ISD: The Current Clarion Call: Performance-Based Instruction


David James has a new post out…about our conversation in his L&D podcast series…where he starts off with:

At the beginning of 2020, David James spoke with Guy Wallace, a pioneer of performance-focused L&D, on The Learning & Development Podcast.

Nice. But…

I Feel More Like a Tour Guide Than a Pioneer

And as a Tour Guide, I stand on the shoulders of hundreds of people who actually blazed the trails – of Performance-Based Instruction and Performance Improvement Beyond Instruction. I simply point out the trails – as I understand or misunderstand them – blazed by the real pioneers.

It is heartening that the mantra of “Performance” is being heard with more frequency and more passion nowadays.

But it is a slippery slope – upwards – to Performance-Beyond-Instruction.

And a slipperier slope – downwards – to a focus on Performance-Behaviors that don’t reflect the back-on-the-job authentic requirements of Tasks and Outputs that meet stakeholder requirements.

Beware “Faux Performance” IMO.

I learned from many – going back to Day 1 for me in the ISD/T&D biz.

That day was in August 1979.

The people that I learned from were all associated with what became my professional home – NSPI – now ISPI – the International Society for Performance Improvement.

Then I learned from key people from the TQM – Total Quality Management movement.

I owe many for my viewpoints and philosophies and practices.

This next graphic I owe to Rummler, Gilbert, and Ishikawa…

I embrace what has been called HPT – Human Performance Technology.

Where “technology” refers to the “application of science.”

It is also known as HPI – Human Performance Improvement, and PI – Performance Improvement, and PT – Performance Technology.

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose….


Just like the labeling of ISD, ID, ADDIE, SAT, T&D, L&D LXD….

Word Salads. Marketplace confusion. Marketing Branding. Something that I am guilty of as well.

Instruction to me is both Job Aids and Training.

But Instruction isn’t always the point-of-the-spear when addressing Performance Issues. It just isn’t.

And knowing more about that will help you help your clients and stakeholders avoid Instruction that won’t move any needles other than the cost (investment) needle.

I am a Member of the HPT Quixotian Order – something I made up – when I really really began to understand what Rummler taught me decades ago – and he wrote about in 1969: “We can’t get there from here” – which you can read via the Blog Post referenced in a couple of paragraphs.

I do appreciate people like David James – and Bob Mosher – and the many, many others who are making the current Clarion Call about Performance.

And we all stand on the shoulders of Rummler, Gilbert, Harless, Gery, Brethower, and hundreds if not thousands of others – who probably all stand on the shoulders of Skinner. Who stood on others’ shoulders.


And I also worry about those who will focus on what Tom Gilbert called the “Cult of Behaviors.”

Which is “performance” – but if they don’t reflect authentic performance requirements in the authentic performance context and lead to authentic outputs – “Worthy Outputs” as Gilbert called them – then it is a Vague Notion of Performance that will water-down the entire notion of Performance – Performance Competence as I have chosen to label it after Gilbert’s 1978 book, Human Competence.

Mine is the Cult of Authentic Performance I guess. I hope.

In 2014 I published this post:

In Vogue in the L&D Space – This Vague Notion of Performance

This Vague Notion of Performance

Is this finally getting some headway? This notion of Performance versus Learning, or e-Learning, or Training or even Performance Support done poorly – you know, without analysis of what those performance requirements are – to be supported?

Performance – the ultimate criterion (within our typical control) for our team and individually targeted interventions. THE Target.

If so – if it’s coming – it’s been a long time in coming.

I still worry about this opportunity, slipping away. Again.

But … we soldier on…

Once More Unto the Breach!

# # #

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.