Performance Tourists Never Really Stay Long Enough To Fully “Get It”

I coined a new phrase last week: “Performance Tourist.” I was reviewing some writing from my good friend in the L&D Space, Will Thalheimer, and I printed out his writings and I wrote comments in the margins. Yeah, I know. Old school. Writing on paper.

The handwritten comment on the left in the next graphic was on page 13. It was probably my 30th comment to that point. Across 17 pages I probably made 40-50 comments. I was trying to be thorough. Helpful.

So Will had to Zoom me to walk him through all of my comments for deeper understanding and because he couldn’t always read my writing, and he especially liked the comment, when we got to it, about “Performance Tourists” (Perf Tourists).

What I had read, prompting my comment, was what the late Geary Rummler called “a Trigger” – as in “the initial Stimuli” that sets off a chain of Stimuli-Responses, or the Start of a Process.

I have an Itchy Trigger Finger when it comes to some, various … okay … many aspects of L&D – or what we used to call T&D back-in-the-day. And one of those has to do with WOINA – What’s Old Is New Again – in T&D/L&D/LXD.

Will wrote about Ideation – and my comment was intended to add a slant regarding “Ideation by Who?” – which is critical.

Forming Groups to conduct ISD/LXD efforts isn’t new. But it seems that many that write about this write about it as starting off as an exercise in Design – sans Analysis. I was hoping he’d add something in about that perspective. Something along the lines of getting “The Right People” on “THAT” Ideation Bus.

As someone who has been facilitating groups for ISD efforts, since 1979, I know that’s the wrong experience for LXDers to emulate. Instructional or Experience Design – sans Analysis – is all too common a practice – since forever – and it’s a Bad Practice IMO.

If your LXD or ID or ISD isn’t tied back to the Performance Requirements from Back-on-the-Job who knows what experience will result. It may be engaging. It might even be fun.

But it will most likely Subtract Value rather than Add Value. Unless, of course, you’ll just got lucky that time. If so, buy a lottery ticket ASAP before your luck runs out.

2 Published Articles from 1984

In 1983 my business partners and I wrote two articles and submitted them hoping one would publish before the other, for a one-two punch. Didn’t happen.

This was back in the day when it took 11-13 months from the time of submission until publication. Here they are in the preferred order…

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.

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.

Now I say I coined that phrase “Performance Tourist” – but who knows – I could have borrowed it from my non-conscious memory after having gotten it from who-knows-where way back who-knows-when. It may be a mash-up of or revision of someone else’s phrase. I don’t know.

But what I do know is what I meant by it. And where the sentiment comes from.

What I Meant By It

A “Performance Tourist” is a slightly derogatory phrase/term – or just snarky – regarding someone who observes a Process/WorkFlow and then walks away thinking that they really understand it – or understand it well enough.

Which is only true if it is truly simple, without much covert ThoughtFlow going on in parallel with the overt WorkFlow.

BTW – I learned ThoughtFlow from Steve Villachica – but I don’t know if he coined it or someone else did. So, credit him for now.

Anyone who does a fly-by observation of some Process Performance and thinks they “get it” isn’t thinking about it deeply enough IMO. Even after they Interview people about what they observed. Even if they then read available documentation about the Process and the Inputs, and Results, etc., they still probably won’t get it completely.

There’s stuff going on beyond the obvious, overt behaviors of the WorkFlow that one can see, and can even count. The Physical Behaviors.

There’s those unobvious, covert behaviors of the ThoughtFlow that one cannot see, or count. The Cognitive Beahviors.

So MBWA – Management By Walking Around, or the Gemba Walks from Lean-SixSigma aren’t going to uncover the ThoughtFlow – the tricky part. Or – the TRICKIEST PART.

Why? Because experts cannot tell you what they are thinking while they are doing. No one can at any level of expertise.

70% of knowledge is non-conscious – as I’ve learned from Richard E. Clark, Ed.D.

Dick Clark proposes doing a CTA – Cognitive Task Analysis to bring out as much of the non-conscious thinking possible – around 85% max, he’s told me. Then you have to test your early drafts and try to fill that remaining 15% gap – if your approach got it to 85% in the first place.

Dick told me close to 10 years ago that he and Ken Yates looked into it, and that there were well over 100 versions of CTA – but only a handful that were valid and really do work.

So – caveat emptor.

You can read what he’s researched about CTA – here. There are 10 writing there about Cognitive Task Analysis and Automated Knowledge. And see the post with my HPT Video with Dick’s colleague Ken Yates, done just a couple of days ago.

So – you are at best a Performance Tourist – or Process Tourist – or WorkFlow Tourist – when you try to figure it out on your own via observation.

I never felt as if I could observe, and interview, and review documentation – and walk away with enough insights to really get my Training (Learning) products close enough to what was needed. Not after having experienced the accelerated approach I and my business partners at what became SWI – Svenson & Wallace Inc. developed starting back in 1982. I had done my first Group Process back in 1979, within my first 6 months out of college and into my first job – triggered by my frustrations in writing a video script. The trigger was having to do more than 7 drafts.

So I have preferred using an FGP – a Facilitated Group Process.

Many of my Articles, Presentations, Blog Posts, Videos, Audio Podcasts, and Books address the FGP – including my latest Book (#15) written during 2020. I wrote that in fact, in response to a conversation with Dick Clark back in June of 2020. That’s another story covered elsewhere – including in this video that I did once I had created the first draft.

Where the Sentiment Comes From

The Tourist part of “Performance Tourist” comes from an experience I had in the late 1980s and early 1990s – that I had been reminded about just a week or so ago – of my 5 deliveries of an 8-day ILT for AT&T Network Systems Product Managers in The Netherlands.

It was 5 out of 31 deliveries that I did between 1987 when I co-conducted the Pilot Test session and the final delivery in 1994. I developed most of that ILT and as a standard practice – I delivered what I had created – kind of an “eat your own dog food” as my clients in Marketing at AT&T-NS had called it back then.

As it was 8 days – I had a weekend off in The NL. My co-facilitator and I would ask our class of 20 where can we go and what can we see?

And they’d laugh their you-know-whats-off when we reported back on Monday what we had done. We’d covered the entire south portion of The Netherlands – and – had driven into Belgium and into Germany (I really wanted to drive on the Autobahn).

We made stops in some city centers, making 20-40 minute stops here and there – taking videos (my videos from 1990 and from 1991). And then drive on.

And then back to Hilversum.

No videos of Amsterdam – although I somehow became the tour guide of that city for my American clients – who made the boondoggle, er, visit, to see how we were all doing over there.


The class of 20 got a hoot out of what we did – laughing with us/at us – and then would chastise us – listing all of the things we were “so close to seeing” but had missed completely.

And perhaps some were offended in that they thought that we thought that we had seen it all.

Of course we didn’t think that. We were going for “wide” rather than “deep.”

But you cannot do that in ISD/LXD Analysis-Informed Design.

Remember – that’s what this is all about. Impactful Instructional Experiences – what I like to call “performance-based.”

So my term of derision (soft derision if you will) was partly a joke, but not really.

I’ve seen too much of T&D/L&D that skimmed the surface, offering up reasonable Topics – with Face Validity – that lacked Performance Validity – and then…


It just wasn’t going to happen without a Design Informed By Authentic Analysis Data.

The Process – using Teams/Groups for Designing Learning Experiences – can be great – if populated with the right kinds of people. That’s what my MCD process and methodology-set – that I’ve been using since the early 1980s – is all about.

I use Master Performers and Other Subject Matter Experts – and I facilitate them through my well-honed MCD Process for both Analysis and Design – as well as in Project Planning & Management, and Development, to bookend the A&D efforts.

I’ve even been publishing on my 12 Tips for Facilitators, in books, my former quarterly newsletter, and Blog Posts. See one Blog Post on that – here. And the summary for 12 prior Blog Posts that went much deeper into each, from 2008 – here.

You can find all sorts of additional, free, resources on my website about MCD and the FGP – check under the Resource Tab or use the search function.

Focus on the Performance Requirements – and Enable Them.


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