Human Performance Technology from Taylor's Scientific Management to Gilbert's Behavior Engineering Model

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A central aim of human performance technology (HPT) practice is to produce desirable results that are valuable to both the organization and the organization's employees by implementing effective and efficient interventions. To increase the probability of producing desirable results, it is important to utilize both systematic and systemic processes (Stolovitch & Keeps, 1999). Simply put, a systematic approach refers to constructing and following a step-by-step plan, similar to climbing a ladder one step at a time or following a road map, until reaching the desirable performance level. A systemic approach refers to considering all the necessary components that are mutually influential on one another by identifying often complex linkages among them. This approach is compared to a spider web in which strands are interconnected (Rothwell, 1995). When an area of a web is broken, it will not function well as a web, and without a fix it could eventually collapse.

The importance of using systematic and systemic approaches and focusing on results-oriented and value-added practices has been emphasized in various HPT-related theories and models, such as Frederick Taylor’s Scientific Management (1911/1998), Thomas Gilbert’s Behavior Engineering Model (1978), Joe Harless' Front-end Analysis (1973), and Kaufman's Organizational Elements Model (1988). Although Frederick Taylor and Thomas Gilbert worked many years apart, there are astounding similarities between their work in terms of the focus on systematically analyzing and systemically engineering human behavior to produce desirable performance outcomes.

This article provides an overview of the contributions of Frederick Taylor and Thomas Gilbert to the development of the major performance improvement principles and discusses several similarities and differences between their work.