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The Performance Equation

The Performance Equation reduces performance down to four basic elements and defines the relationship between each element to create the formula for dramatic and sustainable performance. Every theory, model, and concept of human performance can be placed in one or more elements of the equation. Applying the equation can increase performance by up to 90% when addressing complex performance problems. Click on the model to explore the equation; download the PDF files to learn more.

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A Unifying Theory of Performance

HRD, OD, and HR all have numerous theories and models that contribute to performance improvement. Each of these models address a specific aspect of performance but has little application outside of its narrow focus. A training program, for example, can not address cultural inhibitors to the application of the training. As a result the efforts of HRD, OD and HR are often fractured, competitive and ineffective.

The Performance Equation provides a unifying theory of human performance. Every model, theory and tool of HRD, HR and OD can be placed under some element of the performance equation. By integrating these models, theories and tools into a single strategy, the whole becomes greater than the parts. In fact, the whole can become five to nineteen times greater than the parts!


Although we have achieved the highest levels of productivity in the history of human kind we cannot rest on our laurels. Global organizations, regulation, competition and even global terrorism are changing the basis of competition in the 21st Century. The winners in the 21st Century will be those who can get to the next level of performance, first.

In this new world success will not go to those who get a competitive edge at the expense of their people, but to those who create a competitive edge because of the performance of their people.

The main obstacle to getting to this next level of performance is the continued use of narrowly focused interventions that address only a single aspect of performance. For example, a training program designed to increase the ability of people to work on high performance teams, is often rendered useless by a unsupportive or even hostile culture and the negative attitudes of participants who realize this is “just not the way we do things around here.”

Knowledge & Skills

To achieve high performance individuals must know how to do the job (knowledge) and be able to do the job (skills). The acquisition of knowledge and the development of skills create the ability for individuals, teams and organizations to perform. Therefore, knowledge and skills are two basic elements of human performance.

The Performance Equation states that knowledge and skills are additive. Knowledge without skills makes you a consultant or a commentator – I know, but I cannot do. Skills without knowledge make you a “natural”. But even the natural must acquire knowledge if they are to increase their performance beyond the natural capability that has been given to them. It is the individual who possess high levels of both knowledge and skills that will consistently achieve the highest level of performance.

Environmental Roadblocks

To achieve high performance, people must have the opportunity to use their ability to perform. Environmental Roadblocks are those aspects of an organizations infrastructure and culture that inhibit the use of ability. A training program to develop high performance teams, for example, may be rendered useless by a hostile culture and negative attitudes as participants learn that, “This is not the way we do things around here!”

Environmental Roadblocks are in the denominator because they reduce the opportunity for individuals to use their existing abilities and/or develop new abilities. Think of ability as the accelerator on a car and environmental roadblocks as the brakes. It is hard to get performance out of your car when you have one foot on the accelerator and the other foot on the brake.


To achieve high performance people must be willing to use their knowledge and skills and willing to overcome the inherent environmental roadblocks that will inhibit their performance. Attitudes determine if people are willing to use their existing abilities, are willing to develop new abilities and are willing to overcome the environmental roadblocks to their performance. As one popular phrase puts it, “Think you can, think you can’t, either way you will be right!” Individual attitudes, therefore, are a basic element of all human performance.

Attitudes are a multiplier on the equation because they determine how willing people are to use their ability and overcome environmental roadblocks. Individuals with positive attitudes are willing to use their skills, willing to learn new skills, and willing to overcome environmental roadblocks to achieve high performance. Willing people learn faster, change quicker and will work longer and harder to maximize their performance and achieve success.


The Performance Equation is the formula for dramatic and sustainable performance. The formula is quite simple yet very powerful. You can maximize the performance of individuals, teams and organizations by assuring they have the ability to perform, the willingness to perform, and the opportunity to perform.

A Formula for performance that achieve five to nineteen times greater performance than OD, HRD, or HR alone. Now that’s dramatic, and that’s sustainable!

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Performance Equation — The Formula for Dramatic and Sustainable Performance! (PDF)

Performance Equation — A Unifying Theory of Human Performance! (PDF)

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