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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Review: Performance Improvement Pathfinders


Performance Improvement Pathfinders: Models for Organizational Learning Systems offers an excellent overview of models for organizational intellectual development.  A number of industry experts and doctors have come together to create this fundamental book that every aspiring manager should read.  Topics include the importance of performance improvement, human performance models, language, and performance management. Managers and business leaders will find important information in this work as they seek to raise the performance and profit margins of their organizations. 

Readers will be brought through important concepts such as the early work of B.F. Skinner and Susan Markle, the concept of behavioral engineering, five principles of employee performance, management revolution, performance improvement models, environmental factors, assessment, language and workplace interventions. As you can tell from the general concepts covered the book provides a strong overview of basic organizational development theories every manager should have a grasp of before trying to encourage employees to higher levels of performance. 

For example, you may be interested in the concept of behavioral engineering and how it works within organizations. Behavioral engineering can be seen as the search for problems that reduce the ability of humans to use technology within the workplace and redesigning processes that keep human limitations in mind. Dr. Thomas Gilbert developed one of the first behavioral engineering models in the 1960’s that included influences on performance such as information, resources, incentives, knowledge, capacity, and motives. 

The book also discusses the importance of language in building and defining strong workplaces. Dr. Danny Langdon developed a methodology for understanding common language at work. He defined these key elements as defined words, syntax, message and medium. The very premise of all culture is the subtle meanings and definitions embedded in organizational language. Without this commonality it is difficult to develop strong cultures. 

The book is well written using common language that most managers can understand. It is an excellent book for seeing how multiple theoretical works associate together in a way where they are most beneficial and practical.  An updated version would be great for courses as it not only provides the theories that make up organizational development but also examples of how they are applied. It has plenty of resources for those who desire to seek out additional information.  It maintains its relevance.

Dean, P. & Ripley, D. (1997). Performance Improvement Pathfinders: Models for Organizational Learning Systems. DC; International Society for Performance Improvement ISBN:  0-9616690-9-8

Pages:  279
Cost: $90 New & $12 Used

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