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close this bookDesigning Human Settlements Training in African Countries - Volume 2: Trainer's Tool Kit (HABITAT, 1994, 182 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe lecture
View the documentVisual aids
View the documentQuestion and answer
View the documentDiscussion
View the documentDemonstration
View the documentSimulation
View the documentThe case method
View the documentCritical incidents
View the documentRole-playing
View the documentInstrumentation
View the documentBrainstorming
View the documentNominal group technique (NGT)
View the documentForce field analysis
View the documentAction planning
View the documentOther learning transfer strategies
View the documentPerformance analysis & needs assessment
View the documentTraining impact evaluation
View the documentTraining the staff to train
View the documentCoaching
View the documentTeam development
View the documentRole negotiation
View the documentIntergroup conflict intervention
View the documentOrganizational goal setting
View the documentA closing note

Performance analysis & needs assessment

Learning Emphasis

Organization Focus

Not speech, but facts, convince

- Greek Proverb

Training needs assessment is the process used by management to gather and analyse data about performance in an organization to make decisions about when and where to use training. According to a UNCHS (Habitat) publication, Handbook for Training Needs Assessment in Human Settlements Organizations, training needs assessment has several important benefits for an organization’s managers and trainers. It:

· Puts training back in the hands of the organization and removes it from control by training institutions,

· Provides early warning about performance problems that could jeopardize organizational effectiveness or efficiency,

· Helps managers prepare organizational units and individual employees for the introduction of planned change,

· Furnishes feedback about which training programmes are having the payoffs they were intended to have and which are not, and

· Helps managers decide what priority to assign to new training programmes.

This same publication provides public-sector managers and trainers with a valuable set of tools for carrying out needs assessments systematically in an organization. The publication outlines a comprehensive process for discovering discrepancies in job performance called scanning and a method for separating discrepancies in knowledge or skill (candidates for training) from discrepancies traceable to other causes. Scanning includes a variety of time-honoured techniques well-known to most trainers for gathering data on job performance - surveys, interviews, peer group meetings, document review, and direct observation (UNCHS, 1987).

A worksheet useful to trainers in collecting and recording information on performance is shown at the end of this section. The worksheet has several potential applications. It might be used by a training consultant to aid a client in analysing a performance problem and deciding what to do to remedy it. It also might be used as an exercise for sharpening the training skills of in-house trainers. Finally, the worksheet might be used by an in-house trainer to verify a suspected need for training or even to suggest appropriate alternatives to training for problems that are not related to deficiencies in knowledge or skill.

It is not our intention to revisit all of the techniques available to the trainer to analyse the performance of organizational work units. Rather, we want to look more closely at one of them - direct observation - and how trainers can use it with greater efficiency to find the cause of many of their organizations’ performance problems.


The recent flurry of excitement in the western world about restoring quality in manufacturing has captured the imagination of managers in the service industries including local government. At the heart of the methods being promoted by such quality advocates as W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran is the rigorous investigation (observation) and study (analysis) of organizational processes and the way they are performed. The best managers do not rely on second-hand information to make decisions. They stay in touch with their workers and customers by getting out of their offices and spending time out there to learn first-hand what is going on.

A common thread connects these schools of thought about performance improvement and the manager’s job - observing performance to find out what isn’t working and what is, and then creating conditions for using what is working as the standard for all performance. Thomas Gilbert, author of Human Competence, says a performance problem or need exists when we have discovered a difference between the average performer and the highest performer in a particular job. According to Gilbert, the high performer proves to us that a high level of performance is possible. If someone has achieved it, why, contends Gilbert, shouldn’t we expect all people in similar jobs to achieve it? (Gilbert, 1978). This seems logical enough until we realize that most managers don’t operate this way. Instead, it is typical for managers to assume that a high performer is some kind of anomaly, an eccentric with special gifts that enable him or her to do things other people can’t or won’t do.

What if Gilbert is right, that people with the same jobs can be taught to perform at the level of the highest performer? If a person is, then how can we find out what distinguishes the high performer from his or her peers so that the winning behaviours can be passed on to average performers? Gilbert contends that the answer is direct observation - observing what high achievers actually do instead of just asking them. If we agree with Gilbert that we can learn more about achievement from what we see (actual observation) than what we hear (second-hand accounts of performance), then managers and trainers should be spending more of their time in the field actually observing and analysing performance.


According to Gilbert, “the major aim of performance analysis is troubleshooting - the discovery of the most important opportunities for improving competence.” (Gilbert 1978). In order to be an effective troubleshooter you will need a process to follow.

Troubleshooting the performance of any local government operation can be carried out successfully following the seven steps shown below. We have selected for our example one of the most common services performed by any local government to add realism to our review of the process.

Step 1

Choose a function or activity of the organization that must be done well for the organization to accomplish its mission - road repair and maintenance, for example.

Step 2

Identify an area of accomplishment within that function or activity that is crucial to its success - such as the road resurfacing programme.

Step 3

Decide on some desired performance standard (e.g., quality, novelty, quantity, cost) for the area of accomplishment. For example, you might adopt five years as an acceptable life for a resurfaced roadway.

Step 4

Visit some individuals, teams, or work units within the activity or function that are farthest below the standard. Based on the organizations records, for instance, you might discover that one of the road maintenance crews is averaging less than three years of longevity from the resurfaced roadways for which it has been responsible.

Step 5

Observe the actual performance of each of the individuals, teams, or work units being visited to determine why the standard is not being met (finding the cause of sub-standard performance). After observing the crew at work on several jobs, for instance, you come to the conclusion that its roadways are failing ahead of time because the crew is not allowing enough time for the base sealant to set up before applying the asphalt surface.

Step 6

Once the cause of sub-standard performance has been determined, use various combinations of observation and enquiry to find out what might account for the identified performance-discrepancy. Possibilities are lack of information, inadequate resources, insufficient incentives, excessive workloads and improper work direction and supervision. You might learn, for example, that none of the crew members knows the proper drying methods for the type of sealant being used, nor are they aware of the longevity standard used by the organization for resurfaced roads (information discrepancies). You might learn, as well, that the materials being used dry more slowly than other sealants available in the same price range (inadequate resources). Finally, you might discover that the road repair supervisor and superiors in the public works department are more concerned with the number of resurfacing jobs that can be done in a single work week than the quality of the work being done (excessive workloads and improper work direction and supervision).

Step 7

On the basis of these findings, offer some strategies for improving performance, such as bringing the average level of performance up to the established standards. In most cases, where information discrepancies are found, the strategy would include some combination of training and coaching. You might decide, for example, to recommend training for crew members on proper drying for sealants used in the resurfacing programme and the organization’s standard for resurfaced roads. You might also suggest a comparison of various sealants for drying times and other performance factors. Finally, you might suggest training in quality management and work scheduling for supervisors of road maintenance units with records of sub-standard performance.


It is not our intention in this presentation to suggest that observational techniques should replace other forms of data gathering for needs assessment. Not at all. We are trying to put into perspective the various methods available to the trainer for compiling information about performance. We are suggesting, however, that the time spent by organizations to compile data on knowledge and behaviour might be used to better advantage observing and analysing accomplishments. After all, there is little point analysing how perfectly the golfer addresses the ball on the tee and how deftly he or she lines up the putt on the green until we know how often he or she pars the course.

Assessment is to training as the eyes and the brain are to the individual.

- F. Gerald Brown


Gilbert, Thomas F., Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1978).

United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), Manual for Training Needs Assessment in Human Settlements Organizations (Nairobi: UNCHS, 1987).

Performance Analysis Worksheet

A. Background information on the client

1. Name of client organization: ________________________________________________
2. Name of organizations chief executive officer __________________________________
3. Work unit with the performance problem: ______________________________________
4. Name of unit head: ________________________________________________________
5. Name of principal contact, if different: _________________________________________

6. Principal functions performed by the unit.

B. Details on the performance problem

1. Describe the performance as it should be.

2. Describe the performance as it actually is.

3. Explain what is causing the discrepancy (gap between performance as it is and as it should be).

4. Describe the consequences for the work unit or the organization if nothing is done to eliminate the discrepancy.

C. Remedy for the performance problem

1. Which remedy or remedies would you suggest to close the performance gap? (check all remedy types that apply)



Both training and non-training

2. If you checked training, what is your basis for this decision

3. If you checked non-training or both, what is needed to close the performance gap?

(Note: The remaining questions are concerned with performance gaps that can be closed by training.)

D. Training characteristics and benefits

1. Describe the appropriate training to close this performance gap. (Indicate the type of training, programme duration and probable starting dates.)

2. Who will participate in the training? (Indicate job title and number of persons to be trained)

3. What are the objectives (new knowledge, skill or other organizational benefits) that will result from the training?

4. How will the training be designed and conducted? (check one)

By qualified trainers from your institution.

By a qualified trainer from your institution in collaboration with one or more in house trainers.

By one or more in-house trainers who have been trained to conduct the training by a qualified trainer from your institution.

Other _____________________________________________________

5. When the training is complete, what will you accept as evidence that its objectives have been achieved?

6. What obstacles should be anticipated in designing and conducting the training? (Include obstacles that might arise before, during and after the training.)

7. What can be done to prevent or reduce the impact of these obstacles?

E. Acceptance of the training agreement

Signed by:

Worksheet preparer: ________________________________________________________
Training institution director: ___________________________________________________
Organization’s chief executive officer: ___________________________________________
Head of the work unit with the training need: ______________________________________
Date: _______________________