What’s the coolest device you’ve ever used in a classroom? Snap Circuit Junior (SC-100)!

young_man_hold_sign_17158Back in the early 2000s, a Human Performance colleague of mine told me that he had heard about someone using these devices in a nuclear training classroom environment, but not exactly how they were being put to use. I was an Instrument Technician at the time and was asked to put together a Procedure Use and Adherence Human Performance course for the Radiation Protection department at the nuclear power plant where I was in-house since 1992. I had them order 20 of them and put together “nuclear” procedures for building circuits. This gave me a procedure and a device with components and specific locations, and if performed improperly, would result in a non-working circuit. This started the next wave of thinking when it came to using these in a professional classroom.

The brilliant minds behind this toy/training aid come from “Elenco,” an amalgamation of ELectronic ENgineering COmpany. You can find these devices straight from their site here for $34.95, or you can buy them through this site as an affiliate for $21 each delivered anywhere in the continental US, no matter how many you purchase!!!! I have been working with one of their lead salesmen for years now, and I am very proud to offer these training aids through this site and at this unbeatable price. If you’d like to order for outside the continental US, it may cost a little more per unit.

Ask any trainer about their reaction who has used one of these in the classroom to engage workers through Procedure Use and Adherence, Observation Training, or custom classes like one I won a best practice award from the Association for Talent Development called “Managing Known Distractions.” People always ask me where to get these and then tell me stories about how they loved it in class and went straight out to Toys R Us to pick one up for between 29.99 US dollars. These devices make for the perfect portable risk-based training work for any dynamic learning activity human performance message you want to deliver to your workforce or leadership team. (They’re great for kids, too)

Email HumanPerformanceTools@gmail.com to set up an order. We are only selling the SC-100 unit at this time, as this is what is used in the classroom environment. We can take any major credit card for a 3% fee on the total bill through Square, or can take payments through PayPal. No hidden fees. When you send me an email, I will call you as soon as possible and we can start the order.

Who can help my organization improve human performance?

training sign

While there are many independent contractors that do this type of work, there is a training consultant ready to help your organization’s needs for error management and event reduction right now.

More than words can explain, I appreciate it when someone makes event-free performance their livelihood and become a full-time practitioner. There aren’t a lot of us, and bluntly, not everyone can do this.  For quite some time many high-reliability organizations would rotate people in and out of this human performance coordinator/training role because of the stresses and competency level this role in an organization demands. Many people with “Human Performance” in their title end up feeling like an army of one and getting burnt out, especially when they’re telling management things nobody wants to hear or discuss. My buddy Tony told me that as a practitioner, your goal is to influence the small population of Managers, who will in-turn influence the supervisors, who will then influence the workforce. One person cannot do it all, but they sure can have a substantial positive or negative affect on culture. Sometimes you need someone from the outside willing to help your organization align and teaching people within it how to support the mission.

If your organization is going through setbacks, or wants to boost performance, or you are tired of errors turning into events and you simply don’t know what to do about it, feel encouraged that there is someone out there ready to help. Does this keep you up at night because you care more than the average leadership team member? That’s the difference… bringing work and problems home with you because you care about the people who work with you, and the impact an event may have on them and their families. In a world of unknowns it’s nice to have a team to support you with finding your organization’s weaknesses from an outside perspective.

Enter HumanPerformanceTools and a catalog of different training modules ready to teach and train your leadership and workforce including basic level observation and human performance fundamentals through advanced competencies and managing distractions. This company can also assist with a training needs analysis and design brand new customized training depending on your company’s specific needs or problems. This training will be designed and developed by an INPO Certified instructor who has created ATD and ISPI award-winning NERC approved, human performance improvement training. The training will be given by an engaging platform instructor in a classroom, keeping the class focused and having fun in a dynamic learning environment.

Trust. How do you earn and keep trust within your organization? HumanPerformanceTools can help with that area, too. Facilitating management sessions and really learning and sharing what happened to trust in your organization and how to make it strong again. This is an area where all companies need to pay attention.

Remember that HumanPerformanceTools can work right along side of your existing program, or offer a completely new direction from the ground up. When hiring a consultant you should consider two things, competency and trust, and with HumanPerformanceTools you’ll have a large amount of both.

Please consider a call 860-917-5768 or email HumanPerformanceTools@gmail.com to discuss your needs.


New posts are coming soon!!!! Stay tuned – ramping the podcast back up, too!

Should it be called a Human Performance “Program,” or something else?

carpenter_question_17103If you haven’t been to a Human Performance conference lately, you may not understand why this is a topic I wanted to weigh in on, and I can see your point. Please bear with the subject as I try to address something that people newer to Human Performance seem to be struggling with – the language of this field is very important for being consistent.  I hope you agree, that “yes,” this subject matters. I really did not expect this to be a primary topic at this point in the life-cycle of bringing Human Performance Improvement to Utilities and beyond. I’ve been to three Human Performance Conferences this year, NATF, NERC, and WECC for anyone keeping track. This subject keeps coming up and it’s disappointing that this seems to be such a distraction and concern. Should we call it a “program” or not? Let’s review the upside and the downside.

The Upside

It IS a program. It needs a roll out starting point and thoughtful change management applied to strategically do properly. Stages have been developed, including initial training and upper management buy-in up front.

The Downside

The biggest concern seems to be the fear that if it is a program, that it is temporary and will be construed as “Flavor of the Week.” Ever since it has been implemented in nuclear, the last stage of a human performance “Program” is to check and adjust and still being vigilant to moving forward. There is no end, and the research shows that.

Corrective Action “Programs”

To report conditions, whether they are significant or of low importance, many organizations with high-reliability have a Corrective Action PROGRAM. It’s almost always called that using “Program” language. So what actually defines the basis for what makes up a program?

What does Google say about a “Program?”

  1. 1.
    a planned series of future events, items, or performances.
    “a weekly program of films”

Something to keep in mind that Corrective Action Programs are part of the Human Performance overall umbrella, even though some nuclear power plants put them in two houses under Organizational Effectiveness.

Final Suggestions

Some practitioners like calling this a:

(Ranked in my order of preference)

  1. Human Performance Program
  2. Human Performance Initiative
  3. Human Performance Methodology
  4. Human Performance Process
  5. Human Performance Approach
  6. Human Performance Language
  7. Human Performance Effort

If it matters

My job title at one of the Nuclear power plants I worked at was Human Performance and Work Observation PROGRAM Owner, and it even said on my pay check “Program Owner.”
Yes. Call it a program and start thinking about indicators to establish a baseline, so you can eventually tell when your program is working. That’s what you should be focusing on before changes start and you don’t know where you started.

In case you were wondering:

flavor of the month

“Suddenly but temporarily popular”: This rap artist is pop music’s current flavor of the month.
Etymology: based on the custom of selling a different special flavor of ice cream (frozen sweetfood) every month

Will I be a better presenter if I lost weight?

scale_with_tape_measureFor starters, I want(ed) to lose weight to be a healthier Dad. A lot of people have asked me how I got into my weight loss journey, and after losing 80 pounds in 4 months in 2014, I certainly was feeling better about myself, especially how I fit in an airplane seat. The true test with any diet is keeping it off. I have had quite a year of ups and downs, but now in October 2015, I’ve been able to keep 60 of it off since starting on Feb 27, 2014, and it’s time to get into the groove again! So, the following is quite a different post than the normal performance improvement you’re used to seeing here. I’m proud of my methodology, and how well it worked for me. Now you won’t need to ask me in a few months how I did it, because here is the story of me doing it (again)… Instead, ask me how amazing I feel!

This post is a personal story… I’d ask you to skip this one if you’re feeling particularly critical

One of my best friends is a professional prestidigitator, or as you may know the more common term, “magician,” and I’ve learned a lot of platform and marketing skills from his lessons learned and wisdom. We have such a unique relationship with a foundation of performance improvement, whether it’s him as a magician, or me as a professional DJ or trainer, we are always critiquing and attempting to make each other better. So, you may find me at magic shows and conventions with this in mind.  How can I be a better performer? I went to a Magic LIVE conference in Las Vegas a few years ago, and an assistant to one of the world’s most famous magicians addressed an answer to this question in a completely surprising way: Lose weight. I really didn’t expect to hear that, and I wasn’t the only one in the room. I’ve been classified as “overweight” since 1993 and it has constantly been something me and many other professionals work on and stress about. His angle was somewhat brutal and not widely accepted, because frankly, it was mean. You can’t fault his premise, though: If you’re going to be a performer and get people to trust you, people want to believe you have discipline and are the master of your own body. Also, in show business they have preconceived notions and an idea of what this type of performer should look like, and because of this notion, being overweight is not a desirable condition: it’s unhealthy. If you’ve been a long-time reader, can you even believe I’m posting about this? This topic actually overlaps in such a strange way with other definitions of “Human Performance” that have seemingly nothing to do with organizational improvement. This notion/shock stuck with me, and even though I’m currently half-way through my weight loss journey, I do have some tips to share that have worked for me. I’ve recently been told by a new business contact that I am an organization of one, and the same things that apply in large organizations can trickle into our own lives. Time for some more organizational improvement.

My Methodology

Every time I plateaued, I would change up something… this works… and I’m no doctor or dietician – so take all of this post as it is… just an idea… it’s up to you to figure out what works for you and what is best… this combination works for me… and it works well… AND requires no extra exercise… but to tone up, you should be figuring out a gym plan, too… that’s another of my upcoming changes…

Here is the comprehensive strategy… this is my strategy for losing weight… you should also have a strategy for maintaining after you’ve lost… this allows you to know that when you get to your goal you can stay there and not bounce back up… Note that a maintaining diet is different than the losing diet, and will be offset positively by the addition of more exercise and fruits. Once again, I am not a doctor or nutritionist, and you should consult yours before trying a diet plan.

Here we…. dramatic pause…go:

#1: Do not start any diet until you’ve come to grips with the most important concept and truth: food is fuel. If you think it’s for fun, or when convenient, or you enjoy an awesome pasta now and then, make sure that comes later when you’re maintaining, food is fuel for losing weight. Many American customs are centered around food: back yard BBQs, holidays, parties, game night, tailgating, hanging out, etc. It can be a difficult road to stay on unless you have a plan. I had a close friend who lost a lot of weight and his mantra was how much he hated himself for the way he looked. This is not a positive body image, and we need to be better at always having one, no matter what societal pressures befall us.

#2: Pay attention to calories – I had a Doctor that said weight loss is all math. If you burn more than you take in, it means you will lose weight… This can be your only strategy, but I like to ramp this up… a lot… who has time to wait for the pounds to come off?

#3: No Carbs (I know everyone knows this, but it’s important)… reduce your carbs and crank up your protein – Yay… good ol’ Atkins… I know we’re not into rocket science nutrition here, but remember, I was adding these strategies together, not using only one!!!

#4: I ate all of my meals with the highest calorie content in the first, generally a meat-filled omelet. I’ve heard 5 meals with the same amount of food as 3 meals works even better if you can evenly parse them out through the day. I ate my three meals, even when I wasn’t that hungry.

#5: No fruits! Yes, they’re good for us and taste awesome, but they have natural sugars and carbs that aren’t good for a losing plan, but better suited for a maintaining one.

#6: No starches! You may have anticipated this, but even if it’s a veggie, it helped my weight come off faster by cutting all starches out. They will come back when my diet shifts to a maintaining one, but not during my losing phase.

#7: 8-hour window: I created an 8-hour time block where I ate my meals every day, and wasn’t allowed to waiver from it. My time was from 11AM to 7PM… no food before or after that window… I read that this gives the body 16 hours of down time to recover from what you’ve been feeding it, and to do this each day and be consistent.

#8: I drank 3 things: Water, Tea, and Coffee… how amazing is it that there are so many varieties of these three choices? Nothing else… however, I could drink things outside of the 8-hour window.

#9: More water: I drank about a gallon of it a day. This is one of the hardest things for me to do.

#10: More sleep: getting 6-8 hours of sleep per night to allow your body and mind time to heal.

#11: Always have no-carb snacks on hand for times when you are super hungry and can’t wait – I planned for this, and I was set up for success.

#12: Mozzarella cheese: If you are like me, pizza is a favorite staple, and we luck out here… just because we can’t have bread doesn’t mean we can’t have some no carb pepperoni and cheese snacks.

#13: Accountability partner: This is an area I fell short in. This journey is meant to be shared with a friend or loved one that cares enough to help you stay on track.

#14: Hit the gym and get a trainer to help develop a customized workout plan: I also need to do this with a strategy, not just randomly picking up something and putting it down.

#15: Another strategy I have heard would probably work – on a non-gym day, walk 10 miles, or never go to the gym and walk 50-70 miles per week.

#16: Avoid bullies and negative people.

#17: Reduce stress… ANY way possible… This is the hardest piece of my journey, but usually can be the most fun. Geocaching with my kids is one of my favorite stress relievers (as long as we find the cache! haha). Attempting to build tools into each day/week/month to keep calm is a very important part of managing my journey. The more stress I can manage away, the more ready I’ll be to lose weight. This all begins and ends with getting your head right.

Results may vary

What I like most about my weight loss journey are the metrics, effort, discipline, and accountability. This does resemble what we teach as practitioners when trying to diagnose an organization’s issues, and come up with measureable solutions to prove what we did mattered.

After employing some of these tips, I would add another after another to shake things up at each plateau, and yes, I weighed myself every single day, but to feel better about my progress, I would only write down when I had lost something – it helped to keep me motivated and see how long I’ve been plateauing and that it was time to add a new strategy. Having a scale that measures tenths will make you feel more accomplished, too.

I want to add that I am an asthmatic and struggle deeply with cardio and no matter how many times I’ve tried, I cannot run more than about 50 yards without getting a debilitating asthma attack. I’m prayerful that when I get down to a more reasonable weight, I may be able to improve that number. I’ve always wanted to be a runner and active in running sports, but it has not worked out, yet. I had a few conversations with gym-rats (affectionately used term) whom have told me that “abs are made (revealed) in the kitchen” – whew, THAT was good news!

I may only ever do one more post on this, since this topic is not directly related to my normal source material, but I really wanted to share what I’ve been doing because so many friends and colleagues have asked. Now you know. I’d love to know how your personal journey is going at humanperformancetools@gmail.com, and if you have any tips I can add or edit to my personal plan above, please share.

No links, no comedic videos, and no white papers or scholarly journals this time… just sharing some of my personal experience because some of the blog readers here have asked for it. Will I be a better presenter because of losing weight? I suppose I’ll be a better everything if I feel better about me.

New post coming soon!

When should I use the “5-Whys” causal analysis?


Causal Analysis has many tools for getting to the “root” cause of a problem. This subject has many ways to attack it with the “5-Whys” being a generically accepted rudimentary process of quickly rooting out the originating driver(s) for an issue. There can be issues with multiple degrees of significance or “levels” of how deep an investigation must go to find personal and organizational issues, sometimes referred to as Basic Low Level (BLLs), Apparent Cause Evaluations (ACEs), or even higher order, “Root Causes.” Note the capital “R.” A Root Cause is extremely significant, formal, and should require a lot of teamwork: multiple investigators, multiple reviewers, and multiple techniques to discover what happened, causal factors, and then to develop what some people call “Corrective Actions to Prevent Recurrence” (CAPRs – pronounced as “capers“). In my view (some in the field are not always aligned on this) CAPRs should be created to prevent this same type event, or other potential similar events from occurring in the future…. These are the highest order of corrective actions. In a similar, but a little different way, corrective actions for ACEs should prevent the same type of event from happening again, and lowest level investigations are designed for ensuring that problem is fixed in a timely fashion and that it is coded properly for trending. Root Causes and Apparent Causes have corrective actions that are typically reviewed and agreed upon by a committee based on their organizational cost and resource impact.

Note that different Corrective Action programs call the different levels of investigation different terms, but most widely accepted are the most serious “Root Cause” and the next level “Apparent Cause.” Levels are given, so you do not put all of your resources (time, money, and personnel) equally on every event.


The 5 why’s (also seen as “5Ys”) typically refers to the practice of asking, five times, why the failure has occurred in order to get to the root cause of the problem. This process is not to be mistaken as a formalized way of discovering difficult issues surrounding an event investigation.

To give this concept more context, let’s liken this process to a simplified training needs analysis (TNA). The training question could be: Does James need training to do process#1? Well, if I hold a gun to his head, can he perform the function (Is it just a case of stubborn will)? If he can perform the basic function, maybe he just needs a procedure, or some practice, but not a training class… and so on… simple, basic, and high-level… that’s what the 5-Why’s is – simple, basic, and high level – it could truly reveal something you were not aware of before, but note that it is the least powerful causal analysis technique in the Root Cause Toolbox: Event and Causal Factor Charting, Barrier Analysis, Fishbone, Timeline, Change Analysis, Substitution Analysis… and the list goes on and gets more in depth. I relate the TNA “gun to head” philosophy in the same way I do the 5Ys – it is a short and simple way to get you in the ballpark for discovering unknowns.

Of course, there can be more than one cause to a problem as well. In an organizational context, most Root Cause analysis is carried out by a team of persons related to the problem with a qualified investigator.

Where are the links?

I did not include links to websites or scholarly articles on this subject – I prefer not to think of it as a professional causal methodology for experts to use, but one that is accessible to anyone looking at an investigation. Check out the videos and see how it is used, and for a good laugh related to this material, click the picture above.


Toyota’s “Go and See” process with fishbone diagram

The 5 Whys

Gemba Glossary: The 5 Why

5 Whys

The 5 Whys Problem-solving Method