Be a Peformance Catalyst

Those of us in the business of improving human performance have a lot of terms at our disposal to describe what we do: Performance Improvement, Performance Technology, Performance Engineering, and Performance Support are several that come to mind immediately.

I’m not interested in throwing yet another term on the pile unless there is some added value to it. All of the terms I’ve listed above however fail to fully articulate our purpose in two word limit I’m arbitrarily imposing. Of course I have no problem with the word Performance, which is our raison d’etre, it’s that second word that is so pesky.

Improvement? Duh. But how? It seems to state the obvious without being very helpful.

Technology? Sure, but that’s only part of the picture, we can improve performance in many ways without it.

Engineering describes a discipline and has the added baggage of being rather geeky. If you introduce yourself as a Performance Engineer, you are likely to be directed to the computer room.

Support is of course, a good thing and something we should strive for, but like Improvement, it is rather general. Plus it has the liability of being confused with Performance Support systems.

So, as Rod Serling might say: Submitted for your approval–Performance Catalyst. Merriam-Webster defines a catalyst as “an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action.” Yeah, I know, it sounds kind of like a chemical reaction, but if you think about it for a moment, catalysis of performance is what we ought to be striving for whether the catalyst is training, job aids, incentives, environmental change, or some other intervention in the status quo.

The thing I like most about the term its agnosticism about the action we take. In a nutshell, a catalyst is anything we do to make desired performance happen better, faster, or more efficiently. How we do it? Now that’s another question entirely.

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