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Dec 30 2015
Unpacking the Performance Chain: The Essence of the Six Boxes Approach

In addition to the simplicity and plain language of the Six Boxes® Model itself, the visual and conceptual simplicity of the Performance Chain provides a foundation for "performance thinking" in the overall Six Boxes Approach. These are the graphic, linguistic and conceptual elements that make the approach simple to understand and describe.  They also, of course, contain far more complexity in depth than is obvious at the outset. 

In the process of trying to teach a wide diversity of people to understand and apply Six Boxes "performance thinking," we've begun to recognize more clearly that people enter the process with different backgrounds.  What is easy for one person (e.g., identifying and describing work outputs or  behavior) might be difficult for another, and vice versa. This recognition is challenging us to dig more deeply into our own experience and to create better tools and to document a wider and deeper collection of examples. 

In the meantime, as we continue to learn more with our emerging community of practice, it's important to remember that the essence of this approach is unpacking and then reassembling the performance chain –- sometimes many performance chains –- to enable people to more productively and more happily produce the results their organizations need.

At the heart of performance thinking is the ability to look at a situation that involves human performance and to fairly quickly identify what people need to produce (outputs) in order to deliver the value (organizational results) they or their organizations seek; to investigate and clarify the behavior needed to produce those valuable work outputs; and finally to understand, reconfigure and balance behavior influences based on an understanding of the Six Boxes Model.

As our old friend and colleague, Dr. Kent Johnson, pointed out some time ago, this is not as easy nor as linear a process as it seems. Consequently, we must continue to coach people through the process of applying this approach to particular situations until performance thinking becomes a more fluent part of each user's repertoire.

Throughout the learning process it it can be helpful for everyone to remember, when facing a particular performance challenge or project, that it's all about understanding and  managing the performance chain. Just keep coming back to that.  As we continue to gain more experience and perspective with every application, analysis, or informal insight, we expand our understanding and deepen our ability to engage in performance thinking.

I, for one, can say that with every novel environment or application I encounter there are challenges and new learning opportunities.  As someone who has been using this approach for nearly 30 years, I can confirm that the learning never stops.  Mastering the Six Boxes Approach is more about learning a logic than following a fixed set of procedures –- the logic of unpacking the performance chain and of arranging behavior influences to optimize performance.  As we encounter more situations, we're able to generalize in ways that will allow us to attack new challenges more easily.  That generalization always comes back to the simplicity of the performance chain, and how it manifests in all kinds of human performance.

Carl Binder

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