Process and product, or, both sides now

I’ve been thinking about process versus product, which tends to remind me of this quote:

In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.

Professionally, I tend to focus on the product. That’s in no small way due to the course of my career. I began as a high school teacher, and my graduate program highlighted techniques for teaching well.

ProductWhen I moved to corporate training, the focus shifted to how to train and then how to train well. I learned from people like Bob Mager and Joe Harless that “training well” sometimes means “don’t waste time having people memorize what they can more effectively look up.”

The next eye opener was learning about the human performance technology model (useful examples and discussion in this PDF). Its strong emphasis on results (another term for product) permanently changed how I looked at so-called training problems:

  • What’s the gap between what Allison Rossett calls optimals and actuals on the job?
  • What factors other than skill and knowledge might be part of that gap?
  • How can you address those factors?
  • How will you monitor your success?

To me, the major focus was on product. So the particulars of, say, an instructional design process aren’t as important as the product that process delivers.

ProcessLately I’m looking more closely at process. The 10,000 hours that John Medina mentions are required for expertise are in a real sense a repeated process. And sometimes the process is part of the product.

I’m a big believer in job aids. Some are like training wheels: you use them until you master the underlying task. For others, you don’t want memorization. Part of the goal is to have people rely on the job aid. The guidance may change so often that part of the product is “using the job aid.” Or the consequences are so high that memorization is not an asset — as with preflight checklists.

My thought today is that awareness plus deliberate action leads to habit. I’m trying to acquire and strengthen some work habits, hence the focus on process. I’m hoping that adding feedback (call it post-mindfulness) to the mix will lead to improved product, which will never be called Dave 2.0.

Statistics file photo by ex_libris_gul / Heather.
Poker photo by Philofoto / Christian Fortier.