speak – the success rate was very high – negating the need for both the post-project Curriculum Architecture Design and then the follow on to that for Instructional Content development efforts.

An Aside

This project and another for that other client that had me otherwise occupied during this effort led me to create a similar (subset) methodology that I labeled IAD – Instructional Activity Development/Acquisition. The intent with IAD was to build some components of Instruction and later (perhaps) wrap those components with a complete package of Instruction.

The other client wanted a bunch of Performance DEMOs – from my INFO-DEMO-APPO Instructional Design framework for Lesson Design – for a National Sales Meeting they had coming up – and we knew we could not build all of the Training needed in time – but could build the DEMOs – which were centered on applying the SPIN methodology of Neil Rackham.

I had introduced Neil and SPIN to the client – as I had really wanted the client to embrace his (and John Carlisle’s) approach to Win-Win Negotiations that I had experience with back during my time at MTEC – Motorola’s Training & Education Center (the forerunner to Motorola University) in 1981-1982.

Early Book Reviews

Darlene Van Tiem:

Svenson and Wallace provide a definitive guidebook complete with sound advice and a wealth of examples, covering everything you need to establish and sustain a successful qualification/certification system!


Joe Durzo:

This whole book is like a road map to unexplored territory. Some practitioners have been there before but left no maps to guide those who follow. You have mapped out a complex territory that has had little systematic attention but which is very important.

This book is a very useful contribution to the practice of performance development and improvement. Most of the professional literature focuses on elements of the system—test development, feedback, etc. and NOT on the design and management of a whole-company approach to qualification and certification. Most of the really difficult issues are not in the individual blades of grass, but are in the overall landscape which you describe so well.

This book should be required reading for anyone who is venturing out for the first time to create a qualification/assessment/certification system.

Anita Augustine:

I like the questions approach used at the beginning and end of each chapter. I very much like the preface. It “sets” the book well regarding expectations. Emphasis on project plan criticality is GOOD! For some reason, establishing a strong agenda, for meetings, seems to be very difficult for most; these samples should be most helpful! The case studies are strong and I’m glad you incorporated those; most helpful. I really liked the work overall; it is thorough and well done.

Mark Graham Brown:

Thanks for sending me the book! You guys have done an amazing amount of work to document all this stuff and present it using beautiful pages. It looks very professional.

If the goal is to give someone step-by-step directions on how to design, develop, and maintain such a system, there is a lot of great detail here. Chapter 1 is interesting reading, addresses key questions a reader should have, and is clearly written. The book is clearly based on some valuable real-world experience. The Alaska examples are good case studies. The book is a great documentation of the process and lessons learned on these two projects.

Louise Leone:

In my opinion the first few chapters are written in a way that does interest people like myself. I think you guys have done a nice job in grabbing the audience early.

Jim Russell:

I like the 9 part cover diagram! Clear, simply written, easy to follow. The book format and layout look good – eye appeal! Excellent introductory chapters. Chapters 3-6 provide a good overview of the system. Chapters 7-10 provide more detail about the system. Excellent lists and tables. You’ve hit the target and are on the mark!

John Swinney:

This is a manual for building a bullet-proof, performance-based qualification and certification system. As complex as a project of this magnitude could be, this book provides the fundamental “how to.”

Very well done! I like the conversational style. You’ve taken a relatively complex and detailed process but have handled describing it with plain business language. The one thing I really like about all the work you guys have done together is that you are always aware of the needs of the business at every point of the process.

The project plan for the TMC Stores case study is worth the price of admission. It provides very good picture of how it all comes together. Nice addition! If I was charged with that responsibility, this book is where I’d start! Given the book as the operating guide, I think I could take the project plan and begin to do it!

Written in 2007 and Released in 2008

This 2007 book is available as a FREE 226 page PDF – here.

2008 PB EQCS Book Cover

But – what’s the cost of your printing and binding? 

Click on the title below to buy a $15 paperback copy…

Performance-based Employee Qualification/ Certification Systems (2007) – as a Paperback

The Kindle version is: $9.99

My 1987 Video Tour of the Prudhoe Bay Living Quarters

In a series of trailers – constructed on stilts over the permafrost/tundra – just over 15 minutes in length … where I just might have invented the Video Selfie via a Mirror.

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One comment on “L&D: Clarify Learning Needs via Performance Tests

  1. Pingback: L&D: Prudhoe Bay in 1987 | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

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