Performance Solutions- It’s Not All or Nothing


Performance solutions can be costly and viewed as cost-prohibitive by organization decision makers. Businesses and organizations err when targeted, comprehensive performance solutions are not implemented.  Mager and Pipe (1970) discussed the “hidden cost” that result from failing to address performance problems. According to Mager and Pipe (1970) the hidden costs of ignoring a peformance problem by failing to implement a solution include “inefficient performance. . . lost or angry customers, employee turnover and absenteeism. . . ” (p. 94).

When resources are not available to implement a total soulution, Mager and Pipe (1970) recommended using a partial solution- address part of the problem or implement a part of the solution. A partial solution is better than no solution.

Mager, R., & Pipe, P. (1970). Analyzing performance problems or ‘You really oughta wanna’. Belmont, CA: Fearon Publishers, Inc.


Performance Improvement: Consider the Conditions and the Consequences

I am still rereading Robert F. Mager and Peter Pipe’s seminal work Analyzing Performance Problems or ‘You Really Oughta wanna’. Like any good work, chock  full of pearls of wisdom, I see something new everytime I read the book. A couple things that stood out to me this reading are conditions and consquences.

When analyzing performance problems, the thorough analyst must consider the conditions of performance and the consequences of performance. For example, are there obstacles that prevent a performer from performing a desired behavior, is management supportive of desirable behavior: those are conditions of performance. On the other hand, an analyst must determine if the desired performance or behavior is punished, ignored, or rewarded; he or she must also determine if behavior other than the desired behavior is rewarded: those are consequences of performance.

A thorough analysis sets the stage for approprate solutions for performance problems.


When Analyzing Performance, Remember to Ask This Question

I am rereading Robert F. Mager and Peter Pipe’s seminal work, Analyzing Performance Problems or ‘You Really Oughta Wanna’. The book is a must read for any performance improvement professional as it provides easy to follow instructions on analyzing performance problems. The authors even provide a handy checklist.

I recently undertook analyzing performance issues at a local organization. One question that I forgot to ask during my analysis, a question Mager and Pipe asserted is often neglected, is Could he or she do it in the past. As with all the questions Mager and Pipe outlined in their problem analysis process, the question is critical for determining the nature of the problem that exists and therefore developing an appopriate solution– one that addresses the problem.

Mager and Pipe concluded, if a performer could carry-out a behavior in the past then formal training is not needed; what is needed is one of two types of skill maintenance programs: regular practice or practice with feedback.

Get the book here!


Performance problem when employees know what to do, no training needed. So, what’s the problem?

Renowned human performance technologist and founder of Harless Performance Guild, Joe Harless, illustrated the importance of analysis to discover the cause(s) of a performance problem. Most times poor performance is not because learners do not know how to perform therefore training will not fix the problem.