Performance Technology Events in the Development of HPT

Early 1900's

At the turn of the 20th century, Gestalt psychology, a field of study that considers individual perceptions, learning, problem-solving, and how people organize experiences, was very popular. In 1911, Frederick W. Taylor published The Principles of Scientific Management, presenting a management theory based on industrial psychology and task analysis and describing management methods to increase efficient performance in industrial settings.

1920's - 1930's

The Hawthorne Studies (1927-1932), conducted by Elton Mayo coined the term “Hawthorne Effect” to describe effect of special attention of management on workers that had greater influence on performance than changes in physical working conditions. Psychiatrist Carl Jung, studied human personality, defining it in terms of attitudes and functions. His work influenced theories of management and human performance.

1940's - 1950's

Kurt Lewin performed group dynamics research, a basis for social psychology or the study of human behavior in groups. Abraham Maslow published A Theory of Human Motivation (1943) describing the human “Hierarchy of Needs”, and addressing the concept that humans strive to reach their highest potential through the fulfillment of needs. Vannevar Bush published an essay, “As We May Think” (1945), projecting advances in technology for the future and describing the “Memex” machine that would extend human memory with technology. Bush's work acted as inspiration for future developers of the internet and World Wide Web. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) was founded in 1944.

David McClelland developed a “theory of needs” to describe human behavior including: need for achievement (nAch), need for power (nPow), and need for affiliation(nAff). W. Edwards Deming's Total Quality Management Model appears in Japan following WWII, but does not gain acceptance in the U.S. until the 1980’s.

1960's - 1970's

Based on B. F. Skinner's work in behavioral psychology during the previous decade, the National Society for Programmed Instruction (NSPI) was founded in 1962.

Rensis Likert developed opinion/attitude scales based on organizational theory and social psychology known now as the “Likert scale”. Likert focused on the empirical evidence of the value of human performance through his organizational management theories of the linking-pin concept, interaction-influence principle, and four-systems theory of organizations. Douglas McGregor developed the “Theory X/Theory Y” concepts of human nature that are often applied to assumptions made by managers and their management styles. Chris Argyris, an expert in “organizational behavior” combined expertise in the fields of economics and psychology, considering the relationship between organizational and individual needs. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)™ was introduced in the 1960's, though it would not be widely accepted until the 1980's. This psychometric instrument used to measure basic personality, was based strongly on and further refined Jung’s work. Frederick Herzberg published Work and the Nature of Man (1966) describing the “Two-Factor Theory of Job Satisfaction”, i.e. hygiene and motivating factors. Herzberg proposed that the opposite of dissactisfaction is not satisfaction, but lack of dissatisfaction and applied the concept of “job enrichment” to build motivating factors into jobs.

Computer technology had begun to advance in the 1960's. Ted Nelson coined term “hypertext” to describe non-sequential writing method for computer applications in 1964 and by 1968, Douglas Engelbart  had developed an early computer network, the first computer mouse, and an oN-Line system for collaborative work. In 1969, ARPANET, the first form of the Internet was developed.

In the 1970's, systems theory was first applied to organizations and performance technology begins to develop as an offshoot of the behavioral programmed instruction movement. Strongly influenced by the work of B.F. Skinner and the field of behavioral psychology, Thomas Gilbert published Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance (1978) introducing the Behavior Engineering Model (BEM). This model equates performance with “accomplishments” and describes six components necessary for behavior: data, instruments, incentives, knowledge, capacity, and motives.

Joseph Harless coins the term “Front End Analysis” (FEA) to describe the process of asking “smart” questions before implementing solutions so that the most appropriate solutions are initiated to achieve desired performance. Harless proposes that FEA should be performed in addition to the traditional rear end analysis. This shift in thought parallels the shift from instructional to performance technology.

The concept of “technology” applied as a scientific, systematic approach to influencing human behavior began in the 1970's and continues to present.

The 1980's - Into the 21st Century

In 1982, W. Edwards Deming published Quality, Productivity and Competitive Positions that discussed the “14 points” model of quality management and reintroduced the concept of Total Quality Management (TQM) to the U.S. This model examines all parts of an organization and applies creative use of human resources. 

In the 1980's performance technology fostered by use of instructional design in business settings and the National Society for Programmed Instruction changed its name to the National Society for Performance and Instruction (NSPI). This change highlights the new focus on both performance and instruction and reflects the start of paradigm shift toward Human Performance Technology.

A major computer technology breakthrough occurred with Tim Berners-Lee's 1990 development of the world wide web. Additional developments in the 1990's include:

By the start of the 21st century, “performance improvement” had become a common organizational concept. Though performance technology has become the primary focus and instruction has been identified as only one possible type of performance intervention, IT has become one part of PT and the line separating the two fields can sometimes be difficult to discern. Also, as computer technology continues it rapid development and improvement, the use of computer-based performance solutions has become a widespread method of improving performance.

(Source: Wagner, D. (2002). Introduction to Instructional and Performance Technology Timeline. Prepared for IPT 536: Introduction to IPT. Retreived from Lotus Notes database Boise State University, October 30, 2004.)