Addressing the Gap in Process Performance


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The first steps in process improvement are to determine what the gap is and why it happens. Having a process is not sufficient; the process needs to be effective as well. For those responsible for creating and maintaining processes, the ultimate goal is to create a procedure that becomes self-perpetuating, that seeps into the fabric of the company’s culture. For better or worse, plenty of procedures do indeed become ingrained in company culture. How does one go about ensuring that company culture is loaded with effective processes that deliver a positive outcome? That is the question, to be sure. 

Analyzing Performance Problems, authored by Robert Mager and Peter Pipe, was published in 1970. Even 50 years later, it is still one of the most definitive—and digestible—books on the topic of skill gap analysis. Their model presents a thorough and effective method for troubleshooting performance problems. 

According to Pipe and Mager, first identify the performance problem. To do so, make the key metrics:

  • Measurable
  • Observable
  • Performance-based 

Armed with the metrics, the next questions are critical to the analysis: 

  • Is it worth solving?
  • Can we apply fast fixes?
  • Are the consequences appropriate?
  • Is there skill deficiency?
  • Are there other causes?
  • Which solutions are the best? 

This analysis process is captured in the flowchart for Mager and Pipe’s model.

While this model might seem almost simplistic, my personal experience is that the power of the model comes from the simplicity. This model is not attempting to determine the specific fix; that is a separate scope. Instead, Mager and Pipe are merely attempting to perform the triage, to identify the nature of the breakdown in performance. Once the root cause of the breakdown is understood, the type of resolution can be determined. How exactly that resolution is implemented, of course, is often highly situationally dependent. There may be more than one solution, in fact. And in terms of the current challenges in upskilling, is this 50-year-old method still meaningful? 

To read this entire article, which appeared in the April 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.

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