T&D: Avoid the Cult of Behavior

Behavior vs Performance

Thomas F. Gilbert cautioned HRD professionals to avoid focusing on behavior rather than performance.

He called this common problem the “cult of behavior“….

George Odiorne called it “the activity trap” in his book: Management and the Activity Trap (1973).

Search on “cult of behavior” and you will see what I mean.

Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance (ISPI Tribute Edition)

From Amazon.com:
Human Competence offers an original theory of engineering human performance, coupled with a detailed plan of action based on provided applications. Grounded on remarkable principles, sound applications, and educational practice, this classic book:

  • explains how to identify people who have the potential to be exemplary performers.
  • details various economic models for reducing expenses, increasing productivity, and improving learning, with special worksheets that help put these models to work.
  • shows how to diagnose causes of performance failure and how to tailor the best remedies to each problem.
  • describes a general procedure for measuring any performance and for translating these measures into economic opportunity.
  • shows how to design training and educational systems that bring the best results.

Measured Results – Start with Baseline Results

I really believe that we should be tracking and reporting more meaningful data than the means – we should be tracking the ends.

From an old Post of mine:

In Thomas F. Gilbert’s book “Human Competence” (page 45) – he lists his “Measures of Worthy Performance” – Accomplishments – this way:

1. Quality

(a) Accuracy

(b) Class

(c) Novelty

2. Quantity (or Productivity)

(a) Rate

(b) Timeliness

(c) Volume

3. Cost

(a) Labor (behavior repertories)

(b) Material (environmental supports)

(c) Management

See his definitions – page 45- 47. I’ve always like these. But I changed the wording to match what my clients’ used – or to language that they could relate to.

Adopt what you can – and adapt the rest.

Use what measures and labels for them that makes sense in your Context.

As discussed in the dialogue with the Cat,  Alice asked (you remember Alice):

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)

The Proven Ability to Do

That’s what’s important.

It’s not about Learning – it’s about Performance Competence.

Even for a Learning Organization.

Here are some of my books that address all of this.

Let me start with a book – available as a free PDF and as a low cost paperback

But Wait – There’s More

And how to turn your L&D organization from one focused on Learning Content to Performance Impacting Content – my book 6 pack

But Wait – There’s Even More

See the Resource Tab.

And Video Podcasts.

And free Articles, Presentations, Newsletter articles, and Blog Postings, etc., may be found under the Resources Tab at this web site.

Always – Begin with the Ends in Mind

Focus on the Ends.

Enable those Ends.


Yes, the Means to those Ends – learned behaviors – are sometimes very important, and at other times, not so much. Sometimes a simple Job Aid for Performance Guidance & Support is what is really needed. And “Learning” is less important.

Figure that out.

Good Stewards of Shareholder Equity would do so.

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One comment on “T&D: Avoid the Cult of Behavior

  1. Pingback: Video: Beware The Cult of Behaviors – in LXD | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

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