Page Contents:

Related Resources

Learning Environment Design Framework
Instructional Design Toolkit

ISD Concept Map
ISD Concept Map

Bridging the performance gap

Bridging the Performance Gap

Determine the Performance Requirements in Instructional System Design

While the first step in the Analysis Phase, identifying business needs, determined the desired goal to improve the organization (positive impact), this step, Performance Analysis, determines the exact cause of the performance deficiency that is preventing the business unit from reaching its objectives and then identifing the performance required to reach the objective.

Performance Gap

The learning initiative needs to correct a performance gap — the difference between the actual or present performance and the desired or optimal performance:

performance gap chart

To solve the performance gap you determine what the performance is now, where you want to go (analysis and planning), creating the framework (design or blueprint), and then build the structure (development) that will bridge the gap.

Yes, it is a Training /Learning Problem

When developing training solutions, base your decisions on the appropriate analysis techniques discussed in this chapter. The urgency of the problem might lead you to want to curtail all training and development techniques, however this should not be done as you could end up with a bigger or more expensive problem than what you started out with. Follow the model and adjust it as your instinct tells you to. Once you have a solution designed and implemented, evaluate it, and then fine-tune it. As Seth Godwin wrote:

Here's what we used to do:
Create —> Edit —> Launch
Here's what happens now:
Create —> Launch —> Edit —> Launch —> repeat


You should also understand the scope of the system or process. The scope of a system is the system's boundaries. For example, you are analyzing a production department and you notice that it takes many supplies to keep it operating, such as raw material to make the product, cleaning supplies, maintenance supplies, etc. Don't get led off into studying the inventory control department, unless you are sure it is the source of the problem. They are probably two entirely different systems or processes. Stay within one process at a time until you thoroughly understand it. A process is a planned series of actions that advances a material or procedure from one stage of completion to the next. The beginning of a process starts with a trigger that causes a specific action to be taken by a person, another process, or work group. The ending occurs when the results get passed on to another person, process, or work group.

Knowing the basics of a system enables you to better understand the tasks that lay ahead. Although you are interested in the system as a whole, so that you may understand its purpose and goals, the main emphasis of this initial research should be on the people within the system. You need to learn as much about the proposed learners (target population) as possible. The target population data is essential and most useful when making decisions about the proposed solution. You must understand the people issues! This is the biggest variable in a training program... and one of the hardest parts of a training program to account for. Statisticians can tell you every fact you want to know about the average person—but I dare you to find a real live average person. Listed below are some of the aspects you should be looking for:

Invite the client manager and supervisors to lunch or meet on a regular basis. Guide them into them discussing their problems and frustrations. Managers do have time for short encounters, and most of them actually like the opportunity to discuss their issues. However, they do not have the time or resources to tackle a training needs analysis project. That is the designer's job.

During the meeting, do not mention training or methods for solving performance problems. Your job is to guide, listen, and interpret. Once the lunch or meeting is over, reflect on what was said and use that information in your analysis. When it is time to brief them on your initial analysis project, show how the training department can help with some of their problems.

Next Steps

Go to the next section: Needs Assessment

Analysis Templates (contains several analysis templates)

Return to the Instructional Design Table of Contents


Bowsher, J. (1998). Revolutionizing Workforce Performance: A System Approach to Mastery. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Jones, B. (1993). The four domains affecting job performance. Internal Document, Delta Air Lines. Atlanta, GA. As found in, Mancuso, V. (1995). Moving from Theory to Practice: Integrating Human Factors into an Organization. Seattle WA: Annual Flight Safety Foundation Conference. Retrieved Aug 17, 2011 from

Rittel, H. (1972). On the planning crisis: systems analysis of the “first and second generation.” Bedriftsokonomen. No. 8, pp.390-396.

Trolley, E. (2006). Lies About Learning. Larry Israelite, ed. Baltimore, Maryland: ASTD.

Wick, C., Pollock, R., Jefferson, A., Flanagan, R. (2006). Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How to Turn Training and Development Into Business Results. San Francisco: Pfeiffer

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