Chapter 7. Engineering Human Competence 105
Engineering Human Performance
Engineering
human
performance
Human performance technology started to be recognized as a field of stud
y
in the 1970s. There were several pioneers who helped establish the fiel
d
of human performance technology. Thomas Gilbert, working with othe
r
visionaries such as Robert Mager, Joe Harless, and Geary Rummler, greatl
y
contributed to the development of the field of human performance technolog
y
(Dean, 1997).
Perhaps one of the most important contributions that Gilbert made to the fiel
d
was his help in establishing the foundational concepts of engineering human
p
erformance. With his theories, Gilbert emphasized the importance of using
systematic, systemic, and cost-effective ways to change human behavior in
order to generate accomplishments that are valued by the organization as well
as the performer.
Performance
based on
accomplishment
Gilbert (1976) clarified that performance is different from behavior, an
d
that performance should be measured based on the degree of accomplish-
ment. For example, a typist’s hand position on the keyboard and the tone o
f
voice of a telephone help-desk clerk are measures of their behavior, not thei
r
accomplishment. Instead, the focus should be on measuring the typist’s rate
of completing error-free manuscripts and measuring the telephone help-des
k
clerk’s accuracy in trouble-shooting and other diagnostic processes. This
echoes the principle of human performance technology that
p
erformance is
not the same as behavior; it is the outcome of behavior.
Gilbert (1976, 1978) believed that virtually all performance can be measure
d
if we focus on accomplishment instead of human behavior. In other words,
human competence is measured by accomplishment rather than behavior, an
d
there are various ways to measure performance. For example, he explaine
d
that a writer’s performance could be measured by not only the number o
f
manuscripts produced, but also by the readers’ satisfaction or by the numbe
r
of times people cited the manuscripts.
Gilbert’s
leisurely
theorems
This chapter provides an overview of Gilbert’s “leisurely” theorems. Gilbert
(1996) introduced four leisurely theorems in his book
H
uman Competence:
Engineering Worthy Performance. The first leisurely theorem is about the
concept of worthy performance. The second leisurely theorem is about the
concept of potential for improving performance. The third leisurely theorem
is about the behavior engineering model, and the fourth leisurely theorem is
about the different levels of accomplishments.
It is highly recommended that HPT practitioners read Gilbert’s book
H
uman
Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance (1996), especially the first
four chapters of the book that explain the four leisurely theorems in detail.

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