Book Review: Analyzing Performance Problems or You Really Oughta Wanna, How to Figure Out Why People Aren’t Doing What They Should Be, and What To Do About It by Robert F. Mager and Peter Pipe

Long title I know but if the authors haven’t given you an idea that this book MUST be in your Instructional Design reference library than I don’t know what else I can do to alert you to this fact.

Many years ago when I was a young Instructional Designer in the Royal Australian Navy, we were instructed about the Mager and Pipe Algorithm.  They gave us a photocopy of the model and I duly placed it into my folder of notes thinking that I will never refer to it again like many of my other notes.  However, I was wrong.  It was the one piece of paper that I carried around with me everywhere.  I had since long left the Navy after ten years and in the corporate world, I held onto that tatty piece of model that may have had a map to treasure for all I cared: it had the model on how to analyse performance problems and what possible solutions could be implemented to close that gap.

“Mager and Pipe algorithm this! Mager and Pipe algorithm that!” I blurted to my clients who thought I must have been stark raving made.  How can a model make such an impression?

Well, the answer is in the book title itself. It gives you the guide on how to figure out why people aren’t doing what they should be and what to do about it.

So my tatty piece of paper (since then, photocopied many times) now has a book that goes with it because this book outlines each section of the model.  What I particularly like is that Mager and Pipe have provided real life case studies and scenarios that I swear, each and every one of the scenarios is exactly what my usual day to day job goes through.  Dealing with managers who wrongly believe that their staff’s performance problems are due to laziness or lack of motivation or lack of skill but delve a bit further, and the truth reveals itself so that you can then apply the correct solution.

The book is in seven parts:

  1. They’re Not Doing What they Should Be Doing
  2. Explore Fast Fixes
  3. Are the Consequences Right Side Up?
  4. Are There Other Causes?
  5. Which Solutions are Best?
  6. Quick Reference Checklist and Final Thoughts
  7. Appendices

Each section explains that part of the model, case scenarios, provides a summary, what questions should be asked in a ‘what to do’ and ‘how to do it’ section.  It is readable and dare I say it for an instructional design book, easy to read anytime and learn.  I read the book on my daily commute on the train and within a few days had finished it and learned more about the model than I have had in years.  Now I can throw away my tatty piece of paper that I have been holding onto for fear of losing and use this book as my ‘bible’.  You should do the same.

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About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 20 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
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