Jobs & Human Capital
Uncovering Performance Gaps: How to Conduct a Front-end Analysis
by Bolaji Olagunju
August 2, 2016 | 12:21 am| | | Start Conversation
Imagine that you went to your doctor for advice on recent stomach troubles when you wake up every morning. You expect the doctor (the performance expert) to ask questions: when did you first experience the stomach pain? How often does it occur? Is the pain worsening? Have you used any medications? Rather than do any of these, your doctor listens quietly as you make your complaints and without any questions or examination, he declares that you have gastric cancer!
You will likely not accept your doctor’s opinion because the problem has not been properly diagnosed.
This is the same way a performance analysis needs to be properly investigated before proposing a solution. Proposed solutions should not be based on speculations but on data. The appropriate thing to do is to conduct a front-end analysis (FEA). This is a process used to determine why a perceived performance gap exists and how to fix the problem. Performance gap may be described as the difference between what ought to be and what is. It is the gap between how your business should perform and how it actually performs.
The preliminary process of the FEA is grouped into two processes:
Gap analysis- where you establish that there is a performance problem. This is where the doctor should establish that the patient’s stomach is not in the desired functional state, rather than assume it is so due to the patient’s complaint. In business, this process helps you to establish where your business is and where you want it to be. Conducting a gap analysis can help you to discover the desired and actual state of your business’s operational results as well as the desired and actual employee performances. This is significant because employee performance is the bedrock on which operational results rest. There must be a minimum standard of performance which employees must not fall below, else the business will not achieve its set goals. The people to deal with during a gap analysis are the major stakeholders of the business who have a vision of where it is going. In conducting a gap analysis, the closed-ended question style should be adopted.
Root-cause analysis- where you dig deep and establish the cause of the problem: This is where the doctor should ask questions, examine the stomach and conduct necessary tests to enable him come up with a diagnosis. The essential thing is to focus on the employee’s performance and what is preventing him from performing as desired. When conducting a root-cause analysis, deal directly with the stakeholders i.e the non-performing employee(s) or department to dig deep and understand what might be interfering with their performance. Employ the use of tools like surveys, interviews, examinations and personal observations to collect information and gather data. In conducting a root-cause analysis, the probing mode of questioning is appropriate. It is also advised to use the 5-why technique from the six sigma discipline, as the root-cause can be discovered before or by the 5th why.
Conducting a root-cause analysis will reveal the origin of the problems which will help to develop and recommend a solution. In cases where the root-cause is lack of skill or knowledge, a further analysis would be required. It is the third leg the FEA analysis, though it only applies to cases where there is deficient capability. It is called the Training Needs Analysis. This is used to design a training solution to help close an employee’s capability gap.
When should you conduct a FEA analysis?
1. Gap Analysis
a. When your business needs to move from its current state of operational performance to its desired state of performance.
b. When your organisation needs refresher training on something they have done before.
2. Root-cause Analysis
When you establish that there is a performance gap which requires an analysis.
3. Training Needs Analysis
When your root cause analysis shows some skill, knowledge, competence or capability gap.
The Front-end analysis helps in identifying the real issues rather than relying on speculations, this invariably means that those issues can be dealt with rather than treating symptoms (like your doctor in the story above). Beyond conducting all these analyses, ensure that the real issues uncovered by the analyses are fixed and recommended solutions are adopted and implemented.
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