About This Book

About Pfeiffer




CD-ROM Contents



Part One: Making the Transition

Chapter 1: Performance Consulting

Experiences from the Field: Improving Performance

What Makes a Performance Consultant?

Defining Performance Consulting

Field Tools: The Operational Definition

Defining Your Own Consultant Process

Field Techniques: Defining Your Consulting Process

The Importance of a Vision and Mission

Field Techniques: Setting a Goal for Yourself


Where to Learn More

Chapter 2: The Transition

Experiences from the field: Planning

Field Techniques: Making the Transition to Performance Consulting

Establishing Your Own Performance Standards

Field Techniques: Measuring What You Do Now

Aligning Your Products and Services With Your New Role

Field Techniques: Identifying Business Drivers

Field Tools: Product Portfolio Worksheets

Field Techniques: Evaluating the Worth of What You Do Now

Field Techniques: Finding a Willing Client

Using the Product Portfolio Worksheets With Clients

Field Techniques: Building Your Plan


Where to Learn More

Chapter 3: Costs

Experiences from the Field: Understanding Costs

Field Techniques: Learning How Your Organization Classifies Costs

Field Tools: Valuing Time

Cost Management

Unnecessary Cost Drivers

Field Tools: Isolating and Managing Costs

Field Techniques: Finding Cost

Improving Processes and Practices to Reduce Costs

Managing Costs in Performance Consulting

Field Tools: Process or Task Performance Worksheet

Field Techniques: Improving Your Processes and Tasks

Field Techniques: Helping Clients Improve their Processes


Where to Learn More

Chapter 4: Credibility and Influence

Experiences from the Field: Being Credible

The Essential Ingredients: Information, Courage, Interpersonal Skills, and Integrity

Field Techniques: Evaluating your Personal Power Base

Field Techniques: Getting Information

The Spices: Trust, Political Savvy, Dissonance, and Status

Field Techniques: Developing Political Savvy, Dissonance, and Status

The Cooking Instructions: Establishing a Presence, Remaining Impartial and Objective, and Staying Focused

Field Techniques: Establishing a Presence, Remaining Impartial and Objective, and Staying Focused

Field Tools: Qualifying the Client

Field Techniques: Strengthening your Credibility and Influence


Where to Learn More

Chapter 5: Sustaining Change

Tracking Adoption

Dramatizing Causality

Field Techniques: Dramatizing Causality

Field Techniques: Building Proficiency in Communicating Logic

Sustaining Ownership

Field Techniques: Sustaining Ownership

Ongoing Measurement and Reporting of Results

Field Techniques: Measuring and Reporting


Where to Learn More

Part Two: Performance Consulting

Chapter 6: Environment and Norms

Experiences from the Field: Organizational Dynamics

The Work Environment

Field Techniques: Isolating Environmental Changes

Variability in Jobs

Field Tools: Contextual Job Descriptions

Field Techniques: Isolating Differences in Job Conditions

Field Techniques: Isolating Changes in People

Organizations as Social Systems: Managing Group Norms

Field Techniques: Identifying How Norms Affect Performance

Experiences From the Field: About Being Different

Field Techniques: Looking at Your Own Environment and Social Systems


Where to Learn More

Chapter 7: Needs Assessment and Cause Analysis

A Process for Identifying Needs

Field Tools: the Scorecard

Field Techniques: Focusing Your Investigation

Performance Criteria for the Needs Assessment Process

Field Tools: the Hierarchy

Field Tools: the Hierarchy Job Aid

Field Techniques: Getting Evidence of Congruency

Field Techniques: Getting Evidence of Efficiency

Field Techniques: Getting Evidence of Resiliency

Field Techniques: Developing Your Clients’ Skills in Assessment

Staying Disciplined and Setting Your Own Standards

Field Techniques: Identifying Barriers to Becoming a Performance Consultant


Where to Learn More

Chapter 8: Interventions

A Brief History of Interventions

Field Tools: the Family of Interventions Job Aid

Field Tools: the if-then Tables for Intervention

Field Techniques: Using the Inter Ventions if-Then Tables

Field Tools: the Hierarchy-Interventions Matrix

Field Techniques: Eliminating Barriers to Becoming a Performance Consultant


Where to Learn More

Chapter 9: Measuring Results

Experiences From the Field: About Measuring

Field Techniques: Getting More Than Two Sources of Measures

Measurement: Three Phases

How to Select Criteria

Field Tools: The Common Measures, Criteria, and metrics Job Aid

Field Techniques: Getting Evidence

Field Tools: Evidence Worksheet

Field Techniques: Getting to the Obvious

Field Techniques: Measuring Your Results


Where to Learn More

Chapter 10: Measuring People Performance

Experiences from the Field: Hidden Criteria

Field Techniques: Selecting Usable Criteria

Experiences From the Field: Evaluating the Job

Field Techniques: Evaluating a Job

Field Techniques: Measuring Variability in the Job, Focusing on Inputs

Field Techniques: Measuring Efficiency, Focusing on Job Processes

Field Techniques: Measuring Productivity, Focusing on Job Outputs

Field Techniques: Determining Rewards and Bonuses, Focusing on Outcomes

How Performance Gets Translated into Merit Reviews

Field Techniques: Fairly Applying Criteria for Merit Reviews

Field Techniques: Measuring your Own Performance


Where to Learn More


About the Author

How to Use the CD-ROM

Download CD/DVD content


About This Book

What can you achieve with this book?

This book is a guide for internal and external learning professionals who want to add performance consulting to their scope of services. It has tools, stories, and guidelines for becoming a consultant, operating more like a consultant in deference to a training specialist, and positioning yourself as a consultant with clients.

Why is the topic important?

This book was written because trainers are recognizing the need to apply the principles of performance improvement in their work. Training can help people be more effective in the workplace; however, alone it rarely produces the desired long-term results. Learning professionals are realizing that they need to improve their skills at working with clients to identify actual barriers to performance and participating in the design of a more expanded suite of solutions. At the same time, clients and consumers are recognizing that training by itself rarely leads to sustained performance. They want professionals to collaborate with them in uncovering and removing barriers to workplace performance.

How is this book organized?

This book is in two parts. Part One is about how to become a performance improvement consultant. Part Two describes the methods and tools for analyzing performance needs, determining work requirements, identifying solutions beyond training, and measuring people performance. There are five chapters in each part, and each chapter contains stories, guidelines, tools, techniques, and checklists you can use to engage clients in the process of becoming a performance consultant, uncovering needs, collaborating with other experts, and recommending solutions beyond training.

About Pfeiffer

Pfeiffer serves the professional development and hands-on resource needs of training and human resource practitioners and gives them products to do their jobs better. We deliver proven ideas and solutions from experts in HR development and HR management, and we offer effective and customizable tools to improve workplace performance. From novice to seasoned professional, Pfeiffer is the source you can trust to make yourself and your organization more successful.

image Essential Knowledge

Pfeiffer produces insightful, practical, and comprehensive materials on topics that matter the most to training and HR professionals. Our Essential Knowledge resources translate the expertise of seasoned professionals into practical, how-to guidance on critical workplace issues and problems. These resources are supported by case studies, worksheets, and job aids and are frequently supplemented with CD-ROMs, websites, and other means of making the content easier to read, understand, and use.

image Essential Tools

Pfeiffer’s Essential Tools resources save time and expense by offering proven, ready-to-use materials–including exercises, activities, games, instruments, and assessments–for use during a training or team-learning event. These resources are frequently offered in looseleaf or CD-ROM format to facilitate copying and customization of the material.

Pfeiffer also recognizes the remarkable power of new technologies in expanding the reach and effectiveness of training. While e-hype has often created whizbang solutions in search of a problem, we are dedicated to bringing convenience and enhancements to proven training solutions. All our e-tools comply with rigorous functionality standards. The most appropriate technology wrapped around essential content yields the perfect solution for today’s on-the-go trainers and human resource professionals.



1.1 The Expert-Facilitator Continuum

1.2 The Critic-Doer-Spectator Continuum

1.3 Example of an Operational Definition of Performance Consulting

1.4 The ASTD’s HRD Roles That Relate to Performance Consulting

1.5 The ASTD’s HRD Competencies That Relate to Performance Consulting

1.6 ISPI’s HPT Standards

1.7 Operational Definition Worksheet

1.8 Operational Definition of Mike’s Expectations

1.9 The Consulting Process

1.10 Mike’s Consulting Process

1.11 The Finance Team’s Process

1.12 Vision and Mission for This Fieldbook

1.13 The Finance Team’s Vision and Mission Statements

1.14 My List of Consulting Competencies

2.1 My Consulting Process Standards

2.2 Mike’s Expectations for Consulting Proficiency

2.3 Product Portfolio Worksheet 1

2.4 Product Portfolio Worksheet 2

2.5 Deborah’s Portfolio of Current Products and Services

2.6 Deborah’s New Products and Services

3.1 Major Cost Classifications

3.2 Manufacturers’ Major Cost Components

3.3 Cost of Sales

3.4 Cost of Services

3.5 Cost of Running the Business

3.6 Examples of Costs

3.7 Components of Price

3.8 A Formula for Valuing Time

3.9 Process or Task Performance Worksheet

4.1 Evaluating Your Personal Power Base

4.2 Qualifying Survey for Clients’ Readiness and Maturity

4.3 If-Then Table: Developing a Strategy from the Survey Results

5.1 Logic Chain: From Need to Measured Results

5.2 A Logic Chain for Reducing Stress: Need, Solution, Measures of Success

5.3 Logic Chain Template

6.1 The Zone of Competence

6.2 Contextual Job Description

6.3 Job Description for International Product Managers

6.4 Elements of a Social System

6.5 Deborah’s Job Description

7.1 Scorecard Job Aid

7.2 Scorecard Worksheet

7.3 The Hierarchy

7.4 The Hierarchy Job Aid

7.5 The Hierarchy Worksheet

7.6 How to Control Bias

8.1 Interventions at the Individual, Work Group, Department, and Division Levels

8.2 The Families of Interventions

8.3 Interventions Job Aid: Information-Focused Interventions

8.4 Interventions Job Aid: Consequences-Focused Interventions

8.5 Interventions Job Aid: Design-Focused Interventions

8.6 Interventions Job Aid: Capacity- and Capability-Focused Interventions

8.7 Interventions Job Aid: Action-Focused Interventions

8.8 Interventions Job Aid: Congruency-Focused Interventions

8.9 The Hierarchy-Interventions Matrix

9.1 When Measurement Occurs and Why

9.2 Measures, Criteria, and Metrics Scorecard

9.3 Examples of Evidence

9.4 Evidence Worksheet

10.1 Reasons and Criteria for Evaluating Performance

10.2 Directions for the NGT

10.3 Guidelines for Creating People Performance Worksheets

10.4 Performance Criteria for the Sales Managers

10.5 Quantitative Measures Summary Worksheet

10.6 Qualitative Measures Summary Worksheet

10.7 Dimensions of a Job

10.8 Examples of Measures for Job Dimensions

10.9 Job Evaluation Job Aid

10.10 The Finance Group’s Measures

10.11 Merit Review Criteria

CD-ROM Contents

1. Performance Consulting
Figure 1.7 Operational Definition Worksheet
2. The Transition
Figure 2.3 Product Portfolio Worksheet 1
Figure 2.4 Product Portfolio Worksheet 2
3. Costs
Figure 3.8 A Formula for Valuing Time
Figure 3.9 Process or Task Performance Worksheet
4. Credibility and Influence
Figure 4.1 Evaluating Your Personal Power Base
Figure 4.2 Qualifying Survey for Clients’ Readiness and Maturity
Figure 4.3 If-Then Table: Developing a Strategy from the Survey Results
5. Sustaining Change
Figure 5.3 Logic Chain Template
6. Environment and Norms
Figure 6.2 Contextual Job Description
7. Needs Assessment and Cause Analysis
Figure 7.1 Scorecard Job Aid
Figure 7.2 Scorecard Worksheet
Figure 7.4 The Hierarchy Job Aid
Figure 7.5 The Hierarchy Worksheet
8. Interventions
Figure 8.3 Interventions Job Aid: Information-Focused Interventions
Figure 8.4 Interventions Job Aid: Consequences-Focused Interventions
Figure 8.5 Interventions Job Aid: Design-Focused Interventions
Figure 8.6 Interventions Job Aid: Capacity- and Capability-Focused Interventions
Figure 8.7 Interventions Job Aid: Action-Focused Interventions
Figure 8.8 Interventions Job Aid: Congruency-Focused Interventions
9. Measuring Results
Figure 9.4 Evidence Worksheet
10. Measuring People Performance
Figure 10.2 Directions for the NGT
Figure 10.3 Guidelines for Creating People Performance Worksheets
Figure 10.7 Dimensions of a Job
Figure 10.8 Examples of Measures for Job Dimensions
Figure 10.9 Job Evaluation Job Aid
Figure 10.11 Merit Review Criteria


This fieldbook tells my story about performance consulting—what it is, why it is important, and how it can contribute to improving performance. Before starting the book, I took the time to read what others had said on performance consulting. Most of the other books stress why performance consulting is important, but they do not provide the tools consultants need to make it work. Some describe models for analyzing performance problems, but they do not explain how to use those models. They are silent on how to establish credibility with clients and how to build a business case for change. I wanted this fieldbook to give you tools and techniques to get relevant information so that you and your clients can make more informed decisions. Every story in this fieldbook is true, and every tool and technique has been tried and proven effective.

In some ways, the fieldbook is autobiographical. The ideas and approach to consulting presented here have evolved over the twenty-five years I have worked with all types of organizations in both the private and public sectors. The fieldbook has also been shaped by my experiences before I even became a consultant, from charting stock market transactions for my dad as a teenager to my education in theater management and my later experiences as a social worker and college instructor.

During college, I began to integrate ideas about what it takes for a business to perform economically with what people require to perform efficiently and effectively. My master’s research was on theater management. As a social worker with a large caseload, I learned about the inhumanity, ignorance, and impotence of our social welfare system and how much power a few caring people can wield and how much hope they can bring. While on faculty at a large city college (where I witnessed seven strikes and many of most of my students were either deposed gang leaders or mature working adults), I learned how an education system that is designed to make sure inequality and ignorance stay with us in abundance cannot stop people who want to learn. When I was starting out in business, I joined the faculty of the Insurance School of Chicago, where I learned the concepts of loss control, exposure, hazards, and risk assessment. Later in my association with the American Arbitration Association and the Chicago Chapter of the Industrial Relations Research Association, I developed an appreciation for discovery, evidence, and how to honor disparate views.

What came out of these and other experiences was my consulting firm, Hale Associates, which I named after my father. The company logo is three overlapping circles that stand for integrity, ingenuity, and intelligence. Integrity is about honor, honesty, stewardship, and doing the right thing. Ingenuity has to do with getting things done despite limitations. Intelligence comes from having good data; it is not about being intellectually superior.

This fieldbook is inspired by that troika of principles. It discusses:

As consultants, we all bring a wealth of experience and learning to our assignments. What we need are processes, tools, and techniques that help us direct our experiences toward producing meaningful results. This is what I provide with this fieldbook. I hope you enjoy it and find the information it contains useful and enlightening.


This fieldbook is intended for trainers, organizational development consultants, and human resource development professionals, who know firsthand the implications of implementing limited solutions to complex organizational problems. It provides processes, tools, and techniques that these professionals can use, whether they operate as internal or external consultants, to expand their role in their clients’ organizations. It offers guidance on how to help clients better understand their organization and develop cost-effective programs to improve performance.


A lot of people helped me put the first edition together. Some of those people, along with others, contributed to this edition. I give special thanks to Dave Haskett for his willingness to do a quick turnaround on the material. His comments on cost and measures were invaluable. Seth Carey, Chris Appleton, and Chris Duszinski, of McDonald’s Corporation, were especially helpful, asking pointed questions and also serving as excellent models. Keith Hall, of Smith-Kline Beecham, got me to rethink the hierarchy and make it better. It was Dean Larson, of U.S. Steel, who got me to add the intervention on measures. Barbara Gough was kind enough to do a fast read and check my logic on the subjects of cost and the work environment. My brother Steve and friend Linda Gohlke brought a fresh perspective, as both are naive when is comes to performance consulting. Their comments on the hierarchy and interventions encouraged me to divide these topics into smaller segments, making them easier to understand. My friend Rob Foshay made valuable suggestions to the new chapter on sustaining change and the additions to the chapter on interventions, and Mike Reidy, of Union Tank Car, brought insights that only a first-time reader can do,

Many other people offered words of encouragement. Two people were especially helpful: my developmental editor, Joan Kalkut, of Empire Communications, and Carla Williams, a long-time colleague. Joan brought to her job the right combination of tenacity (getting me to keep my story lines straight) and suggestions on how to incorporate the tools and technique into the stories. It was her encouragement that gave me the courage to put forth some of my ideas. Carla Williams, who worked with me for nine years, has seen most of the tools and techniques in action. She knows the stories; more important, she has a logical way of looking at the world. She built the case for putting the chapter on cost in Part One. Her point was that everything comes down to money, so performance consultants must understand the economics of consulting and their client’s business. Special credit goes to Matt Holt, Kathleen Dolan-Davies, and Matt Davis of Pfeiffer, who helped me navigate the world of publishing and provided resources that made this book possible.

My thanks go to my mother, who endured my many hours at the computer. It was from her and my dad that I learned about personal integrity and doing what you believe in, and all of my friends and colleagues who have used this fieldbook in their work and continue to offer words of encouragement and gratitude.

August 2006

Judith Hale


This fieldbook consists of two parts. Part One explores the process of becoming a performance consultant. Part Two focuses on processes that performance consultants can use to identify barriers to performance, diagnose performance problems, recommend appropriate intervention, and measure results. Each chapter describes processes, tools, and techniques you can use to position yourself as a consultant and provides examples of how to use them. These processes, tools, and techniques are appropriate for both internal and external consultants. The tools are provided on the accompanying CD-ROM so that you can modify them for your own work. At the end of each chapter are suggestions of resources for learning more.


Part One is about becoming a performance consultant. Chapter One defines performance consulting and describes what distinguishes it from other types of consulting. It discusses four criteria that set performance consultants apart from other consultants and a consulting process that communicates what you do and how you work with clients. The process is designed to help you meet the four criteria of performance consulting. The chapter covers tools and techniques to help you create operational definitions (specifically, of performance consulting) and define and describe your own consulting process.

Chapter Two explains how to move into performance consulting. It contains a detailed transition plan including how to:

Chapter Three explains how costs are classified and valued. It describes what drives costs and how to manage them. The tools and techniques in this chapter will help you determine your own costs and what drives them. There is a tool you can use to value your own time. You can apply these concepts in your work with clients as well to help them evaluate the cost-effectiveness of their programs and determine the cost of poor performance.

Chapter Four focuses on how to positively shape people’s perceptions of you and the value of your services. The tools and techniques in this chapter are designed to help you:

Chapter Five examines how to sustain change or ensure that programs get fully deployed. The tools and techniques in this chapter are designed to help you initiate conversations with clients about how to track the adoption of new behaviors, dramatize the logic behind funding decisions to identify better metrics, get commitment for ongoing support for programs after sponsors leave, and report results after the launch to confirm the effectiveness of the program.


Part Two is about doing consulting work. Each chapter describes tools and techniques and includes stories illustrating their use.

Chapter Six looks at how the work environment and group norms affect performance. The tools and techniques it offers are designed to:

Chapter Seven explains how to diagnose performance problems and identify barriers to performance and offers the tools needed:

Chapter Eight is about selecting and recommending interventions to improve performance or eliminate barriers to performance. The tools presented here include:

Chapter Nine is about measures and criteria. It defines measures, criteria, and metrics; discusses how to select the appropriate measures; and describes how to evaluate an intervention. It includes the following tools:

Chapter Ten is about measuring people’s performance and evaluating jobs. It provides these tools:


The tools presented in this fieldbook are important for a number of reasons. They are designed to:


One of the problems facing any new field is the lack of a common language, so here are some working definitions of the terms used in this fieldbook. You will find that they are in harmony with the terms other performance consulting experts use:

Part One

Making the Transition

Chapter 1

Performance Consulting

In their desire to improve organizational performance, managers sometimes seek the help of consultants. They may not fully understand the capabilities and biases consultants bring to the assignment, however. The following story illustrates this point.

A large conglomerate hired Mark to head its unit that manufactures and distributes extrusion metals (used to make window frames, louver blades, I-beams for construction, and storm doors). The main plant was in the Midwest, there was a second plant on the East Coast, and a new plant was scheduled to open in Singapore within six months.
The Midwest plant had lost market share over the previous two years. Its on-time delivery record was poor, and turnover among its sales staff was high. The East Coast plant was just meeting its financial goals, and senior management told Mark they were concerned: customer complaints about product quality and missed deliveries were up.
Mark decided to seek the help of a marketing consultant. The consultant recommended a new product image, a new logo, and a new marketing campaign. Mark agreed that a new marketing plan made sense, but he was uncomfortable with the plan because it could take the better part of a year to see results. To see if he could get faster results, Mark sought the advice of a sales consultant. This consultant recommended a sales contest, a new bonus structure, and incentives for achieving sales goals. At about the same time, a senior vice president at corporate headquarters suggested that Mark talk to a management consultant. The consultant suggested reorganizing the business unit around key customer groups, such as construction, institutional buyers, and resellers. Because Mark had been impressed by the successes of the quality assurance department at the company he used to work for, he decided to meet with a quality consultant as well. This consultant offered three significant suggestions: set up cross-functional teams; make each team responsible for a whole process, from receiving orders to delivering finished products; and implement statistical process control techniques for each process.
Mark’s U.S. sales manager suggested they hire an organizational development consultant to work with the management team. The goals would be to come up with a new vision and mission for the unit and to improve communication within the team. The Midwest plant manager suggested they hire a training consultant to develop training for sales and production personnel.
Mark received a memo stating that the corporation’s architectural firm had been hired to do strategic planning for the entire corporation. One of the anticipated outcomes of the strategic plan was a new model for the plants, since the architectural firm was known for agile designs based on manufacturing principles. A human resource consultant recommended studying causes of turnover, implementing a targeted selection program, and doing an employee morale survey.
On his flight to the Singapore plant, Mark read about the successes of reengineering. He was particularly impressed by the use of sophisticated information systems designed to shorten cycle times. On his return flight, he read another article, this one about performance improvement consulting. It was then that Mark realized that all of the approaches he had been considering had merit. All of the consultants he had hired had started with a solution; however, none of them had begun with an analysis of what was actually causing the poor performance. Instead, they had all assumed that they had the answer.

Mark’s experience is not unique. Eager for solutions to their problems, organizations act on the recommendations of experts without first finding out what the problem is. Managers are slowly recognizing the need to take a more fact-based, grounded approach to improving performance however. Changes must leverage real strengths and deal with real weaknesses. This recognition on the part of management presents an opportunity for professionals in training, human resource development (HRD), and other related disciplines to demonstrate how their processes for diagnosing performance problems, selecting appropriate interventions, and measuring results can make a difference. At the same time, professionals in training, HRD, quality assurance, and organizational development (OD) want to shift their role to performance consulting, where they hope to join with management in applying processes designed to find the real barriers to performance. This new role is supported by the National Society for Performance and Instruction when it changed its name to the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) to reflect the new emphasis on improving performance rather than promoting training. In 2001, ISPI published its Human Performance Technology (HPT) standards that define the role and allow practitioners to assess their ability to meet the standards. It now offers a certification, the certified performance technologist (CPT) designation, to practitioners who can demonstrate that they have met the standards in their work. ISPI’s conferences, institutes, publications, and certification are aimed at developing a shared understanding of and appreciation for the skills and knowledge required to improve organizational and people performance.


It has been my experience that organizations are fairly erratic about finding ways to improve organizational and people performance. In their search for the optimal size and structure, they buy, merge, and sell whole business units. They centralize functions, only to decentralize them later. They buy new technologies, products, and facilities. They distribute assets across unrelated products, only to consolidate around their name brands later. Organizations reengineer their processes, invest in training, and purchase ready-made programs to develop leadership and managerial skills. To reduce costs, they reduce the number of jobs by downsizing, outsourcing, and moving jobs to other countries. Many of these actions are done in parallel. Some are in conflict, however, and all are solutions in search of a problem.

To get a better understanding of the kinds of programs organizations take on to improve performance, think about the last two to three years in your work life:


When I’m asked to explain performance consulting, I point out that performance consultants:

Moving Between Expert and Facilitator

I think of consulting as a continuum (see Figure 1.1). At one end is the expert whose job is to give advice. At the opposite end is the facilitator, whose job is to manage the group dynamics.

Figure 1.1. The Expert-Facilitator Continuum


Experts who are brought in as consultants usually possess education or credentials in a specific professional discipline. As experts, they make definitive statements and express opinions. At this end of the continuum, consulting consists of rendering an opinion and giving advice. The client’s attention is focused on the person expressing the opinion: the expert.

Training and HRD professionals think of consulting in terms of the opposite end of the continuum, however. To them, consulting is facilitating. Facilitators rarely give advice, offer opinions, or take a position on a subject; they are perceived as neutral. Their role is to facilitate other people’s discovery and commitment to change. So at this end of the continuum, consulting is the process of guiding people’s discovery and bringing them to consensus. The client’s attention is focused on what is happening within the group.

Effective performance consultants blend the attributes of an expert with those of a facilitator. They give advice about how to get and interpret the facts and improve organizational and people performance. At the same time, they facilitate the client’s commitment to getting facts, measuring results, and supporting performance. The tools and techniques in this fieldbook are designed to help you move back and forth between expert and facilitator. The tools legitimize your opinions but also encourage your clients to come to their own conclusion and retain ownership of the results. The tools and techniques will focus your clients’ attention on the processes of discovery, diagnosis, and measurement, not on you.

Playing Multiple Roles

Another continuum can be used to distinguish performance consultants from other types of consultants. This continuum goes from critic to doer to spectator (see Figure 1.2). There are people who criticize, people who do, and people who stand around and watch.

Figure 1.2. The Critic-Doer-Spectator Continuum


Experts are frequently thought of as critics: they tell you what is right and wrong. Facilitators are similar to spectators: they may stand at the front of the room, but they are on the sidelines of the debate. Doers take responsibility for making things happen: they produce. Performance consultants play all three roles, depending on the client’s needs and what the client wants to accomplish.

Staying Free of Bias

Another thing that distinguishes performance consultants from other consultants is their lack of bias in terms of finding a solution. Other consultants presume that the solution rests in their specialty (which is what Mark came to realize). For example, management consultants assume problems can be solved through better leadership and by changing the organizational structure. Quality consultants assume performance can be improved through cross-functional teams and improved processes. Trainers start with the premise that the solution is training. Performance consultants, however, are not biased toward a specific solution. Instead, our approach is to follow a systematic process to determine what contributes to performance and what impedes it. For example, we don’t assume; we find out if:

Facilitating Conversations

To be experts in analysis and measurement, performance consultants must know how to get information beyond just asking questions, observing work in process, and checking documents. They have to know when and how to initiate conversations with management and workers because these conversations build clients’ understanding of what is required for people to be effective at their jobs. Conversations also help performance consultants better understand the work environment, including its demands and constraints.

Focusing on Outcomes and Measured Results

As performance consultants, we pay attention to the outcomes or consequences of what is done to improve performance. This means that we measure the outcomes or results of an intervention and assess whether performance has improved as a result of it.

I like to think we challenge our own and other people’s thinking. We find out what is really happening so we can bring clarity to situations. We fit pieces together and make sense out of what is going on. This is why it takes special skills to be an effective performance consultant.


“Be a leader!” “Be world class!” “Be customer focused!” These are some of the slogans companies use to communicate what they want their employees to do. But if you were to stop people and ask what each of these slogans means, you would probably get many different answers. The same would be true if you were to ask them what performance consulting is all about. If you want to be a performance consultant, you have to be clear about what it means to you. Once you are clear in your own mind about what a performance consultant is, you can develop a transition plan for yourself, because you will know where you are going.

An operational definition is a technique for understanding any new concept (such as performance consulting). Creating an operational definition for performance consulting will help you, your colleagues, and your clients come to a shared understanding of what performance consulting is; help you clarify what it takes to be a performance consultant; and produce language you can use in your marketing materials.

An operational definition answers three questions: what, why, and how. When I use an operational definition to clarify a role, I frequently combine it with examples of the typical tasks involved, the required knowledge and skills (sometimes combined as competencies), and possible measures of the work performed by people in that job.

In Figure 1.3, an example of an operational definition with a list of typical tasks, performance consulting is defined as a practice. You might think of it as a discipline, a role, a process, or something else, however. In this example, the reason for the practice of performance consulting (the why) is identified as “to optimize performance.” You might come up with a different reason, such as to ensure that everyone has what they need to excel, eliminate barriers to performance, equip management to support performance better, or make sure an investment in training pays off by identifying what has to be in place for people to apply what they learn. The example defines the execution (the how) of performance consulting as “the application of proven processes.” You might see it in terms of changing your relationship with clients, increasing your scope of services, or shifting from delivery to brokering services. My point is that the label performance consulting