Pub. Date:
Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Performance Consulting: A Strategic Process to Improve, Measure, and Sustain Organizational Results / Edition 3

Performance Consulting: A Strategic Process to Improve, Measure, and Sustain Organizational Results / Edition 3

Current price is , Original price is $39.95. You

Temporarily Out of Stock Online

Please check back later for updated availability.


In America, organizations spend $175 billion in training initiatives and more than $500 billion in human resource solutions every year yet often have little to show for it. One reason is that people “jump to solutions” before they identify the causes of the problem. Performance consultants are effective because they partner with clients to clarify business goals and determine root causes for gaps between desired and current results. Only then are specific solutions agreed upon and implemented.

This third edition of the classic book that introduced performance consulting adds a wealth of new material. There are new case examples throughout and four new chapters providing detailed steps for measuring results from performance consulting initiatives on five different levels, including ROI. The book includes a never-before-published Alignment and Measurement Model, allowing you to connect organizational needs and performance consulting initiatives designed to address those needs with the appropriate level of measurement.

This remains a profoundly practical book, featuring tools, models, and checklists. It will enable you to make a difference in your organization that is valued, measurable, and sustainable.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626562295
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Publication date: 06/01/2015
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Dana Gaines Robinson is the founder and former president of Partners in Change, Inc.. Along with James C. Robinson she is the author of multiple books, including Strategic Business Partner.
James C. Robinson is the former chairman of Partners in Change, Inc.. Along with Dana Gaines Robinson he are the authors of multiple books, including Strategic Business Partner.
Jack J. Phillips is chairman of the ROI Institute. Along with Patricia Pulliam Phillips he is the author of numerous books, including Show Me the Money.
Patricia Pulliam Phillips is president and CEO of the ROI Institute. Along with Jack J. Phillips she is the author of numerous books, including Show Me the Money.
Dick Handshaw is chairman of Handshaw, Inc., and the author of Training That Delivers Results.

Read an Excerpt

Performance Consulting

A Strategic Process to Improve, Measure, and Sustain Organizational Results

By Dana Gaines Robinson, James C. Robinson, Jack J. Phillips, Patricia Pulliam, Phillips Dick Handshaw

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Dana Gaines Robinson, James C. Robinson, Jack J. Phillips, Patricia Pulliam Phillips, and Dick Handshaw
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62656-229-5


Performance Consulting: The Process

If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing.

—W. Edwards Deming

What is performance consulting? We define it as a strategic process that produces business results by maximizing performance of people and organizations. The use of the word strategic is purposeful. Strategic work is critical to sustaining future business and organizational success. Performance consulting is a process used to partner with management on these types of initiatives. However, strategic work is not the only type of work we support. This chapter begins with a look at the types of work in which performance consultants engage and the people with whom they partner. It then describes the performance consulting process.


Performance consultants typically encounter three categories of work when working with a function that is focused on the "people side" of business.

Transactional Work

Transactional work is administrative in nature. Typically this work addresses the needs of a specific individual. When a manager seeks guidance in how to interpret a specific organizational policy or when an employee inquires about the status of her tuition reimbursement payment, transactional requests are received. Procurement managers need to process requests regarding suppliers, and call center representatives need to respond to questions from customers—each of which is a transactional request. This work must be done effectively and promptly. This category of work is important, but it is not strategic. Transactional work is increasingly being outsourced or transitioned to self-service through technology. The goal of many HR, learning, OD, and other functions today is to accomplish transactional work through alternative means, thus freeing up time to work on more strategic opportunities.

Tactical Work

Tactical work focuses on the design and implementation of solutions that support successful workgroup performance. Examples include utilizing an e-learning methodology for compliance training or the introduction of a more efficient work process. Tactics are intended to support a strategy. The problem is that many tactical solutions are implemented with minimal or no linkage to a strategic goal. In these instances, the solutions are essentially programs or events. How many times have we seen a manager take a single action, such as reorganizing the function, in hopes of achieving greater efficiency? Yet over time, greater efficiency is not achieved because other needed changes are not implemented. Or what about a training program rolled out to hundreds of people with limited connection to a business goal? Solutions implemented as stand-alone tactics have minimal probability of a long-term impact on business results. Certainly there are times when a single solution is appropriate—for example, to certify employees in handling specific types of projects. But more often than not, single solutions do not bring about sustained change in performance or long-term business results. Instead, they consume valuable resources in terms of money, people, and time.

Strategic Work

Strategic work benefits the long-term and overall aims and interests of the organization. It requires clear business goals that guide the performance requirements of people who support those goals. Strategic work is inclusive of tactical work—a strategy with no tactics is just a dream. As performance consultants, we want to ensure that the work we do to design and implement tactics directly supports one or more strategic goals of the organization.

How do you know you are working on a strategic initiative? The characteristics of strategic work are as follows:

* It focuses on business units, functions, or the entire enterprise. It is macro, not micro, in focus.

* It is long-term in scope, frequently taking actions that will benefit the organization over the long term (over one or more years) and not short term (the next quarter).

* It is directly linked to one or more business goals or needs of the organization.

* It is solution-neutral in its early stages. The role of a performance consultant is to work with clients to identify the problem or opportunity before beginning to work on tactics.

* It requires multiple actions to be implemented; single solutions do not yield strategic results.

As a performance consultant, it is important to focus on the strategic results needed and not just the tactical solutions to be implemented. You want to make sure you are not just doing something, but that you are doing the right thing. Chapters 6 through 8 will help you accomplish this, because doing the right thing generally requires some level of assessment.


When you work strategically, you are focused on delivering results to the business or organization. You, however, cannot achieve these results alone. Many factors are controlled by business leaders, factors that can be changed only by those leaders. Partnering with these individuals becomes critical to your success as a performance consultant.

It is important to clearly identify the appropriate individual(s) with whom you should partner when working on any type of performance consulting initiative. We use the term client to refer to the individual with whom you should partner. You may prefer another term, such as customer or partner. A common mistake made by performance consultants is determining too late in the process that they are not working with the "true" client. A client is someone who

* owns (has accountability for) achieving business results within the organization and in this way has something to gain (or lose) from the success (or failure) of the initiative;

* has authority and power to make things happen, including the garnering of resources required to support a specific initiative;

* is within the chain of command of the employees whose performance is to be changed in some manner; and

* frequently, although not always, acts as a sponsor of the initiative and is the primary funder of it.


Clients come in two "flavors": sustained and project.

Sustained clients meet the criteria just listed and, because of their position and influence within the organization, are people with whom a partnership is maintained independent of any current project or initiative. Your level of communication and contact with these clients is sustained and continuous. Generally, sustained clients are located in the mid- to upper levels in an organization. Job titles of sustained clients include president, chief executive officer, vice president, chief operating officer, general manager, country manager, and director.

Project clients meet the criteria noted for a specific project. Your communication with project clients will be robust during the life of the project and will decrease when the project has been completed. These are individuals whose position and power generally do not warrant the intensive communication on a sustained basis. However, their importance relative to a specific project does require a strong partnership during that initiative. Frequently, projects are supported by client teams where several individuals have ownership for some aspect of the initiative; they work together as a team to support the project. For example, if the business goal is to successfully introduce a new product to the marketplace, a client team may consist of the vice president of sales, vice president of marketing, and vice president of supply chain management. Client teams are almost always required for enterprise-wide projects.

All of this yields yet another characteristic of strategic work: performance consultants can work in a strategic manner only when they have direct access to the client for the initiative. As a performance consultant, you need to influence clients as they make decisions relative to performance and business goals. It is virtually impossible to influence someone with whom you do not have direct access. This is all the more reason to be thoughtful about with whom you will need a sustained client relationship. We will discuss techniques for gaining access and deepening sustained client partnerships in Chapter 3. Here are a couple important questions for you to consider:

1. With whom do I currently have a sustained partnership in my organization?

2. With whom should I have a sustained partnership?


Stakeholder is a term used frequently today with regard to projects and initiatives. We want to clarify the difference between a stakeholder and a client. Clients own and are accountable for the business results that the initiative is addressing. For example, clients are responsible for achieving sales goals, providing superior customer service, or reaching profit goals. Clients are also the ultimate decision makers. While stakeholders have a vested interest in the outcome and may have accountability to achieve some portion of the results, they do not have accountability for the entire set of results. An example would include first-line supervisors of employees whose performance is to be improved in some manner. As stakeholders, supervisors are accountable for those results within their span of control. They will also have a significant influence on the outcome of the entire initiative. They can stress the importance of using a new approach on the job and how that will help the department "make its numbers." Therefore, strategies to engage stakeholders should be considered when designing and implementing solutions.

Employees are not stakeholders; they are the group of individuals whose performance is to change. Employees will benefit from, or be hindered by, the actions of stakeholders. The key to keep in mind: the ultimate decision maker and your partner for the initiative is the client. However, a successful performance consulting engagement requires interaction with and participation from stakeholders.


As performance consultants, we become aware of a need to improve business results in a variety of ways—a discussion with a line manager client, a request from a middle manager, an alert from a staff specialist, to name a few. The need to improve business results is identified on the "front end." If the need is warranted, it begins a process that results in improved business and measurable performance results on the "back end." Let's look at the steps contained in the Performance Consulting Process as shown in Figure 1.1.

Identify Strategic Opportunities

The first phase of the Performance Consulting Process involves activities associated with identifying opportunities where we can partner with our clients. Sometimes these opportunities are identified in a reactive manner (step 1). This occurs when a client requests a specific solution. In these situations, the goal is to reframe the request so that the focus is on the results the client seeks, rather than the solution that the client has requested. Techniques for reframing are described in Chapter 4.

Opportunities to partner with a client can also be identified in a proactive manner (step 2). When using this approach, you initiate discussions with your client about future goals. You want to raise your client's awareness about factors that should be considered regarding specific goals. These may include how best to prepare a workgroup to implement a new strategy or how to determine supervisor readiness to support the new strategy. The key is to discuss performance issues that are not currently on your client's radar screen but are contributors to business results. Techniques for proactive discussions appear in Chapter 5.

Whether a need is identified reactively or proactively, it is important to explore the situation sufficiently to determine if it is best managed in a strategic manner (requiring some level of assessment) or in a tactical manner (moving directly into solution implementation). These decisions occur in step 3 of the process. They represent a key judgment you will make, frequently in the moment of the discussion. It is your responsibility as a performance consultant to sort and sift requests, using the information you obtain from your client to determine the most appropriate route to take in moving ahead. A strategic situation meets the following criteria:

* One or more business needs are directly supported by the initiative.

* You have direct access to the client(s) accountable for achieving the business needs.

* The client is seeking performance change from people in one or more employee groups.

* The client is willing to share accountability with you for producing the required change.

* The client will provide you with time and access to the appropriate people so you can obtain necessary information before deciding on and implementing solutions.

* The situation focuses on a group of people, not on a few individuals.

To qualify as a strategic opportunity, each of these criteria must be met. It is possible that a criterion may not be evident during the early stages of the engagement. For example, the fourth criterion—that the client is willing to share accountability for producing change—is often difficult to affirm following a single meeting with the client. Will this client truly share accountability over the long term? As long as you have no reason to think the client will not share accountability, move ahead. Should it become evident over time that the client is unwilling to share accountability for producing change, it will be necessary to address that lack of support—and perhaps even stop the initiative.

Assess Business and Performance Needs

Any situation determined to be strategic must move into the assessment phase of the process. In this phase, you conduct one or more of the assessments described in Chapters 4 through 6. You will be conducting a solution-neutral assessment. By solution-neutral, we mean that you begin the assessment with an open mind as to what solutions may be needed. The data from your assessment will help determine what solutions are required. Tactical work often requires assessments. The difference is that a tactical assessment focuses on obtaining information to ensure that an agreed-on solution is designed and implemented successfully. For example, a learning needs assessment is one that focuses on identifying the specific skills and knowledge required for the learning solution; a performance management process (PMP) assessment is one that focuses on determining elements to include in the design and execution of that PMP. Each of these assessments occurs to ensure that the tactical solution will be designed and implemented effectively. Strategic assessments, in contrast, result in information that is used to decide on what specific solutions will be implemented.

Three types of strategic assessments are possible in the Performance Consulting Process:

* SHOULD assessments. The goal of these assessments is to determine, in specific terms, what operational results are required of the business and what people need to do day-to-day if these results are to be achieved. In essence, you are identifying the desired state for both the business and the performance of people who support that business.

* IS assessments. When conducting an IS assessment, you are identifying the current state for both the business and employees. What are the current operational results for the business? What are employees currently doing on the job to support those goals? What are they not doing? With this information, we can identify the gap that exists between the desired and current state.

* CAUSE assessments. This assessment answers the question "What are the root causes for gaps in business and performance results?" It is vital to focus on root causes, and not symptoms, when taking actions to close gaps. Once you know root causes, you can select solutions and begin the process of designing and implementing those solutions. The data obtained through strategic assessments becomes the basis for the measurement objectives and processes that you and your client agree on.


Excerpted from Performance Consulting by Dana Gaines Robinson, James C. Robinson, Jack J. Phillips, Patricia Pulliam, Phillips Dick Handshaw. Copyright © 2015 Dana Gaines Robinson, James C. Robinson, Jack J. Phillips, Patricia Pulliam Phillips, and Dick Handshaw. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
Introduction: Stop Jumping to Solutions and Make Performance Your Business!
1 Performance Consulting: The Process
2 Performance Consulting: The Mental Model and Logic
3 Build Client Partnerships
4 Identify Strategic Opportunities Reactively
5 Identify Strategic Opportunities Proactively
6 Define the SHOULDs
7 Assess the IS
8 Identify CAUSEs and Select Solutions
9 Alignment and Measurement Model
10 Develop and Implement the Measurement Plan
11 Determine Return on Investment (ROI)
12 Report Results and Develop Plans for Sustaining Results
Conclusion: Commit Now to Make Performance Your Business
Performance Consulting and Measurement Toolkit
About the Authors

Customer Reviews