For more information about Improvid Performance Consulting visit our Human Performance Improvement website.

Part 3 of a series of articles on the 10 standards for Performance Improvement.

“Mind the gap” is a phrase we all know too well, or rather if you have travelled to London and used the underground rail system.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “gap” as follows:

Lack of balance
A problem caused by some disparity
An incomplete or deficient area
A wide difference in character or attitude

In our world of Performance Improvement we should “find the gap” and then “mind the gap”!  Sadly, in many organisations today gap analysis do not get the attention it deserves.  Many practitioners and managers choose to be “blind to the gap” and implement a quick fix solution which usually cannot be measured.  Line managers should ask, “What are the results or sustained performance change for this solution?”  Unfortunately, many managers, consultants, learning, performance and HR practitioners, are unable to answer this question.

In part 2 of this series, I focused on adding value and working in partnerships to bring about performance change. Holistic performance as a mindset shift to identifying, addressing, and measuring performance issues in organisations.

In a series of articles, I will focus on the 10 Standards for Performance Improvement.  You can find a full explanation of these standards at

As a recap of what we said in the previous articles, the first four standards are known as principles because they are fundamental to the other standards that make up the systematic methodology. The first four standards are:

  • Standard 1: Focus on results or outcomes
  • Standard 2: Take a systemic view
  • Standard 3: Add value
  • Standard 4: Work in partnerships

The subsequent standards which form our practice or methodology in a systematic process are:

  • Standard 5:   Determine need or opportunity
  • Standard 6:   Determine cause
  • Standard 7:   Design solutions including implementation and evaluation
  • Standard 8:   Ensure solutions’ conformity and feasibility
  • Standard 9:   Implement solutions
  • Standard 10: Evaluate results and impact

In this article, I will focus on the fifth standard.


Competent managers and practitioners do investigations to find out the difference between the current and the desired performances also known as the performance gap.  In essence, when we determine what the problem or need is by focusing on the end result we apply our differentiating holistic approach which includes a 4-point principles.   The first four standards and a 3-point practice is illustrated below.  The work of managers and Performance Improvement consultants is always at the three levels:

  • Workplace = Organisational impact factors: Examples include poor communication and information flow, lack of performance culture and ineffective leadership practices.
  • Work = Operational impact factors: Examples include outdated procedures, lack of SOPs, misinterpreted value chains and ineffective and outdated systems.
  • Worker = People impact factors: Examples include a lack of knowledge or skill and a lack of performance motivation.

An additional level – not necessarily viewed as the fourth level, is our focus on “world” which informs these three levels.  This incorporates all the factors which we have no control over and which are typically known as external barriers.

Below is a framework to map your plan for your need and opportunity analysis in a holistic approach.

Framework:  Standard 5 – Determine the need or opportunity

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How is it done?

As the first step in our practice, the following should be done:

  • Determine the exact need, opportunity or performance issue
  • Determine the size of the gap by applying our holistic approach, i.e. the work (operational performance gaps), worker (people performance gaps) and workplace (organisational performance gaps)
  • Facilitate discussions to clarify intent of the investigation
  • Determine the scope of the investigation
  • Choose the appropriate method of analysis
  • Decide and plan how to gather information and data of the identified gap(s)
  • Gather and analyse the data
  • Report the finding with recommendations
  • Interpret the findings and decide what is doable
  • Assist by making informed decisions and set priorities about what actions to take.

Practical guidelines:

Consulting tips to determine the need or opportunity:

  • Identify the objectives of the analysis, stakeholders to involve, data requirements, planned investigation and start and end of analysis.
  • Achieve agreement about the size and/or scope of the need or opportunity.
  • Agree in measureable terms the expected goals when identifying the need.
  • Interview stakeholders, observe current performance and processes, and examine existing documentation.
  • Do research by including benchmark reports and case studies.
  • Determine which needs or opportunities are worth pursuing further by doing a cost/benefit analysis.
  • Ensure you defined the entire scope of the project.
  • Direct activities towards the desired result to ensure the gap is identified as the difference between the current and future situation.
  • Inform stakeholders of your holistic approach (work, worker, workplace and world) to determining the need or problem through gap analysis.
  • Determine you data sample size.
  • Decide on your data gathering methods and obtain agreement
  • Ensure your methods support the purpose of the investigation

Practical tool:

Determine the need or opportunity against “SMART” goal setting:

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Use this checklist below as a tool to stay on track with your need and opportunity analysis:

  • Use analysis methods appropriate to the situation.
  • Determine the question (hypothesis) you want to answer.
  • Carry out the analysis at the appropriate level: Individual, group, process, organisational, or societal.
  • Develop recommendations on whether to act on the findings and how.
  • Use data-gathering methods appropriate to the situation.
  • Use sampling methods that follow recommended practices.
  • Use a survey format that complies with recommended practice.
  • Correctly use documents or work products as a source of data.
  • Identify the physical and technological opportunities and constraints in the work environment.
  • Identify the actual work processes used to accomplish work.
  • Identify the actual and expected outputs of the work.
  • Identify the consequences and who the receivers of those consequences are.
  • Identify what feedback systems are or are not in use and how effective they are. Identify the inputs that the workgroup has available. (Inputs include information, directions, requirements, expectations, etc.).
  • Identify gaps between what is required and what actually occurs.
  • Discriminate causes due to lack of information, knowledge, or skill from those due to inadequacies in the work environment, poor job design, inadequate feedback systems, lack of consequences, or poorly designed processes.
  • Determine the feasibility or probability of eliminating the gap.

Websites, articles and video links:

Below are additional useful information for your own development.


Managers and Performance Consultants should not be “blind to a gap”, but “find the gap” and then “mind the gap”.  We should conduct thorough investigations by gathering all the necessary information to make an informed decision about where gap is and the size of it in relation to the performance level.  This is a key component in the performance improvement process to “mind the gap” implementing a solution which may or may not address the gap.  The overall value is the end result which will be informed by the needs analysis, the causes and the intervention which will address the gap and result in measurable sustainable performance improvement.

Over the next 12 months, I will be publishing a series of articles that will focus in-depth on the 10 International Standards of ISPI.  Each article will focus specifically on tips, tools, and links to articles, websites, and more. Stay posted!

If you would like to know more about what we do, please visit our website or connect with Belia Nel on LinkedIn.

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