An Ounce of Analysis – The Legacy of Joe Harless

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Joe Harless (left) with Paul Elliott, President of Exemplary Performance in April at the ISPI 2012 Conference

In the mid-eighties, GM had decided to infuse $55 billion into new technology to enhance its competitive position. I was retained to help determine the strategy for up-skilling the skilled trades and hourly workforce of several hundred thousand people. The first five months of the project was spent benchmarking current best practices in technical training. I traveled with GM colleagues visiting The Johnson Space Flight Center, airline training centers and other organizations perceived to be on the cutting edge. At the time I was still naively laboring under the assumption that getting information into people’s heads more effectively and efficiently would produce higher levels of performance. One of our benchmarking visits was to Atlanta to attend Joe Harless’ Job Aids Workshop, affectionately known as JAWS. Those few days and on-going interaction with Joe forever changed my professional life. I realized that:  *Many categories of information should never be placed in human memory * Knowledge, skills and abilities do NOT correlate directly with high performance * It’s accomplishments [results/outputs] that produce value, not inputs like competencies, knowledge and skills OR activities like tasks and steps * And a myriad of other lessons too numerous to list. Over the next decade I had the privilege of being informally mentored by Joe and leveraging his models and tools, including the Accomplishment-Based Curriculum Development [ABCD] system and the Performance Quality Improvement system with my clients. Then when Joe retired, I acquired his intellectual property as the basis of my first company. I came to believe deeply that Joe’s tools are unsurpassed for those of us desiring to improve the performance of organizations. The amazing thing about Joe’s contribution is that fifteen years after his retirement, I am confident that this is still the case!! It was a privilege and honor to have Joe come out of retirement last month and participate in the ISPI conference in Toronto. He presented in a session that I chaired and included Carl Binder and Al Folsom, VP of Exemplary Performance. The session was videotaped and I highly recommend taking the time to watch it. For those of you who have never met Joe, you owe it to yourselves. For those of you who know him, no further encouragement will be required.

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