Performance Interventions

Selecting the Best Interventions

Only after careful analysis of performance can the performance technologist take the second step in the HPT process: intervention selection, design, and implementation. This phase continues the systematic approach of HPT in order to identify and apply the most effective, efficient solutions and increase performance to the desired levels.

Is the cause of the performance problem a lack of information, resources, or motivation? Is it a problem for a few individuals, a department, or the entire organization? Is it an issue with a work process or the workplace environment? A comprehensive analysis will often reveal that opportunities for performance improvement are rarely confined to one realm of performance. As the various causes of performance problems are determined, the appropriate targets of performance interventions should all but reveal themselves.

Both Gilbert's Behavior Engineering Model and Langdon's Language of Work TM Model demonstrate the diagnostic and prescriptive nature of the HPT process. Gilbert (1978) suggests a sequential analysis process beginning with the condition of behavior that most often offers the greatest leverage or most cost-effective solutions. Langdon (1999) links analysis and intervention selection by suggesting that performance technologists develop a list of possible interventions that have been shown to be effective at bringing about a "desired state of change" (p. 277-278). To do this, the HPT professional must decide which interventions will help to establish performance that does not currently exist, which will improve performance to or maintain performance at the desired level, and which will extinguish performance that is a barrier to desired performance.

According to Van Tiem, Moseley, & Dessinger (2000), many intervention classification systems exist, however all interventions can be classified as either instructional or non-instructional interventions. These categories reflect the historical convergence of the fields of instructional technology and performance technology into the current discipline of HPT.

If Intervention Goal is:

Appropriate Type of Intervention is:

To improve knowledge and skills


Instructional Interventions
(Learn More)


To improve or guide:

  • processes, products, services,
  • individual, group, or team performance,
  • plans and results

Non-Instructional Interventions
(Learn More)

(Van Tiem, Moseley, & Dessinger, 2000, p. 67)


While it would simplify things if a concrete, prescriptive assignment of appropriate interventions could be made for any given cause of a performance problem, such an approach would most likely fail to consider the complexities of most performance problems.  The HPT practitioner must keep in mind the interrelatedness of the work, the worker, and the workplace…the individuals and groups…the organization as a whole and its relationship to the larger, global community. 

Given the complexities of performance and organizations and the wide variety of interventions available, answers to the following questions can help guide the selection of the most appropriate interventions for any performance problem:

Intervention Design and Development

Spitzer (1999) identifies six essential steps to the design of any performance intervention system and five additional steps that guide the HPT professional through the intervention development process:


1. Review/Expand Analysis

  • Has someone else performed the initial analysis?
  • Has significant time elapsed since the original analysis?
  • Has the context of the performance problem been adequately and recently examined?
  • Have there been any significant changes within the organization since the initial analysis?
  • Have political, economic, and cultural factors been considered?
  • Has the impact of the intervention at all levels of the organization been examined?
  • Have feedback and preliminary approval been received?

2. Identify Intervention Objectives

  • What is the desired end result of performance?
  • To what degree must performance be improved?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • At what level of the organization is the improvement effort focused?
  • Are objectives general enough to provide design flexibility?
  • Are objectives specific enough to accurately describe the desired goals?
  • Have feedback and preliminary approval been received?

3. Identify/Prioritize Requirements

This step is the key driver of successful intervention design.

  • Are discretionary requirements balanced with non-negotiable requirements?
  • Have requirements been confirmed through review with key stakeholders?
  • Have the characterisitics necessary for the accomplishment of the objectives (technical requirements) been idenitified?
  • Have factors of usability and acceptance by users (human requirements) been identified?
  • Have mandatory requirements been prioritized over the features desired by stakeholders?
  • Have desired requirements been prioritized or ranked according to greatest to least desirability?
  • Have feedback and preliminary approval been received?

4. Select Intervention Components

  • Are the most effective intervention methods (components) considered?
  • Are alternatives to familiar tools and experts in different technologies sought out?
  • Do selected components help meet mandatory and most desirable priorities?
  • Are components appropriate and cost-effective?
  • Are self-designed and "off-the-shelf" components considered?
  • Have feedback and preliminary approval been received?

5. Prepare High-Level Intervention Design

  • Has a visual or verbal outline of the intervention and all of its elements been prepared?
  • Have the main features of the intervention (hig-level), excluding the fine details?
  • Have several alternative designs been prepared and considered prior to selection of the final design?
  • Have feedback and preliminary approval been received?

6. Complete Detailed Intervention Plan

  • Has a final design been selected?
  • Have all essential details, including tasks, resources, and schedules been specified?
  • Is clear and appropriate supporting documentation available for decision-makers?
  • Can compromises be made without negatively impacting the integrity of the intervention plan?
  • Is the final design approved by key stakeholders?


1. Select the Development Team

  • Does the team have specialized production skills?
  • Are interpersonal and technical skills balanced to ensure effective teamwork?

2. Prepare the Development Plan

  • Does the plan specifiy tasks, schedules, responsibilities, and resources?
  • Has the plan been approved by the client?

3. Develop and Test the Prototype

  • Have a rough draft and sample intervention materials been prepared?
  • Has formative evaluation been performed relative to the importance and scale of the intervention?
  • Has preliminary feedback been provided by the target audience, subject matter experts, and the client?

4. Revise the Development Plan

  • Has the plan been modified based on testing prior to final implementation?
  • Has additional feedback been provided by the target audience, subject matter experts, and the client?

5. Produce the Final Intervention Materials

  • Have the final materials been produced, packaged, and prepared for implementation?
  • Has the final plan been approved by key stakeholders?

( pp. 166-173, 180-182)

Intervention Implementation

Implementing performance interventions is about change. Understanding and managing the impact these changes have on the work and the workers within a client organization is key to the successful implementation of any intervention. The analysis phase of the HPT process demands consideration of current and desired performance throughout an organization. The intervention selection and design phase requires an understanding of the organizational culture and ongoing evaluation and feedback from key stakeholders. The HPT professional must demonstrate characteristics of a social psychologist, teacher, and a patient leader in the role of a change manager. The Business and Process of HPT section of the toolkit provides more information on current trends in HPT and the role of the performance technologist.


Gilbert, T. (1978). The behavior engineering model. In T. Gilbert, Human competence: Engineering worthy performance (pp. 73-105). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Langdon, D. G. (1999). The language of work. In H. Stolovitch & E. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of human performance technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 260-280).  San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.

Spitzer, D. R. (1999). The design and development of high-impact interventions. In H. Stolovitch & E. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of human performance technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 163-184).  San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.

Van Tiem, D. M., Moseley, J. L., & Dessinger, J. C. (2000). Fundamentals of performance technology: A guide to improving people, processes, and performance. Washington, DC: International Society for Performance Improvement.