T&D: Leveraging Master Performers in ISD and/or PI Efforts

Almost Every Job Family Has Them

Master Performers that is. Or – Star Performers. It’s what Tom Gilbert called Exemplary Performers – or Exemplars. My internal clients at Motorola, manufacturing executives and managers, back in 1981, told me they didn’t like Exemplars, so I changed my label to appease them.

Whatever. Exemplars – Master Performers – same diff, as the saying went back in the day.

Master Performers – by definition – would be the ideal source for determining the overt and covert knowledge and skills underlying Performance Competence. Which takes understanding the Tasks to be Performed to Produce the Outputs that meet Stakeholder Requirements … and understanding exactly who those Stakeholders are and what they require. Much of which – is never found written down.


The idea is to take what the Master Performers know – both the explicit and tacit knowledge – and use that to train others to ramp them up more quickly.


Ramp Up is a manufacturing term. You might say “bring them up to speed” or something that connotes something similar. Use the language and imagery of you clients for their benefit – they don’t want to learn yours – at least at first.

I Use a Facilitated Group Process

To speed my efforts of extraction and organization – something we in the biz might call Analysis and Design – of those explicit and tacit knowledge items – I assemble a team of Master Performers – where many heads is better than one.

As we all – including Experts – operate using non-conscious knowledge – on auto-pilot, so to speak – asking Experts (or anyone) how they do something will result in approximately 30% of what a novice would need – meaning they/we all leave out a lot. Not deliberately. But assuredly. Research proves this out.

We can’t keep everything in our working memory – so we move most of what we know into the subconscious parts of our brains and use it when needed – non-consciously.

So I use Master Performers, in a team setting, who when listening to someone explain “how to do something” or “what you’ve got to know” will “help” each other out by filling in the gaps. I’ve been doing this “Facilitated Group Process” since 1979 – when I first formed a team to complete a video script. That story is here.

And I learned that if you get a room full of usually very competitive people – Master Performers are like that in my experience – together to complete a Task – such as conducting an Analysis effort or a Design effort – they will help each other correct errors of fact and errors of omission – to the point to where I learned to preface the start of such activities with “what Bob really means when he says, hey you dummy, you missed some steps – is really, hey, let me add to or clarify what John just provided.”

And then they laugh – but they know I’ve got their number. And their adds and corrections are usually not so blunt or brusk. usually. Sometimes however, I, the facilitator, need to remind everyone with “what Bob really means when he says, hey you dummy, you missed some steps – is really, hey, let me add to or clarify what John just provided.” And they laugh again, and get a little better in their clarifications and corrections commentary.

Way back in 1984 I co-authored two articles about this approach – using Master Performers in Analysis and Design. You will see the use of the term “Exemplars” borrowing from Tom Gilbert’s 1998 book: Human Competence.

Although both of my articles were co-authored in 1983, publishing cycle times being what they were back then, they weren’t published until almost a year later, and they came out in the reverse order for what we, the authors, had hoped.

September 1984

CAD - Training 84 Cover and 1st Page.png

CAD – Training Mag – 1984 – 6 page PDF – the first publication about Curriculum Architecture Design via a Facilitated Group Process – published in Training Magazine in September 1984. Original manuscript (30 pages) – How to Build a Training Structure That Won’t Keep Burning Down.

November 1984

nspi pij november 1984 analysis article

Models and Matrices- NSPI PIJ -1984 – 5 page PDF – the first publication of the performance and enabler analysis methods for ISD using a Facilitated Group Process, from NSPI’s (ISPI’s) Performance & Instruction Journal, November 1984.

Handbook of Human Performance Technology – 3rd Edition – 2006

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In 2005 I was asked to submit a chapter related to my practice of HPT – Human Performance Technology. So I wrote about Modeling Mastery Performance and Systematically Deriving the Enablers for Performance Improvement. Truth in titling sometimes creates a mouthful – so to speak.

That chapter came out in 2006.

Modeling Mastery Performance and Systematically Deriving the Enablers for Performance Improvement– by Guy W. Wallace, CPT – Chapter 11 of the Handbook of Human Performance Technology – 3rd Edition – 2006.  This methodology was first published in this 1984 article in ISPI’s (then NSPI’s) PIJ in November 1984.

Nothing Is Perfect

And using this methodology – or something akin to it – will not result in 100% complete and accurate and appropriate data – after the first go-round.

But who else would you ask?

And when you do not have time to conduct a lot of “observations” as clients are usually in a hurry – and observers don’t always understand what it is they they observe – the overt/behavioral stuff – let alone the covert/cognitive stuff that they cannot see – I’ve found this to be my Best Practice. I’ve used this to analyze job performance that took years to go through – auto development cycles – and nobody has the time and patience for that Analysis Paralysis.

Of course, my Instructional Systems Design (PACT) methods and my Performance Improvement (EPPI) methods account for this with what I like to claim is a self-healing process, where we revisit the data and add, clarify, modify it as we go along. I never want to slow myself down trying to get something perfect – that might end up on the cutting room floor anyway – so to speak – in the final product.

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And – we always Pilot-Test – formally as a separate Phase – after Alpha and Beta Testing in the prior Phase.

In PACT… at the MCD level…


In EPPI… at the EPPI II level…

EPPI Stage 1 and 2.png

Who Is On the Team?

That depends. But in general…in PACT…

pact via a group process for cad analysis and design

The same is true for EPPI.

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