Performance Needs Analysis

Diagnose - Performance Needs Analysis

I use this Performance Needs Analysis process for free when working with my clients to diagnose their needs.

I also offer a 90 minute virtual workshop for HR and L&D Teams on how they can use this process internally. I charge £350 for this, and can work with teams anywhere in the world. This small investment can help your team dramatically increase your value in the organisation.

One of the biggest problems with training in the corporate world is that it is frequently used for the wrong reasons. When training is used for the wrong reasons we end up with learners who don’t want to learn anything, and training that has little to no impact on their daily work and the business. This leads to a massive waste of money and time, and really hurts training’s reputation.

I love training, so much so that I wrote a book about it! And I believe strongly in the value of training when it’s used for the RIGHT reasons. So I care a great deal about improving the reputation of training and ensuring more people get value out of the training they do.

My way of ensuring I run training for the right reasons and provide value for learners is by going through a thorough Performance Needs Analysis process with all of my clients. This is a 5 step process that is easy to follow and helps us uncover all of the key actions required to drive performance. I describe this process in detail down below.

If you work in L&D or HR, you will find this process extremely valuable when working with your stakeholders. If you would like to learn more then email me at

  1. The Problem


Stakeholders typically approach us with a topic in mind. They’ve identified a problem, and the best solution they can think of is training in that particular topic.

But unless they are an L&D Professional, these stakeholders may have jumped to the wrong conclusions about the solution to their problem. Training may not be the best solution, there may be simpler, even more effective solutions out there. It’s up to us, the L&D Professionals, to find the best solution for them.

The first thing we need to do is get away from the TOPIC and focus on the PROBLEM. Topics are not solutions.

So at the very start of a performance consultation process it is important to go back to the problem that led to the training request in the first place. This helps people let go of their assumptions that training is definitely the solution, and means we get information that helps us decide what the best solution will be.

2. The Goal

PERFORMANCE is the process of progressing towards a meaningful goal.

Performance is different to learning.

When we focus on learning, we focus on topics, following our curiosity, and seeing what we might discover. There is nothing wrong with this. But training for  learning is a luxury expense. When the training is not clearly linked to business goals, it is one of the first things that gets cut when budgets are tight.

When we focus on performance, we focus on goals, diagnosing the gap between the current state and the desired state, and designing a solution to bridge that gap. Training for performance is a necessity. When the training is clearly linked to business goals, there will always be a budget for it, even when budgets are tight.

In the first step of the Performance Needs Analysis, we got our stakeholders away from topics and focused on problems. But not every problem is a REAL problem. Many problems are just headaches. A REAL problem is something that stops the business from achieving its goals.

When we summarise what goals are important to the business right now, we can look back on the problems we listed and ask “Which of these problems are stopping us from achieving our business goals?”. We may start with a list of 12 problems, but by asking this question discover only 4 of them are REAL problems.

Now, we can focus on solving REAL problems, and helping people and the organisation progress towards meaningful goals.

3. Solutions


Now we’re focused on the REAL problems that are holding us back from MEANINGFUL goals. Now, we are focused on PERFORMANCE. Now, it’s time to solve these problems.

During this phase, we want to dream. We want ideal solutions. We want PERFECT solutions.

Of course, this will be far from what we can realistically do. But we will get realistic in the next two steps.

We can’t be realistic and idealistic at the same time. We can only do one or the other at any one time. Before we get realistic, we want to first let go of all our blinders, all our assumptions and all our limiting beliefs.

Here we want to be asking questions like; “If you had everything you needed to achieve this goal, what would you be doing right now to achieve it?”

We want expansive thinking, open mindedness and creativity here.

And we want options. Lots of options. Get a team together to brainstorm. When people are out of ideas, keep asking “Anything else?”. Only move on when you’ve asked this 3 times and they still can’t think of anything else.

4. Barriers

Now we get realistic.

We look at the perfect solutions we brainstormed, and we prioritise them in terms of Minimum Effort and Maximum Impact.

Then we ask; “Why aren’t we doing this right now?”.

As we explore the reasons, we identify the barriers.

A performance solution is NEVER a 100% solution. It’s ALWAYS about making progress. In large organisations with complex webs of interdependent functions, processes and teams, conditions are always changing. Solve one problem, and another one will emerge. Work towards one goal, and the strategy will suddenly change.

But so long as an organisation is ALWAYS progressing towards the right goals, it will ALWAYS be getting better.

So now we want to focus on making progress. What barriers are getting in the way of our progress? Some of these barriers will be big, others will be small. Some will be complex, others will be simple. Some will be obvious, others will be unclear. Our goal in this step is to raise everyone’s awareness as to what’s REALLY getting in the way.

5. Action Steps

We’ve identified the barriers. Now it’s time to act to either remove, or at least reduce those barriers.

Actions could be anything. Call someone. Book something. Plan something.

Some actions could be done immediately, some in the next day, some in the next week.

Some can be done by one person, others require several people, others require coordinating whole teams.

By this stage, it’s pretty obvious if “Design Training” is the best solution or not. This process has allowed us to let go of our assumptions of what the best solution is, get rational and objective, and find the most PRACTICAL PERFORMANCE FOCUSED Solutions.

If you’d like coaching or training on how to use this then email me at

Free Tool – Is Training the Right Solution?

Download this free tool to help you decide if training is the best solution, and what simpler, cheaper alternatives you could use instead.

Is Training the Right Solution?