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Part 6 of a series of articles on the 10 standards for Performance Improvement

In our quest to improve performance and change productivity we are sometimes overwhelmed with the pressure of speed of delivery, speed to market, speed to satisfy clients’ needs, speed to execute to earn credibility and build relationships.  In short, time is of the essence and we live in a society of immediate gratification and quick fixes.

Every manager and project owner has to balance this with quality, budget control, cost cutting and achieving more with less. Moreover we are also overwhelmed with tools, methodologies and processes to ensure quality implementation of projects.  In this quest we lose sight of the end result and the value-add. We jump to implementation and quickly form a project team, change management team and communication team to show activity. And usually we jump to the fad of the month – is it digital, is it agile, is it scrum or lean thinking (to name but a few).

This article is not about evaluating any tool or application – but to provide the “back-to-basics” of holistic thinking about performance.  This article is a reminder about the importance of solutions’ conformity to quality and to what the original agreed performance need or opportunity is and secondly, what to consider during implementation.

As a recap of what was discussed in previous articles 10 Standards for Performance Improvement (you can find a full explanation of these standards at the first four standards are known as principles. They are the lenses through which we apply systematic methodology of consulting and managing. Our methodology guides us to how we do it. In part 3 of our series, we started the consulting process by determining “where is the gap?” In part 4, we uncovered the importance of data and cause analysis.

In this article, I will focus on the eighth and nine standard.


Standard 8 of the International Standards for Performance Improvement deals with solutions’ conformity and feasibility. Competent practitioners and project owners oversee the development of the solutions. They may develop some or all of the solutions or be a member of the development team and:

  • Compare the solution elements to the design specifications. An important point to remember is what the client brief was originally.  Does it match it?  Will we be able to measure the performance improvement gap and quantify results for the client?
  • Make sure solution elements are developmentally tested. Use the appropriate testing mechanism and method.
  • Make sure the solutions are feasible and work as intended. This has to closely match the design specification and the original request of client.
  •  Arrange to pilot test the overall solution.
  • Oversee improvements and changes based on the results of the tests.


Standard 9 of the International Standards for Performance Improvement deals with implementation. Competent practitioners and project owners develop strategies that allow clients to sustain change and:

  • Develop messages that clients can use to communicate what is being done, why, and when.
  • Develop tools and feedback mechanisms so people can monitor their own progress.
  • Draft messages clients can use to report progress.
  • Facilitate discussion on how to address deviations from the plan.
  • Advise clients how to manage changes in practices so gains are sustained.

We are accountable for clients’ responsibility for the success of the change as part of the total application of the 10 Standards for Performance Improvement. This is an important aspect as our credibility as valued partners of performance is critical.  The other important aspect is the clients’ comfort to communicate progress, results, value and benefits to all stakeholders.

We will use many tools to bring about sustainable change in performance – we will definitely use any number of project management tools and methodologies. We may also use change management tools to sensitise people, prepare the landscape, and adopt new behaviours and to develop the materials and messages for successful completion.


Because project management is such an important part of our work I am including a tool (refer figure 1 below) and a questionnaire worksheet to customise for your own application.

The benefit and value of using this holistic approach to scope a project at the start to ensure results at the end:

  • A holistic view to scope and plan a project – all possibilities are considered in a systemic and systematic way.
  • All project team members are involved from the start to final project delivery. They will workshop each area in the matrix of the tool with a project team.
  • In this way all possible areas are considered when planning and scoping a project.

Figure 1

A set of questions are answered to populate each area in the matrix:

1. Conditions and environment 

  • What is the external logic?
  • What do we need to consider in the environment and its conditions?
  • Have you checked the external environment for opportunities and threats the organisation faces, due to forces in its own industry?
  • What are the general trends in the world around it?  How will these opportunities, threats and trends impact the project?

Consider the external factors below:

Figure 2.png

Figure 2.5Figure 3

2. Output/target

  • What is the strategic objective of the project? Does it support the organisation’s strategy?
  • What do we need to consider in this project as a specific stakeholder output?
  • What is the final observable project deliverable/target?
  • What are the priorities associated with this project deliverable?
  • How will the project be measured?
  • What are the key milestones?
  • What are the key indicators and standards to judge the successful performance of the output/target of the project?
  • What are the measurable timelines?  Are these timelines realistic and achievable?
  • From who is internal and external support required?
  • What are the risks and challenges associated with the project – what could jeopardise the project?
  • What are the recommendations?
  • What is the contingent/alternative strategy to this project deliverable?
  • What are the observable measures/targets and have the timelines been met?

Figure 4

3.  Process

  • What is the process and activities for this project?
  • Who are the stakeholders that will assist with the project?
  • What are the procedures to be followed?
  • What is the procurement process to be followed?
  • What are the possible operational and procedural factors that may affect the project delivery?
  • What is the contingent plan when things go wrong?

Figure 5.png

4. Input

  • What resources, budget and information are needed to deliver on the output?  Are all resources readily available?
  • What are the budget constraints?
  • What are the internal and private/investor/donor requirements and funding?
  • What is the total expenditure for the project duration?
  • Who is the supplier(s)?  How will the supplier be selected (procurement)?
  • What is the stakeholder input to the project?
  • What are the input delivery constraints of the project?
  • What is the contingent plan for insufficient resources?
  •  What are the observable measures/targets and have the timelines been met?

Figure 6

 5.  Receiving system (clients and/or stakeholders)

  • Who are the internal and external beneficiaries/stakeholders of this project?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What are the external beneficiary/stakeholder expectations and needs of the external client/stakeholder we are delivering to?
  • What are the internal beneficiary expectations and needs of the client/stakeholder we are delivering to?
  • What are the client/stakeholder criteria for satisfaction for this project?
  • What are the success indicators for the client/stakeholder?
  • What are the expected standards of delivery to the client/stakeholder?
  • What is the contingent plan for poor client/stakeholder support and buy-in?

Figure 7.png

6. Consequences 

  • What is the consequence management system for the project?
  • What are the positive and negative consequences of this project output?  What will the impact be on the project?
  • What is the consequence management alignment to strategy, work plans and individual plans?  How are the positive and negative consequences aligned with the desired, strategic project output?

Figure 8.png

7.   Feedback

  • What is the feedback system for this project? Who will get feedback?  And how often?  Who will do the feedback?
  • What are the feedback loops in support of the project output? Is feedback on demand or only formal?  How will it be documented?
  • How will you ensure consistent feedback?

Figure 9.png


Too many project owners and performance workers jump to assumptions about solutions implementation without proper fact finding and gap analysis.  We have seen so far we have to remain solution neutral until we have the data to support our decision for appropriate selection.  The implementation tools you use will only be a vehicle or mechanism to provide successful implementation.

Useful websites, video and links:

Stay posted for my final article on the 10 International Standards of ISPI to get even more tips, tools, and links to articles, websites and more!

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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