There were cracks in my basement walls, and I was nervous.

As the new owner of a home built in the 1950s, I wanted to make sure those cracks were not a sign of a big problem. I had done a few rounds of “Googling” and kept finding videos and articles (most of which were conveniently created by companies who sell foundation support products and services) that only increased my anxiety.

I was tempted to call a company that specializes in home foundations. And if I had done so, I’m sure they would have come out and given me a quote for their product or service.

After some further research, I decided to call a structural engineer instead. It cost a few hundred bucks, but with a simple 90-minute visit, some measurements, and a subsequent analysis report, he was able to determine that the cracks in our walls were no big deal. They did not pose a structural risk and we could just leave them be.

In the end, that small upfront investment may have saved us a few thousand dollars on a home maintenance project we didn’t need. And if there had been an issue to address, we would have gotten an unbiased opinion on how to do so.

You may now be asking yourself: What does this have to do with training, learning, and performance consulting? My answer, of course, is everything.

Performance Consulting Matters

I field requests every week from organizations in need of support for their training initiatives. Just like me as a homeowner, there’s an issue they are trying to address or a problem they are trying to solve. They’ve done some Googling and want to see if we can solve XYZ problem for them.

In many cases, the individuals I talk to are convinced they know what they need. They’ve already defined the “right solution.” They simply want someone to build it at the lowest possible cost and at the greatest possible speed.

There are plenty of companies out there that will happily take on these types of projects. They are happy to build you whatever you want, no questions asked. And let’s face it: sometimes, that truly is all that is needed. I often find myself in those shoes when I need a piece of marketing collateral designed, for example.

But far more often, the problems organizations are trying to solve are complex and nuanced. The training intervention that seems like the appropriate approach on the surface might actually cause more problems than it solves. And the target learners who will take the training are rarely, if ever, consulted on what their day-to-day realities and pain points are. That’s where performance consulting comes in.

What is Performance Consulting?

Performance consultants are obsessed with two simple questions:

  1. What’s the gap between where the organization is and where it wants to be?
  2. How do we get there?

The focus, of course, is on human performance. Performance consultants skillfully identify the attitudes, skills, behaviors, and beliefs that prevent an organization from achieving a goal or objective. Performance consulting and instructional design are highly interrelated. But performance consultants take needs analysis and solutions identification to a higher level.

In short, performance consulting should be an essential and rarely-skipped step in the training design and development process. Unfortunately, few individuals within large organizations truly have a background in performance consulting. They may be highly intelligent and experienced, yet lack the deep expertise in identifying performance gaps and quantifying the behavior changes required to close them.

The Ideal Approach

Even with the tightest of timelines, we start every project with some form of upfront solution identification and design phase. When led by an experienced instructional designer or performance consultant, a single design meeting with stakeholders, subject matter experts, and target learners present can surface a wide range of useful information. We incorporate design thinking tools and techniques into our instructional design process to ensure that the decisions we make find the sweet spot between business needs, learner needs, and technology limitations.

When timelines allow and the problem to be solved is more complex, a full-fledged analysis phase is invaluable. It typically only takes a few weeks for a performance consultant to conduct their analysis and prepare a report. The cost of doing so is relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of developing an entire curriculum of solutions.

And if you compare the cost of performance consulting to the cost of A) not solving a painful problem or B) trying to solve it but doing it the wrong way, performance consulting really starts to show its value.

Have a complex business problem? Think training might be part of the solution? We’d love to chat.