Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Review of Joe Harless – Front End Analysis and the 13 Smart Questions

Front-End Analysis (FEA) is a tool used to determine interventions for performance problems. Harless (1973) says:

Front-end analysis is about money, first and foremost. It’s about how to spend money in ways that will be most beneficial to the organization and the performers in that organization. It’s also about avoiding spending money on silly things like instruction when there is no instructional problem; or training everybody in everything when you can get by with training fewer people in a few things; or flying lots of trainees in for a course when a send-out checklist would do.” (Harless, 1973, p. 329)

There are six FEA goals:

1. Isolate performance problems that have potentially high “worth.”
2. Isolate the precise performance deficiencies within the problem area that account for the greatest loss.
3. Increase the probability that the solution to a given problem is effective by matching the cause of the problem to the appropriate type of remedy.
4. Increase the probability that the subclass of solution selected is the most cost effective.
5. Isolate the root cause of the performance problem rather than symptoms of effects of the problem.
6. Increase the probability that there is a match between the precise performance deficiency and the individuals who have the deficiency. (Harless, 1973, p. 332)

To make a long story short, Harless created a list of 13 Smart Questions that should be asked before making a decision on an intervention for an organizational problem. Here are his questions and elaborations from (Harless (1973), p. 340 – 344):

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Question
Expanded
1.      Do we have a problem?
Based on what evidence, can you say you have a problem?
2.      Do we have a performance problem?
A performance problem is:
1.      Someone is not doing something he/she is expected to do.
2.      Someone is doing something he/she should not be doing.
3.      A prediction of should or should-not in the future.
3.      How will we know when the problem is solved?
When indicators from the first question are the exception.
4.      What is the performance problem?

5.      Should we allocate resources to solve it?
Do the benefits of solving the problem outweigh the costs?
6.      What are the possible causes of the problem?
Lack of Data, Tools, Incentives, Knowledge, Capacity, Motives? (See Gilberts Third Leisurely Theorem)
7.      What evidence bears on each possibility?

8.      What is the probable Cause?
Based on Questions 6 and 7, what is the probable cause of the problem?
9.      What general solution type is indicated?

10.  What are the alternate subclasses of solution?
What else could you do to solve the problem?
11.  What are the costs, effects, and development times of each solution?
Research the costs of each solution
12.  What are the constraints?
Research the constraints of each solution
13.  What are the overall goals?
What goals would management like to adopt?


Now that we’ve discussed Gilberts Leisurely Theorems and Harless’ FEA, the two can be combined to create a more powerful Front-End Analysis tool.

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HPT Phase
FEA 'Smart questions'
Your Analysis
Gap Analysis
1. Do we have a problem?
·   Indicators & symptoms of problems
·   Description of tasks that may be deficient
Indicators and Symptoms:

Description of deficient tasks:

Final Outcome: Yes or No
2. Do we have a (human) performance problem?
·   Observation of mastery performance
·   People aren’t doing what they are expected to do
·   People are doing what they shouldn’t be doing
·   A prediction of future should/shouldn’t performance
Final Outcome:  Yes or No
3. How will we know when the problem is solved?
·   Description of mastery performance at a level of task specificity
·   Description of problem-level goals

4. Exactly what is the performance problem?
Gap Analysis – Specify actual and desired performance.

·   Exemplary performer (Wex) = What our exemplary performers are doing now is…
·   Typical performer (Wt) = What our typical performers are doing now is…

Use numbers so you can determine the PIP in the next step.
5. Should we allocate resources to solve it?
Gap Analysis -- Determine the gap is worth closing
·     Gap (or PIP) = Wt/Wex
Final Outcome: Yes or No
Cause Analysis
6. What are the possible causes of the problem?
Cause Analysis using the BEM – What questions would you ask to investigate the causes of the performance gap?
Environmental support
(1) Data

(2) Instruments
(3) Incentives
Person’s repertoire of behavior
(4) Knowledge
(5) Capacity
(6) Motives

Given the data you possess at this time, what do you suspect is the root cause of the performance gap?

7. What evidence bears on each possibility?
8. What is the probable cause?
Outcome:
Intervention Selection, Design, and Development
9. What general solution type is indicated?


10. What are the alternate subclasses of solution?

11. What are the costs, effects, and development times of each solution?

12. What are the constraints?
Outcome:

13. What are the overall goals?
The goals we’ve adopted are:

Source: Villachica, S. (2010). Week 11: Front-End Analysis Meets Gilbert's PIP and BEM. Retrieved from IPT 536 4156/4157 course database.

As you can see in the table above, using Harless’ 13 Smart Questions in combination with Gilbert’s second and third leisurely theorems gives a platform to perform gap and cause analysis. Using that data you can then develop an intervention with more confidence that you are making the correct choice.


References


Harless, J.H. (1973). An analysis of front-end analysis. Improving Human Performance: A Research Quarterly, 4, 229-244.
Villachica, S. (2010). Week 11: Front-End Analysis Meets Gilbert's PIP and BEM. Retrieved from IPT 536 4156/4157 course database.

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