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The University of Missouri-Columbia

Exploring the Performance Pyramid

Your Guide:   Dr. John Wedman, Professor and Director
School of Information Science & Learning Technologies
University of Missouri - Columbia


Improving performance can be as challenging as unlocking the secrets of the ancient pyramids. If you only had a blueprint of the pyramid, you might have a chance.

While archeologists are busy exploring the ancient pyramids, professionals across the country are using the Performance Pyramid as a blueprint to guide their performance improvement efforts. Consisting of a simple model and set of data-gathering tools, the Performance Pyramid unlocks the secrets of good performance and guides the needs assessment process.

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Pyramid Model

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The Pyramid is based on the belief that, in order to accomplish something of significance, three factors - Vision, Resources, and Support System - must be in place and aligned with each other. The Support System includes six major components and recognizes the influence of Organizational Culture on performance.

The Pyramid was created in the mid 1990's to help my partner and me understand why some training programs we designed were not producing the desired results. Interviews with key people shed light on a host of non-training issues ranging from "a screwed up rewards system" to "bad tools" and "inconsistent expectations". We looked to the performance improvement literature for help, but found most of the literature was either too complicated to share with customers, or too limited in scope to help deal with customer's performance problems. So we started to build the Pyramid as a model for assessing needs and improving performance.

Our first version of the Pyramid placed Knowledge & Skills at the top because we thought the other five elements (i.e., Expectations and Feedback, Motivation and Self Concept, etc) must be in place before training was implemented. A project with a pharmaceutical company quickly challenged that assumption, and led us to realize the key was to make sure the three major factors (vision, resources, support system) were aligned with each other, and every element worked together to produce the desired results.

Over the next few years we used the Pyramid to guide our needs assessment and performance improvement efforts across many organizations. But at the same time, it was becoming increasingly obvious our needs assessments were overlooking something, something that was influencing our performance improvement interventions. That something was Organizational Culture. As University of Missouri President Elson Floyd said, "...culture eats strategy every day."

While the Performance Pyramid continues to evolve, five principles have past the test of time:

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Last Update: April, 2008