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Mar 18 2020
Virtual Performance Consulting to Maintain Social Distancing

As I've realized how many of our Performance Thinking programs and services can be delivered virtually, in the era of the novel coronavirus, I've been reflecting on all the things we can do these days with telephones and web meetings, sitting in our homes or offices alone. It's really quite a lot.

Creating and Delivering Project Proposals and Charter Documents

We start most projects with a proposal or charter document about the background, what's at stake for the business, the stakeholder needs, how we propose to address the needs, what that will involve, etc.  It's easy to gather the information needed for a proposal or a project charter by phone or web conference, speaking with stakeholders, reviewing documents, etc. No need to be in the same room with others.  We've been doing this with clients around the world for decades, as have many of our clients and colleagues. We can do even more than we have in the past using virtual meeting and conference calling technology, with minor changes in how we go about it.

Interviewing Stakeholders and Target Performers

Tom Gilbert, one of my mentors, often pointed out that performance analysis ought to involve observing performers. As he said, "an expert tennis player can't tell you what he does because he's not watching his feet while he plays." And that is certainly true.  My colleagues and I have discovered many bits of exemplary behavior that make a difference, while observing the performance of sales people, customer service representatives, factory maintenance techs, and others. 

On the other hand, when we interview exemplary and average performers by phone or web conference to identify their accomplishments or work outputs, to determine criteria for "good" ones, and to capture information about their behavior, we can often sort out some of those details that make a difference by comparing what exemplary and average performers say. It's not ideal, but since our accomplishment-based approach to performance analysis is so much more powerful and illuminating than typical behavior-based or competency-based methodologies, even conducting it imperfectly can can yield enough information to make a big impact.

It turns out that we can often successfully conduct performance analysis without being in the room with people. We can decide, based on interviews, whether someone needs to observe performers as a follow-up. But in many cases in-person observation it is not essential. Knowing that can save travel time and money in ordinary times. And it's a great advantage in these extraordinary times of global pandemic.

Conducting Virtual Focus Groups

Often, after we have summarized our analysis of performance, based on interviews with performers, we want to confirm our list of work outputs (accomplishments) with a group, to see if we missed anything, need to re-word our descriptions, or perhaps re-sequence them (in a process). This is easy to do in a web meeting, in many ways even easier than in person.

Collaborating to Create Findings & Recommendations Reports

When we work with teams that include consultants at different locations and stakeholders at different sites in client organizations, we often conduct review and revision meetings to update and refine reports. This is actually easier to do online than in person, because we can all be looking at the same document and seeing the edits as we go.

Deciding on Next Steps for Development

Once we finish our analyses and reports, we can meet virtually with clients to decide on development priorities and responsibilities, and to organize and manage projects. We can also conduct a lot of the work for creating deliverables or agreeing on steps to take with stakeholders, including leaders, managers and coaches, by phone or web conference.

Culturally and technically, those of us who have been working virtually for a long time are well-prepared to continue working in this pandemic, and beyond. This recognition brings some relief at the moment. And for those who have not conducted consulting engagements virtually, it's not that difficult, and we can help guide you in our Six Boxes® Practitioner Programwhich we offer virtually!

On the positive side, the need for people to stop travelling and meeting in person might actually free up more time for performance analysis and design.

This makes our work at The Performance Thinking Network, conducting performance consulting projects and teaching others to do so, easy to do under the current extreme conditions.

See my recent blog post for more details about how all of our programs and services can be delivered virtually.

- Carl Binder, CEO




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