Overcoming Performance Barriers

For an individual who is underperforming in a role or is taking on a changed role, to adopt the change in behaviours needed to be able perform the role to the standard we desire, they generally need to fulfil three pre-conditions:

  1. Have a strong belief in the changes required to perform well and have a positive attitude towards that belief
  2. Believe that everyone has to perform and believe that it is good to follow the norm
  3. Believe that they will be given the necessary training, get easy access to data upon which to make decisions and believe they have the formal and informal authority to make the decisions. In addition, they believe if all of the aforementioned is provided, they will be able to execute their role.

Not fulfilling any one of the pre-conditions creates performance barriers.

Skill, Will and Hill

To understand what pre-conditions are not being met for each individual, an analysis of their skill (capability to execute the role as desired), will (motivation to execute the role as desired) and the hill they have to climb (issues with processes, data, authority which prevents them from executing their role easily) is required.

The simple “Skill, Will, Hill” (Figure 1) nomenclature is used to determine the root causes of a particular performance challenge. Specifically, the nomenclature helps leaders determine if a performance issue results from lack of employee skill in a particular area, lack of employee motivation to achieve success, or barriers stemming from the work environment. Skill barriers can be addressed by via formal training, coaching and on-the-job training, whereas will and hill barriers are addressed by one-on-one conversations and process re-engineering.

article - barriers performance - skillwillandhill

Diagnosis Steps

1. Identify the performance short-fall to be addressed for a specific employee population.

2. Invite stakeholders with information regarding the performance short-fall. This may include but not be limited to:

  • a. Learning and Development consultant
  • b. HR business partner
  • c. Team leaders
  • d. Line managers
  • e. The employees demonstrating the performance shortfall.

3. Run a performance barrier diagnosis session, allowing a one-hour session for smaller, concrete performance short-falls and longer or multiple sessions for larger, more widespread performance shortfalls.

4. Conduct root cause analysis:

  • a. Describing the performance short-fall to be explored, providing an overview of the “skill, will, hill” nomenclature, and clarifying the desired outcomes of the session
  • b. Identify what issues exist under each title (Skill, Will and Hill).

5. Conduct a negative brainstorming session.

6. With the group, discuss identified solutions and prioritise those contributing most to achieving the goal of improved performance and that are easiest to do, using a ease of doing/impact matrix.

7. Create a project plan and make one individual accountable to creating a business case to make the changes required, and presenting, as required, to senior management.

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