Archive for the ‘Topic – Performance Improvement’ Category

Creating a Strategy (2) – the Engine Room

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Having firmly laid the Foundation Stones for the Training for Performance Improvement (TPI) Strategy within sections 1 – 3, sections 4 and 5 deal with Standards of Performance and Responsibilities in delivering the Strategy. This is the engine room of the Strategy.

Section 4 – Standards of Performance (Success Criteria)

This section deals with what you are going to deliver, and how your unit’s performance will be assessed. You need to make the Standards both specific and measureable, yet also relevant for the 5-year lifespan of the Strategy.

This is where you really show whether you are a “Training” or a “Performance Improvement” unit or department. Are your standards of performance going to be “Output” focussed or “Outcome” focussed? Your ‘Scotch Corner’ moment, as I have previously described it.

Here are some examples of Standards of Performance that you could consider using:

  1. Number of days training and development invested in staff per month (i.e. a 5 day course for 12 people equates to 60 days investment)
  2. The % of managers undertaking at least one Leadership or Management Development Course each year
  3. Rating of internal interventions by delegates – % of delegates indicating that the learning event will be of direct benefit to them in their current role
  4. Rating of all interventions, 2 – 4 months after a learning event – % of staff indicating that they have improved their performance as a result of the intervention
  5. The % of managers stating that (your unit) has delivered an improved level of performance, as measured against the previous year

For some of these standards (such as 1 & 2) it may be that your target is the same throughout the 5 years, assuming you are not anticipating any significant changes in your organisation’s staffing levels. For others (such as 3 & 4) it may be that you want to increase the performance percentage for each year of the strategy’s lifecycle.

What would these Performance Standards indicate about the particular unit? If I saw statements 1 and 2 above as the style of Standards of Performance being used in a 5 year Strategy, my initial impression would be that this unit is very “Output” focussed and has little focus on improving performance. The unit is being measured in a relatively simplistic manner. It appears to be a “Training” function.

If, however, I saw statements such as 3, 4 and 5, I would get a very different first impression. These Standards are very “Outcome” focussed, seeking to demonstrate the value of the function to the rest of the organisation. The Standards are more difficult to measure and are more testing to achieve – in order to achieve them, they require more detailed communication and more effective relationships with other parts of the organisation. They indicate that this is a “Performance Improvement” function and that across the organisation there is a more mature culture.

Remember that what is measured generally happens. The measurements you select will become important. If you measure relatively unimportant activity, it will become important – and that will be detrimental to both you and your organisation.

Section 5 – Responsibilities

It is helpful if everyone is aware of their responsibilities in relation to the Strategy. The responsibilities need to be discussed, negotiated and agreed from the outset. Getting clarity and sign off at this stage will save you time in the future.

These are the roles I suggest that you have responsibilities listed for:

  • Staff
  • Line managers
  • Senior Operations managers
  • Members of (your unit)
  • Head of (your unit)
  • Head of (overall part of the organisation within which your unit sits)
  • Senior Leadership members
  • Chief Executive / Head of the Organisation
  • Board members (where appropriate)

Here are a couple of examples of what you might list under two of the above groups.

All members of Staff are expected to:

  • Take responsibility for their own learning and development
  • Learn from their workplace experiences
  • Identify, through the PDR process, and address, with the assistance of line managers and (your unit), their particular learning and
    development needs
  • Make use of self-help facilities
  • Keep up to date with the organisation’s policy, practices and procedures

Senior Leadership members are expected to:

  • Set and review the strategic direction of the organisation
  • Set an example by being effective in managing staff
  • Value and action their own training and development needs, and those who they line manage
  • Monitor and quantify the improved performance delivered as a result of staff undertaking learning and development activities

If you would like examples of the responsibilities that you might list under the other suggested roles, just let me know - I will be happy to send you some.

The third and final part of the TPI Strategy template will be the focus for my next post.


Creating a Strategy (1) – the Foundation Stones

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

I am often asked for a template for developing a Training Strategy or Performance Improvement Strategy – which, based on the arguments in my last post, will be referred to as a Training for Performance Improvement (TPI) Strategy for the remainder of this post – perhaps I might be able to influence change!

Such a template can be very useful as a guide, but it should only be used as a guide. If taken too rigidly it will hinder your creative thinking or the adding of aspects that might be of particular importance to you and your organisation. I offer you this template with those words of caution.

There are 3 distinct parts within this Strategy template:

  • Part 1 – The Foundation Stones
  • Part 2 – The Standards and Responsibilities
  • Part 3 – The Supporting Processes

Within this post, I will cover what I see as the Foundation Stones for a beneficial Strategy. These are required – as the name suggests – in order to ensure a sound platform for the remainder of the Strategy.

Section 1 – Statement of Values

This section should include a statement on behalf of the organisation setting out its commitment to performance improvement / staff development / training.

If your organisation has a Board of Governors or similar, the statement should be agreeable to both the Board and the Senior Management Team. This is important in terms of unity and clarity, and so that you can gain organisational acceptance for your TPI Strategy.

If you have your own Vision, this can also be included within this section.

Section 2 – Strategic Objectives

Consider these questions:

  • What  are the long term objectives of your organisation?
  • What  are the core skills required within your sector?
  • What  are the likely influences on your organisation over the coming years  -you might want to undertake a PEST / PESTLE  analysis (consider adding as an appendix the key documents you have considered)?
  • What  are the national learning and development issues that are likely to impact on your organisation?

As a result of this Strategic Assessment, you may well come up with several specific objectives, or you may decide to use just one, such as, “To develop the skills and improve the performance of our managers and their team members”.

Do which works best for you, but remember, whatever objective(s) you do come up with need to long term (5 years) and also link into the organisation’s long term objectives – and the links need to be obvious.

Section 3 – Guiding Principles to Underpin the Strategy

This section can be particularly useful in less mature organisations where you are still seeking to embed effective development processes.

The sorts of principles that you might see benefit from incorporating could include:

  • The PDR / Appraisal process will be the effective link between personal development and organisational effectiveness
  • Learning and Development is a critical support function working to enable the organisation to deliver improved organisational performance (particularly useful to include if your unit’s title is ‘Training’ or ‘Learning and Development’)
  • The focus of activities will be on improving the performance of staff and the services we provide (the comments against the previous bullet point also apply here)
  • Staff will be encouraged and supported to undertake appropriate self-development activities
  • The content of programmes will be stimulating and challenging
  • Leadership skills and valuing diversity will be key threads throughout learning activities
  • Where possible, learning and development activities will be linked to nationally recognised qualifications
  • Monitoring of transference of skills to the workplace will take place in order to ascertain the value of learning and development activities

So those are the Foundation Stones – in the next post I will explain Part 2 – the Standards and Responsibilities for the TPI Strategy.


Time to take the road least travelled?

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

In my previous two posts, I have discussed the importance of a Vision. The Vision helps a company or team gain a shared view and understanding of what they want to achieve and how they want to be viewed.

If you are looking to create a Learning and Development (or Training) Strategy, you may have created your own Departmental Vision if your unit is large enough, or it may be that you have a company Vision which you use. This is a helpful starting point for your Strategy.

Here in England, just north of where I live and about 100 miles from Scotland, there is a road junction called “Scotch Corner”. Most people hardly notice it now, but in years gone by it was a hugely significant junction. Before getting to this point, the traveller needed to have planned their journey and decided whether they would be going up the east coast or west coast of Scotland. The decision had to be made a long time before reaching Scotland. Once they had decided which way to turn at Scotch Corner, it was expensive, time consuming and complicated to change course. The same is true of a strategy.

So before you go any further, why are you creating a strategy? The dictionary definition of a strategy is, “a long-term plan for success; a plan to achieve an advantage”. Nowhere does it suggest its definition is, “a paper exercise; the ticking of a box”. Sadly though, too many strategies are created for this second purpose – and such an approach can also become a millstone, or worse – a stick with which others can metaphorically beat you.

For a strategy to give you this long term plan and a competitive or organisational advantage, you need to put time, thought and energy into its formulation. It should enable you to clearly express where your function is heading and most importantly how it will support organisational performance, improvement and success. Once you have achieved this, you should be able to gain support and acceptance for your approach from your organisation’s senior management. This ‘sign off’ gives you further clarity, and can be very useful if you need to ‘challenge’ other parts of the organisation if for any reason they do not support your activities or seek to alter your direction.

So far I have referred to the document as a ‘Learning and Development’ or ‘Training’ Strategy, however, I would suggest that you really think hard about what you call it. Its title will set the tone for what you do and how you are seen. I have previously set down my thoughts on what can happen when a person is called a Trainer (“Sell your crunch, not your apples“), and how this can be unhelpful. As an aside, since writing that post, I have been on a course where the attendees were people who coach, train and develop others. The job title of one delegate was “Performance Improvement Consultant” Music to my ears! Having said that, the person worked at a group of hospitals in Orlando, Florida and so my concerns as to whether the title would be understood in the UK still exist.

Put yourself in the shoes of your senior operations manager – or similar – for a moment. Do they want a function that provides ‘Training’, ‘Learning’, ‘Development’, ‘Performance Improvement’, or something else? I see this as a continuum to which you could potentially add other words or phrases.

I’m pretty sure that the majority of senior operations managers would put themselves towards the right hand end of this continuum – they want performance improvement. That’s how they are measured, that’s how they demonstrate success, that’s what keeps the business competitive or the organisation successful.

Why then do so many people have ‘Training’ Strategies? Possibly because that’s the way they have always been done, or possible because of where the function sits within the organisation. Often this function is part of HR. Within the HR profession, ‘Training’ is still an all too popular generic title. If this function was moved to be part of the Performance Management arm of the business, would its primary purpose still be seen as Training? I think not.

Consequently, this Strategy is far more than a piece of paper. It will say what you are about, and how you are positioned within the organisation. It should make you think long and hard about what impact you intend to make. So before you even start to write it, think about these crucial questions.

Will you be having a ‘Training Strategy’ or a ‘Performance Improvement Strategy’? This is your ‘Scotch Corner’ moment.


Building the Perfect Vision

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

In my previous post, I outlined the components of a good quality Vision, together with examples of good and not so good offerings. In this post I will explain how to create a meaningful Vision.

For a Vision to be effective, not only does it need to meet the suggested criteria listed in the previous post, it also needs to be owned by the company or departmental staff, and both understood and valued by the customer base. The following process will enable you to achieve all this.

  1. Brainstorm or board-blast words and short phrases that describe what your organisation or department is to be about. This activity can be undertaken both internally and with customers, although the sessions should be run separately.
  2. Having undertaken this with one or more groups, look at all the words and phrases you have generated. You will see some themes and overlaps. Some words will have similar meanings. Group the words and phrases together where possible – using one colour for customer comments and another colour for staff comments.  This will give you an indication of which themes are numerically most important to the people you have consulted with, together with a check of the weighting from each of the two groups.
  3. Now prioritise your themes. Which are shared by both staff and customers? As the leader of the company or Department, which ones meet with your long term view? Which are most important to the success of your venture?
  4. Within each theme, is there a word that encapsulates, as far as possible, what the theme is about? If so, make a note of it. If not, is there a two-word phrase that sums it up? This step of the process is all about simplifying the theme and looking to take it forward as succinctly yet as accurately as possible.  You will never fit all the comments people have made into a sentence of a few words – so you will have to be prepared to accept inclusion by implication – and this is what you should be seeking to achieve with this step.
  5. Put your prioritised words together in a phrase. As I have mentioned previously, the phrase needs to be memorable, and as many people as possible need to be able to understand how their contribution has helped form and been included within the sentence.

If you get to this point, well done! It isn’t easy to get to this position, and it is time consuming – but it is well worthwhile.

The last time that I undertook this process was when I was leading a large Learning and Development function within an organisation. The Vision that I settled on was “Partners in Developing Performance”. This reflected the requirement to work with other parts of the organisation in an Adult and objective manner, together with the recognition that we existed to develop people, and that our Department needed to make a positive impact on organisational performance.

I found it very helpful in articulating what we were all about, and ensuring that all our activities fitted with this Vision or value. The most pleasing impact was when one of the trainers – on his own initiative – had delegate desk name plates (i.e. a folded card where the delegate wrote their name as a part of their introduction) printed with the Vision on. Proof that it was owned and valued by staff!

Furthermore, due to its positive impact, the HR Department adopted an amended version of it – “Partners in Managing our People”– for their own use.

So if it can be so effective, why don’t more organisations and departments do it? There are many potential reasons – here are some of them:

  • Looking for instant results – if that’s what you want, you probably will not invest the time in a Vision
  • Bureaucratic – it can be viewed as such where people don’t understand its value
  • Fear or embarrassment – it can be seen as a bit different if people haven’t been involved in such a process before
  • Inadequacy – some people tell themselves that they couldn’t lead such a process. Remember, there are facilitators who would be able to assist you with the process
  • Fatigue – there will be many other things on your plate, and it can be an easy one to push off the side.

But try it – clear these potential blockages and set out your Vision.  Be clear on where you and your team are going.

Once you have your Vision, you can develop your Mission – which will be your over-arching objective or overall aim. This could be your objective for where you will be in 5 years’ time. You can then work backwards setting objectives as to what needs to be in place or happen to get you to that point. Your path will have clarity for your staff and stakeholders.

Which takes me back to where this all started – the writing of a Strategy. The Vision can make this easier, and in my next post I will outline a template for creating a meaningful Learning and Development Strategy.


I have a Vision – do you?

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Recently I have received a surge in emails requesting assistance on writing Learning and Development Strategies. It seems like everyone is at it. It encourages me that so many people are keen to define their strategic goals, however, it does also concern me that often people may be doing it to tick a box – and the document is created, and then forgotten about.  For a strategy to work, it needs to become a living document, to move from the 2-dimensional to the 3-dimensional.

I believe that there is a key step that should take place before writing the strategy – a step that can make the difference between the resulting product being a living document and a paper exercise. But very few people or organisations undertake it.

It’s the creation of a Vision. The creation of a Vision can conjure up ideas, enable ownership of a shared dream of the future, motivate people and focus everyone’s thinking.  It can be undertaken by whole organisations, or key departments within organisations.

What is your company or Department’s Vision? If it has one, can you remember it? Do you have ownership of it? Does it motivate you?

Think of some of the Visions that other organisations have.  Two of the best ones that I am aware of are John Lewis’ “Never Knowingly Undersold” and Ikea’s “Affordable solutions for better living”. So what makes these so good?

Well, a Vision needs to be:

  • Achievable
  • Communicable
  • Memorable
  • Sustainable
  • Probably not longer than 7 words
  • Use terms that everyone can recognise, relate to
    and remember
  • Describe what you see
  • Inspirational

And it should avoid being:

  • An intention
  • Like an objective
  • Bureaucratic
  • Committee-speak
  • Measurable

Both my previous examples fit with these requirements, as does my personal favourite – FedEx’s “The world on time”.  Those four words give such clarity as to what FedEx wants to be, yet so simply and memorably.

But not all are this good. Nike’s, “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”, and Amazon’s, “To be earth’s most customer centric company”, are reasonable, but the use of the word ‘To’ at the start making them sound too much like objectives.

Moving down my leader board, we arrive at Virgin Atlantic’s, “The success of our three year strategy requires us to build on these foundations by focusing on the business and leisure markets and driving efficiency and effectiveness”. Memorable? Inspirational? I don’t think so.

And, in my opinion, the worst of all belongs to Heinz. Their 73-word offering is, “Our Vision, quite simply, is to be ‘The world’s premier food company, offering nutritious, superior tasting foods to people everywhere.’ Being the premier food company does not mean being the biggest but it does mean being the best in terms of consumer value, customer service, employee talent, and consistent and predictable growth. We are well on our way to realizing this Vision but there is more we must do to fully achieve it.”

If they had left it as the ‘quite simply’ part, then it would be good – but someone felt the need to, “Yes, but …” it, and the moment was lost. And with it went any inspirational, communicable or motivational qualities it may have had. But perhaps it’s more difficult when you need to include 57 varieties!

If your company or Department has a Vision, how good do you think it is? If it doesn’t have a Vision, would you benefit from having one? In my next post I will give suggestions as to how to create a FedEx quality Vision.


Perez Needed Positive Messages

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

I have huge respect for racing drivers. They demonstrate a level of focus that can be found in few other sports people. A Formula 1 driver drives each corner almost inch perfect, time after time, and their speed has to be absolutely on the button. One mistake and they are finished for that race. This is so different from almost every other sport – in team sports, there is time to rectify errors – the game doesn’t end as the first point is scored or goal is registered.  In individual sports, the tennis player can serve again or play another point, and the golfer has 18 holes (sometimes 72) if they mess one up.

And so I was watching the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend – which was made more eventful by rain. As it drew to its conclusion, the Mexican Sergio “Checo” Perez driving for Sauber – usually one of the less competitive teams – was in second position, and appeared to have the chance to win the race. He gradually reduced the distance between himself and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. Finally, he was within a second of it with half a dozen laps to go. The chance was there.

Then he received a message over his radio from his pit crew. “Checo be careful, we need this position, be careful”. They needed the position because points bring in cash in Formula 1, and perhaps because this was the nearest that Peter Sauber, the team principal, had been to victory in almost 20 years of Formula 1. But ‘be careful’? And twice in the same sentence?  Checo had contended with torrential rain whilst driving at 150mph and with visibility down to a few yards for the first part of the race. Now with a relatively clear track and dry conditions he is told to “be careful”!

Almost as soon as he had received the message, he ran wide off the track, lost several seconds and that was the end of his challenge for first place. He did manage to regain control, and so finished in second place, but what could have been?

And more importantly, was the loss of control the result of being told to “be careful”?

This focussing of people’s minds on the potential pitfalls rather than on their achievements is something I come across on an almost daily basis in workplaces. I saw a sign recently on some stairs which read, “Do not spill your drink – this causes a slip hazard”. I wondered which members of staff in particular attempted or wanted to spill their drinks on the stairs. And when a drink is spilt, it appears that you don’t need to clean it up! Perhaps a better sign could have been “If you spill liquids, clean up to avoid slips – thanks” – same amount of words, but perhaps a different focus for the message – and a different message?

I also hear it a lot where children are involved – and this is the most concerning issue for me. “Don’t spill your drink”, “Be careful with your plate”, “Don’t fall over”, “Make sure you don’t fall off the climbing frame”, and so they go on. The vast majority of children have no intention of doing any of these things – they are probably already concentrating on achieving (or perhaps not failing) before hearing these ‘words of wisdom’, so what help are they? Or what hindrance are they?

“Well done for carrying that full cup”, “You carried that plate beautifully”, and “You’ve done really well getting to the top of that climbing frame” could be so much more effective. The child will grow up looking at the world in a more positive way, and they will have more self-belief.

And as they move into the work environment, perhaps we would then see fewer notices like the one above – and Checo and Peter Sauber may have won their first Grand Prix.


The Ten Heads of Ineffective Listeners

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Last week I was delivering a session on Achieving Results through Effective Performance Management. At the conclusion of the day, I asked the delegates to tell me what had been most impactive for them and what they would be implementing in the workplace as soon as practicable. Two of them both talked about the relatively short section we had covered on blocks to effective listening.

Then today I saw a Tweet from an acquaintance which said, “Someone told me once that to deal with a complaint well, you have to open your ears ten times as much as your mouth – they were so right!”.

Consequently, I decide to blog about the Ten Heads of Ineffective Listeners. They are (in alphabetical order):

The Adviser – The Adviser is a problem solver, and is eager to provide suggestions and what they perceive to be help. In Transactional Analysis (TA) terms, this person operates strongly from the Parent ego state. Sometimes they only have to hear a few sentences and they know what the solution is for the person. Sadly, they don’t realise that a solution from their own experiences and viewpoints is unlikely to work for the other person.

The Comparer – As the name suggests, they love making comparisons. They compare what they hear to their own experiences, and compare themselves to the person.

The Derailer – This person suddenly highjacks the conversation – possibly due to boredom or because they are uncomfortable with a topic – often by either changing the subject or making a joke.

The Dreamer – This person hears something that triggers a memory or association in their mind and they drift off so that they are, at best, only partially listening to what the other person says.

The Filterer – Our Filterer listens to some things and not to others. They pay attention to what has caught their attention, what they find interesting or surprising, or the parts that support their views or opinions.

The Judger – This person judges or pre-judges either the person or their reactions from a values perspective, rather than listening to all the information and coming to a logical conclusion based on all the facts. In TA terms, they again operate primarily from the Parent ego state as opposed to the Adult ego state.

The Mind Reader – The Mind Reader doesn’t pay much attention to what a person says because they don’t need to (or so they think). They make assumptions, or guess at what is coming next or going on in the other person’s head. The Mind Reader excels at displaying little empathy.

The Placater – The Placater wants (or needs?) to be nice, pleasant and supportive. They want people to like them so the Placater agrees with almost everything the person says and does not make challenges at the appropriate moments. In TA terms, they are usually operating from their Adapted Child or Nurturing Parent ego states.

The Rehearser – What shall I say next? How shall I say it? Is this word better than that word? The Rehearser is constantly thinking about what to say next rather than listening. By the time they say their well-rehearsed sentence, the moment has probably passed. And they will have missed what has been said in the meantime. And it probably doesn’t come out well as they haven’t got it exactly as they wanted, because they were trying to get it out word for word. Their action plan is then to rehearse more next time, and the downward spiral continues.

The Sparrer – The Sparrer argues and debates with people about what they are saying, doing, believing, or explaining. The Sparrer has to talk. The other person doesn’t feel heard, can feel very frustrated and can be drawn into explaining and justifying.

There you go – I hope that helps. What it doesn’t answer is just why so many of us are so poor at listening to others.

I’m sure specific individuals have come to mind as you have been reading through the descriptions. But perhaps we should reflect as to whether any of them apply to us?


The responsibility of power, and the power of responsibility

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Last week here in the UK, a couple of our Members of Parliament (MPs) made comments they regretted – or perhaps they regretted? Whether they did or they didn’t regret them, it has been claimed in some quarters that they said ‘sorry’ for their interventions, but I’m not sure that they did.

Labour front bencher Diane Abbott was the first. She Tweeted a fairly sweeping generalisation about what “white people” allegedy sometimes do, and in doing so raised a few eyebrows. She eventually sought to minimise any damage caused – after either a period of reflection or having been ordered to – and issued a statement. Within it she said, “I understand people have interpreted my comments as making generalisations about white people. I do not believe in doing that. I apologise for any offence caused.”

The second example, which occurred around the same time as the first, was by a member of the Conservative Party – fortuitously, as it hopefully protects me from accusations of political affiliations! Our Prime Minister had made unfavourable comments about Ed Balls’ body language at Prime Minister’s Questions. He also felt the need to apologise. “I was speaking off the cuff, and if I offended anyone of course I am very sorry about that,” David Cameron said to Andrew Marr on the latter’s BBC1 Show. “That was not my intention at all.”, he added.

But these aren’t apologies. They are excuses for apologies.

Let’s say you go into a shop to complain about how you have been treated by a member of staff, because their actions and behaviour made you angry. You explain all this to the manager. The manager then apologises to you for your anger. How is that likely to impact on you? Has that really helped? And, perhaps most importantly, how seriously is the matter being taken.

Both Abbott and Cameron have only apologised to people experiencing negative feelings – and only for the feelings, not for their own actions. If you didn’t experience any feelings, they are not talking to you. They haven’t taken responsibility for their behaviour.

This theme of responsibility raised its ugly head again yesterday when I was watching a football match on the Television. A player was waiting for the ball to be returned to him so that he could take a throw in, and from the brief close up it was obvious that the player was receiving a considerable amount of abuse from that section of the crowd.  The commentator felt a need to comment. Perhaps because of the colour of the players skin, perhaps because the player had recently been involved in a high profile confrontation with an allegedly racist foundation, perhaps for some other reason. Commenting about the abuse of footballers, he said, “It is habitual …. It goes on, blue, red, black, white, it’s the nature of the beast”.

Sadly, I accept such abuse happens – I go to football matches. But it’s not habitual and if I am part of that collective ‘beast’, it’s certainly not in my nature.  I would have preferred it if the commentator had been a little less resigned and a shown a little more responsibility. Rather than accepting it as the norm and labelling everyone, would it not have been more helpful for him to point out the unacceptability of what was happening, and that it doesn’t have to be like that, to the millions who were viewing?

Having staff take responsibility for their actions is a key role of management. Where a manager genuinely apologises for the inappropriate or unhelpful actions of one of their staff, as opposed to the feelings of the customer, he or she is more likely to deal with the matter robustly. And where the manager ensures that the employee takes responsibility for their actions, the approach is more mature and more beneficial for organisational development – which can only contribute positively to the organisation’s successes.

I am currently working with one organisation where such an approach has had a powerful result. In past times, when one of their drivers had a collision, they gave them additional training. For the past few years the first thing they do – where the driver is at fault – is to require them to take responsibility for their actions that led to the collision. This discussion leads to a greater insight into what the person has done and their specific development needs. This approach has contributed to a more than 25% reduction in collisions for this organisation.

Perhaps if this approach led to a 25% swing in voters, MPs would be more adept at taking responsibility for their actions – genuinely or otherwise!


Myers Briggs explained

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

In my last post, I explained – and enthused – about how I had undertaken my Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI©) Step I and II Practitioner training in Florida.

As I concluded the post, I realised that the it would make sense to readers who knew a little about MBTI, but not a lot of sense to others. So I said I would elaborate.

People’s behaviour and actions may often seem random or varied to us as observers, but according to Carl Jung (1875-1961), the Swiss psychiatrist, people follow patterns. Jung (see photo) labelled these patterns as ‘psychological types’. Katherine Briggs found Jung’s work whilst she was also grappling with similar thoughts – and then she and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, brought the theory into the mainstream by creating the MBTI instrument. This tool helps a person work out and understand their psychological type. The first MBTI instrument was published in 1962. It is currently the world’s widest used personality assessment.

Jung’s, Briggs’ and Myers’ typological model views psychological type as being similar to writing with our left or right hand – we are either born with, or develop, certain preferred ways of thinking and acting. The MBTI sorts these psychological (and naturally occurring) differences into four dichotomies – opposite pairs – which results in 16 possible psychological types. None of the types are better or worse, however, the theory suggests that individuals naturally prefer one overall combination of  type differences. The dichotomies are:

  • Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
  • Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

A person’s ‘type’ is summarised by four letters – so a person preferring Introversion, Sensing, Thinking and Judging would have an ISTJ type.

The Step I questionnaire comprises 93 questions, the answers to which help enable a person identify the above type. I say ‘help’ because whilst the MBTI has been shown to be very reliable, it is accepted that it will not be correct every time. Consequently, a person having their results interpreted should be taken through a process which enables them to self-assess their type prior to receiving their full report. If there are any differences these can be discussed and the MBTI Practitioner will give the person further coaching to assist them to decide on their type.

The Step II questionnaire comprises 144 questions – the 93 from the Step I together with an additional 51 questions. The Step II recognises that it is not possible to ‘box’ every person in the world into 16 types – one ISTJ may well be different in type to another ISTJ.

Within the Step II each of the dichotomies is broken down into 5 ‘facets’. You could also call these ‘sub dichotomies’ . As an example, The Extraversion and Introversion dichotomy has the following facets:

  • Initiating or Receiving
  • Expressive or Contained
  • Gregarious or Intimate
  • Active or Reflective
  • Enthusiastic or Quiet

The left hand end of the above facets are generally where people with an Extraverted preference will find themselves, whilst the right hand words are associated with Introversion. Having said that, a person with an Introverted preference may find themselves as having a facet preference for ‘Initiating’ which can then help the individual understand why they may not concur  ompletely with their four letter type.

Undertaking the MBTI should always be voluntary, and it should never be used as a recruitment tool. Furthermore, it does not measure intelligence or competence.

It does, however, allow a person to understand themselves more clearly, and then look at how to develop the less preferred aspects of their type. Once a person understands their type, they can then move on to how their type potentially impacts on how they manage conflict, make decisions or work within a team.

It can also be used with teams to help them understand each other and work more effectively together. The Step II is particularly useful when working with a person in a one to one coaching relationship. It is a powerful tool.

If you have any other specific questions about it I am, of course, happy to answer them.


MBTI – two very different options

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Not only did I successfully complete my MBTI Step I and Step II Certified Practitioner qualifications, I paddled in the sea and walked along Clearwater Beach, took out a canoe in a State Park and met (and rubbed the nose of) a wild manatee, and visited all 4 Disney theme parks in a day. You have probably already worked out I didn’t do it in England.

I took the qualification in Gainesville, Florida, in early November 2011. Having encouraged others to follow this route in the past, I thought it relevant to check it out for myself (I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I make for you, dear readers!).

The main reason I encourage others to take a trip across The Pond is the cost saving.  The base cost to undertake the qualification in Gainesville was £758. To undertake it in England it would have cost me over £4,500. I find the financial saving both staggering and irresistible. And that’s before comparing the weather and leisure opportunities!

Obviously, if your base is in the UK it will probably cost you more in travel costs to undertake the qualification in the US, but there will still be savings. The table below shows what it cost me. You can then work out what your own costs would be and so undertake a comparison should you wish to.

Item OPP, Oxford CAPT, Gainesville,
Step I £3,234 (4 or 5* days, split over two periods of time) *OPP
website was unclear on exact duration
£758 (3 Days) The £ rate fluctuates due to exchange rate. The actual
price is $1195 ($1295 if booked less than 4 weeks before start of course and
$1495 anywhere else in the USA)
Step II £1,452 (1 day) Cost Included in above (1 day)
Total cost of qualification £4,686 inc. VAT (5 or 6 days spread over 3 periods of
£758 (4 days in a row) Cost difference partly because OPP are sole provider in
Europe, and there are 3 providers in the US
Qualification process Not sure 5 ‘exams’ – a total of 70 questions. Need to get 80%
across all 5 (not in each).
If you are in the less than 5% who do not pass the exams,
you can complete the course by submitting an essay once you get home
Postage for manuals to be sent to UK Not sure whether this is included in OPP’s price £85 ($125) I went with another person, and they were happy to send
the Manuals together, which reduced the cost here to £55 each
Flights n/a £450 return
Rail fare to airport £30
Car hire (US) £104 (for 1 week)
Fuel (US) £37 (for 458 miles) Some of this was ‘pleasure mileage’
Accommodation (US) £30 per night
Food (US) £20 per day Breakfast free at hotel, CAPT provide great snacks and
drinks all through the training day

I went for a week as I was only able to get flights for less than £1,200 by staying for 7 nights. Consequently, I had an additional 3 days of very enjoyable rest and relaxation – as outlined in my opening paragraph.

Whilst the cost savings can be persuasive, I accept that this is only one aspect that people consider when undertaking learning. Encouragingly, I found that all the other aspects were positive.

The Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT) is the provider and they appear to be closer to Myers and Briggs ‘origins’ than some of the other providers.  For example, in their ‘Library’ where breaks are spent, they have Isabel Myers’ writing desk which she used for much of her work.

Our trainer was the ex-CEO of CAPT who now delivers these courses all around the US. He was very, very knowledgeable with 37 years’ experience of using and developing the MBTI instrument, although he was more of an instructor than a trainer.

There were 11 people in our group – 8 from the US, 2 from the UK and one from Belgium.  I both enjoyed and benefitted from the international mix – and from the feedback we received, our US colleagues also found it beneficial – and found the language differences very amusing! The international mix really did add an extra dimension to the programme which would certainly encourage me to undertake further learning in America. As examples , there were participants from the private, public and third sectors, and one person on the course was the Head of HR Administration for President Reagan’s adminstration.

One of my concerns prior to undertaking the programme was whether I (or how easy it) would be to then register with OPP in the UK so that I could purchase materials and reports. It has been very easy – I sent them a PDF of my certificate and they added me to their database within 48 hours. They have been very helpful.

I realise that some readers may not know what the MBTI instrument is – my next post will address this.

Gaining the qualification was an achievement, and visiting all 4 Disney theme parks in a day was also an achievement – and combining the two together made it a truly memorable event!