Professor explores performance consulting in new book

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.— William Rothwell, a professor of education in Penn State’s College of Education, recently wrote a book on performance consulting in order to improve organizational performance in the workplace. Rothwell said that performance consulting is essential because it helps organizations uncover problems with human performance that are occurring and what could be done in response.

The book, titled “Performance Consulting: Applying Performance Improvement in Human Resource Development,” was written by Rothwell along with co-authors G.M. "Bud" Benscoter, a North Carolina-based consultant, and some of Rothwell’s doctoral students: Woocheol Kim, Taesung Kim, Aileen Guerrero Zaballero and Jong Gyu Park.

“The world is filled with problems and opportunities for improvement,” said Rothwell. “Some problems are caused by issues associated with people. Performance consulting focuses on the problems or opportunities for improvement having to do with people.”

According to Rothwell, performance consulting focuses on analyzing the causes of problems and selecting the best solutions to address the cause and thereby solve the problem, much like a medical doctor does when it comes to diagnosing medical problems.

“Performance consultants are experts at diagnosing problems with human performance,” said Rothwell. “They analyze an organization’s problem, diagnose it and suggest the solution to solve the root cause.”

Rothwell illustrated this with an example of an organization dealing with high turnover.

“Turnover is not the real problem, but is instead a symptom of one or more root causes,” said Rothwell. “Such root causes might include low pay, poor treatment from supervisors or unreasonable work assignments. A temptation of managers is to apply simplistic solutions to complex problems, and confuse causes and effects. Performance consulting tries to change that.”

According to Rothwell, performance consulting is important because it focuses attention broadly on the causes of performance problems or on issues in which human performance can be improved.

“Performance consulting is geared to increase productivity and decrease needless expenses,” said Rothwell. “It helps organizations build an environment that is conducive to performance, and it matches the most appropriate solutions to problems.”

The book is aimed at performance consultants, human resource professionals and leaders who want to develop more productive workers and create a competitive organization. It offers the strategies and information needed to become a dynamic performance consultant.

“The book includes guidelines for implementing performance improvement solutions, which are often identified as performance improvement interventions, which can include options such as training, changing job requirements, giving people better tools, clarifying desired work goals and results or changing how people are rewarded for what they do,” said Rothwell. “It explains which approaches can offer the solutions that are likely to be most cost-effective, timely, ethical and socially responsible.”

The book was published earlier this year by John Wiley & Sons Inc.

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Last Updated February 20, 2014