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Critical thinking,coaching and performance management


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Critical thinking,coaching and performance management

  1. 1. 1HINKING SKILLS- THE MISSING LINK TO IMPROVE PERFORMANCE - A dr Renalde HuysamenUFS2012INTRODUCTIONHigher education institutions are facing new challenges, requiring high levels of individual performance, quality and accountability. Institutions are accordingly attempting to develop andimplement performance management systems to drive quality and ensure optimum individual performance. It might be tempting to use your performance management system to impressyour top management— who traditionally focus on measuring everything and valuing nothing. But, most members of staff are put off by metrics scorecards and the accompanying threat ofpunishment or even the vague promise of performance rewards. In stark contrast to this traditional approach to performance management, this paper will present the case of how linemanagers of mostly illiterate service level workers improved performance while developing critical thinking skills through on - the - job coaching at the University of the Free State (UFS), inSouth Africa. This improvement in performance is the result of a unique performance management programme designed for service level workers of the UFS. A rationale for and overview ofthe programme, with its focus on critical thinking skills, will be provided and in particular the on - the - job coaching part of the programme (process and outcomes) will be highlighted.LITERATURE REVIEW1. THINKING SKILLSSocrates set the agenda for the tradition of critical thinking by reflectively questioning common beliefs and explanations carefully distinguishing those beliefs that are reasonable and logicalfrom those which lack adequate evidence or rational foundation. There are many ways to define the concept of critical thinking. Halonen (1995:75) is of the opinion that the term is"overworked and under analyzed". During the 8th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Education Reform in the USA, Scriven and Paul gave a definition of the nationalCouncil for Excellence in Critical thinking. Concepts that were included in an operational definition of critical thinking were "conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and/orevaluating information gathered from or generated by, observation, experience reflection, reasoning or communication as a guide to belief and action" (Paul and Elder 2009). It is essentialthat we learn to think critically, as we need to think our way to knowledge (Paul 2009). Paul (1990:xv) stresses that "thought is the key to knowledge". Thinking can not be taken out ofknowledge. This challenge implies that we have to reason ourselves out of our present thinking and into thinking that is more or less novel to us if we are to gain genuine knowledge. In theprocess, we need others to probe and question our thinking, but that they will present their thinking in a way that stimulates our thinking. We distort the nature of knowledge and theconditions under which it is acquired if we think knowledge is something gathered by one person and given to others in the form of a collection of sentences to remember. If this is the casewe deny others intellectual growth. Applying critical thinking skills can help us to -re-examine and reconstruct own beliefs in order to be more rational, self-aware, honest and fair in ouraction (Paul 2009).Education should encourage intellectual development, yet classroom instruction according to Paul (1990:xv), often falls short of this goal, because it deteriorates into a "typically didactic,one-dimensional, and indifferent, when not antiethical, to reason" Learning becomes often dependant on memorisation and recall and students come up with "canned answers", because thisis what is expected from them in the name of so-called critical thinking. Too often educators do not encourage students to question what they see, hear or read, as educators when they were
  2. 2. 2students did not question what was presented to them for belief (Paul 1990; Mumm and Kirsting 1997;Coleman et al 2002; Elder and Paul 2010b). Similarly, managers in organisationsseldom isolate critical thinking skills as a specific skill in the work place. Most hope or assume that subordinates will develop these skills as a by-product of previous learning. However,teaching critical thinking skills in the work place can help employees to question firstly, what they know and understand about their own work responsibilities and secondly, helping them toquestion their own actions in the work place. Critical thinking will also help employees in all areas of their life, examining the claims, evidence, assumptions, conclusions, implications andconsequences of ideas, issues and actions. Skills in critical thinking are essential for employees as their internal and external customers need to be protected from unhelpful, unsubstantiatedand harmful practices. Customers need to be assured that service-delivery is based on the best evidence, knowledge and practices in a given work related situation. Employees are expectedto be problem solvers, but managers seldom isolate critical thinking as a specific skill in the work place. Developing the ability to think critically enhance performance. Some problemsexperienced in industry where management and subordinates omit to apply critical thinking are: wrong decisions made symptoms of problems are addresses instead of root causes being eliminated action plans based on the wrong decisions are implemented mistrust emerges between managers and shop floor workers (Huysamen 1997).Unless a "thinking environment" is created in which employees are empowered to fully understand their respective tasks, be aware of the required standards of these tasks, know why it isrequired of them and be able to solve problems and make decisions the implementation of a performance management system will not ensure that services will be delivered effectively.Employees need to think critically about their responsibilities, if not, they will not accept responsibility and accountability for service delivery.The national Council for Excellence in Critical thinking (Paul 2000) states that to develop the mind with respect to critical thinking requires extensive practice and long term cultivation. In theworking situation a very effective way to practice critical thinking is through coaching on a daily basis. Through the process of coaching, task related know-how can thus be transferred andcognitive capacity built.2 THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THINKING AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS-COACHING.The most important mechanisms for the transfer of knowledge are the human skills of communication and interpersonal relationships (Wigg, 1997:54). Evans (1990:172) says that oralcommunication is divided into two basic components - the what and the how. The what or content of an oral message requires skill in marshalling thoughts and ideas in a structured andsequenced order that listeners can easily follow and absorb. the how or tone of the message - the way of communicating it by intonation, expression, emphasis and register - serve to helpand promote its successful delivery. thus successful oral communication is a happy blend of message organisation and delivery skills. Evans (1990:178) also believes that face-to-facecommunication is the lifeblood of the organisation and that there is no acceptable substitute for people talking and reacting in close, direct contact.Paul (2002) argues that communication in short is always a transaction between at least two logics. In reading there is the logic of the thinking of the author and the logic of the thinking ofthe reader. The critical reader or listener construct (and so translates) the logic of the writer or speaker into the logic of the readers or listeners thinking and experience. this entails disciplinedintellectual work. The end result is a new creation; the senders thinking for the first time now exists within the recipients mind. Allen (1997) states that smart thinking can also improveyour capacity to set your communication in context. It alerts you to the importance of: the audience and their expectations of what the coach is doing the informal requirements upon the coach to communicate in a certain way in a situation
  3. 3. 3 the coaches own assumptions and biases, which will need to be considered and explored through communicationAllen explains that the purposes of reasoning are what arguments and explanations seek to achieve. Arguments predicts future events, establishes what is or what was the case, or show whya certain action should occur.The implication for management is that they could influence the thinking of subordinates through face- to –face two-way communication. This type of communication could be used topredict future events, establish current job related requirements and managers could explain why things are required in a certain way.3. TRANSFER OF TASK RELATED KNOW- HOW.Meehan (1988:6) states that most individuals can be coached to a certain level of performance. Coaching can be used to transfer task relate know-how. Clur (1998:2) argues that the brainthinks in patterns of thought established through experience. When the brain recognises a thought pattern, it knows what to expect. For example, on seeing a green traffic light ahead, adriver knows the light will change form green, to orange, to red. The brains pattern-making ability enables people to learn from experience and make meaning of incomplete information.However, it has many disadvantages. Thinking is influenced by emotions. In times of change and when placed in stressful situations, people develop mental blocks that inhibit effectivecritical thinking and problem solving. People think differently and interpret information differently. On seeing a red traffic light one driver may slow down to avoid having an accident. Anotherdriver may increase speed, in anticipation that the light will soon change to green (Clur 1999:2). similarly, tacit knowledge, experience and the critical thinking utilised influence employeebehaviour. Rave and Prasser (1996) argue that tacit knowledge, by its very nature, is very difficult to transfer or communicate. Clur (1999:3) argues that it is important to distinguish betweenthese categories. For example, it is difficult to transfer knowledge acquired through years of practice in performing manual tasks that involve eye-hand co-ordination. In contrast to Raven andPrasser (1996), Clur (1999:3) argues that the transfer of task related know-how gained through job related experience can be facilitated, if the knowledge to be transferred is delineated andthere is a clear understanding of the thinking steps followed in the process.It is clear from these authors that coaching could influence performance positively and even tacit knowledge could be transferred. Individual Performance Management systems aretraditionally used to plan performance, employees agree upon objectives (for example, improved housekeeping), they agree upon specific standards and what evidence they would providewhen being assessed. If coaching techniques could be provided to managers that will cultivate critical thinking skills of subordinates and direct their thinking about what to think about thenclearly some changes in behaviour to improve productivity could take place. Specific coaching techniques could then be developed to: establish a standard in the mind of job related tasks required (Huysamen 1997, Clur 1999) cultivating the standards of critical thinking like significance, clarity, precision, logic (Paul and Elder 2001a) see a personal advantage in meeting requirements (cultivating breadth as a standard of critical thinking as defined by Paul and Elder 2001a) foresee and identify potential problems (Lipe and Beasly 2004 and cultivating deductive and inductive and analogical reasoning as defined by Pesut and Herman 1999:237, as well as fairness relevance as defined by Paul and Elder 2001a) visualise the impact on the process if requirements or standards are not met (cultivating if-then-thinking as defined by Pesut and Herman 1999); and take initiative to resolve problems and avoid mistakes (cultivating the following standards of critical thinking -clarity, accuracy, relevance, evidence as defined by Paul and Elder 2001a) raise vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely (Paul and Elder 2001b :1) gather and assess relevant information (Paul and Elder 2001b: 1)
  4. 4. 4 come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria (Paul and Elder 2001b:1) communicate effectively (Paul 2002, Wiig 1997, Evans 1990, Clur 1999, Huysamen 1997,Allen 1997) with others to figure out solutions to complex problems (Paul and Elder 2001b:1) while sorting out unnecessary data (cultivating accuracy as a standard of critical thinking (Paul and elder 2001a); and ensure that parts of a situation is consciously reviewed (cultivating logic as a standard of thinking as defined by Paul and Elder 2001a).Of particular interest in the South African situation is coaching is more difficult when the participants are from different cultures and people differ in their ability to cope with cognitivecomplexity. In such situations the manager must accept different communication norms, seek to understand others, and verify that coaching was successful.4.THE REALTIONSHIP BETWEEN PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT, COACHING AND THINKING SKILLSPerformance management (PM) is an important HRM process, which provides the basis for improving and developing performance. It can be defined as a “systematic process for improvingorganisational performance by developing the performance of individuals and teams” (Armstrong, 2009, 618). The process should establish a shared understanding about what is to beachieved and how to achieve it through managing people in such a way that it increases the probability of achieving success (Armstrong ibid). According to Bourne (2002), there is a dearth ofresearch-based studies on the implementation of performance management systems. There is a void in the literature on the relationship between PM and thinking skills.5. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKThis paper focuses on the relationship between coaching, critical thinking and individual performance management systems within organisations. It requires a framework that aligns theseconcepts to support service delivery.
  5. 5. 56. PROCEDUREThe project is implemented in 5 phases.Before the implementation of phase 1 it is necessary to plan the project. This is done by involving a pilot group to test the training material used in phase 1. All stakeholders involved in theproject participate in the design of the material, namely, management, unions, facilitators, the pilot group and Human Resources personnel.Phase 1: Involves a one day workshop for supervisors on critical thinking and coaching with the aim to draw up a training programme for on the job coaching and designing performance plansover a period of 4 weeks. This theoretical training of supervisors ensures that supervisors understand the cognitive development process and are equipped to provide on the job coaching.The supervisors are trained on the coaching techniques. They are then able to utilise the following techniques to transfer know how. Technique for explaining requirements Technique for feedback/action planning meetings Technique for daily routine
  6. 6. 6Coaching on the job is then incorporated as a key performance area for supervisors.Phase 2: Involves the writing of the training material for the on the job coaching. Facilitators and supervisors co-design the performance plans of subordinates; focussing on ‘tasks’ and‘standards’ for each employee.Phase 3: Involves the on the job coaching over a period of 2 weeks. During this coaching supervisors are assisted by two facilitators. During the coaching work related problems are solved anddecisions made to improve service delivery. This phase is characterised by active discussions between supervisors and subordinates. Where people have homogenous tasks, coaching takesplace in small teams. After the training the performance plans of subordinates are finalised and changes are where necessary.Phase 4: Involves the formal signing of the performance plans by both parties. After six months celebration sessions are hold.Phase 5: Involves training supervisors on how to utilise the Information Technology System.7. FINDINGSThe process and performance plan documentation were acceptable:The coaching was hard work but we now have standardised requirements. The requirements for performance is now clearly communicated. The process helped us to communicate toemployees that we all have a responsibility to work to meet the objectives of the UFSDue to cultural differences, men do not easily accept women as line managers, they do not want to be told by a woman what to do. The process and specifically the coaching assisted us tocommunicate requirements in such a way that the men accepted the requirements. The coaching made the contracting part of performance management much easier. People now understandwhy things should be done in a particular way and they accepted responsibility. Thank you for empowering us, no more fears.When people signed their performance plans it seemed that they not only understood what they are signing and why, but that they felt that they had the opportunity to have an input in theirdaily tasks.There is clarity that PM is taken seriously and I really enjoyed this training sessionsThe fact that somebody from HR (external party) came in to help made the process more credible, it seems that the people understood that the supervisor had back-up.Staff signed the performance plans individually without problems. Previously we listed tasks without the coaching and people refused calling in the union, after this training they understoodthe what and the why and signed the plans without any negative feedback.What was important was the fact that the facilitator /consultant used their language and translated the issues to me. The fact that he came externally gave the impression that the process istrustworthy.The process gave me an opportunity to explain what the requirements for bonuses are.
  7. 7. 7It is clear from these findings that the process assisted to establish a standard in the mind of job related tasks required (Huysamen 1997, Clur 1999) and cultivate the standards of criticalthinking like significance, clarity, precision, logic (Paul and Elder 2001a). Subordinates and supervisors came to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions (performance plans) while testing theirplanning against relevant criteria (Paul and Elder 2001b:1)The coaching sessions were informative.The techniques helped me to explain myself better.Over and above explaining the requirements the coaching also helped me to understand the responsibilities of my subordinates as I am rather new in this role. It was important to get afacilitator to explain to people in their own language.The people felt that the UFS cares about them.We went through the tasks together and they helped me jot down all the tasks as well as the activities for each task. We re- negotiated their tasks during the coaching, raise vital questionsand problems, formulating them clearly and preciselyThe process helped me to schedule time to communicate with my subordinates. Subordinates want to know in detail what is required of them, for me it seemed to too much detail, but forthem it was necessary.The fact that we did the coaching in teams had the advantage that people could also understand each others work loads. The coaching helped people to better understand each others needs.One person reported that one of our Professors did not give the labs key and therefore she cant clean if access not given. As her supervisor I asked the Professor to open the office. Theproblem is now solved, the Professor now understand what is the implication if he does not provide the key and the cleaner understands why the office was locked. (The Professor said it wasdue to the fact that he was scared to open office because of exam papers lying around). This helped me as the supervisor because I do not have the time to check their day to day problems.People do not ask for help or know how to solve problems by themselves. One example was the daily cleaning of the vacuum cleaner (where they have to clean the bag). The coaching helpedthe person to understand what could go wrong if they do not do it.We previously gave the messengers certain fixed times to fetch documents. Unfortunately it has happened that documents had to be fetched in between these scheduled times and when weasked the person to do that she did not want to do it because she thought she has to do it only at the scheduled times. The coaching helped the person to understand why she needs to pick updocuments even if it is not on the scheduled times and she is much more motivated after the training when requested to do fetch documents.I now know how to communicate requirements in much more detail. Previously I communicated in concepts and people did not fully understand what is required of them.The coaching provided people with the opportunity to explain requirements and raise vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely (Paul and Elder 2001b :1) andgather and assess relevant information (Paul and Elder 2001b: 1). Supervisors and subordinates could come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria(Paul and Elder 2001b:1). The coaching provided an opportunity for more effective two-way communication (Paul 2002, Wiig 1997, Evans 1990, Clur 1999, Huysamen 1997,Allen 1997) withothers to figure out solutions to complex problems (Paul and Elder 2001b:1) while sorting out unnecessary data (cultivating accuracy as a standard of critical thinking (Paul and elder 2001a).
  8. 8. 8Planning performanceWe compiled the tasks with the help of the facilitators and then read it back to people to ensure understanding. even people who have been working here for long time still make mistakes, forexample, a cleaner not putting a water bottle into the fridge. This process improved performance because she realised how important it is for us to have water. We were able to negotiatetasks. We had the opportunity to explain how important their tasks are and made people feel part of the team again. It helped us to get rapport with the people because sometimes they think thetasks as not meaningful.They understand why there is a change in requirements. It was for me (supervisor) quite frustrating if they say to me in Professors Ss time we used to do it like this... Now they understandand accept why they have to do it in a new way. .If there is a change in requirements people now ask when they should do it, they will give an input and provide reasons for when they can do it and when and why they cannot complete a taskin a particular way. They now negotiate tasks and they do it without complaining. We forget how important it is to negotiate tasks every year, even if the tasks are the same as the previousyear. One subordinate told me that at least now she knows for the first time that she is doing it right.The workers were very positive when they signed the performance plans. They trusted the documents because we have spent so much time on the coaching of tasks.Signing the plans is easy if we do the coaching before the time and negotiate the tasks and the standards through the training before the time. People trusted the document in itself as well asthe supervisors intentions. People trust PM because of the coaching done before the time. The coaching lead to negotiations as well as a better understanding of the daily work for everybody.We did it as a group and this also worked well because they could help to remind each other on specific tasks that they do.It is clear that when people visualise the impact on the process if requirements or standards are not met (cultivating if-then-thinking as defined by Pesut and Herman 1999) they are muchmore motivated. They see a personal advantage in meeting requirements (cultivating breadth as a standard of critical thinking as defined by Paul and Elder 2001a).Planning performancethrough critical thinking skills and coaching ensure that parts of a situation is consciously reviewed (cultivating logic as a standard of thinking as defined by Paul and Elder 2001a).8. CONCLUSIONThere is a void in the literature on the relationship between critical thinking skills, coaching and performance management. If a strategy to assist people to plan their performance is not put inplace, chances are that performance management would always be resisted by members of staff and the unions. In this case the challenges were: identifying the critical thinking skills neededfor performance planning, coaching the skills and utilising the tasks and standards as the basis for coaching material. These challenges was translated into a five phase project. A detaileddescription of the findings of the effectiveness of the process regarding the process as a whole, the coaching and the planning of performance was provided. After analysing theimplementation processes used for the implementation of a performance management systems for service level workers, the final conclusion which could be made is that the application ofcritical thinking skills through a process of coaching contributed to the fact that the staff accepted the new performance management system. The framework proved to be effective and thatit assisted supervisors to implement PM successfully. Until changes are firmly embedded in the culture, the performance management system is fragile and subject to regression. The impact
  9. 9. 9 of the work environment on managing performance cannot be ignored and dialogues should take place between staff and line managers as part of the performance cycle. An area for further research could be to test the strategic framework in another context. PERFORMANCE PLAN TEMPLATE: SERVICE WORKERSGENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PERFORMANCE NAME OF STAFF MEMBER: STAFF NO: Excellent Performance: This job performance is outstanding in every aspect of the work as seen in the performance plan. Performance According to standard: This job performance does not noticeably deviate from the tasks and standards as seen in the performance plan. FACULTY / DEPT. /UNIT: DATE: Poor Performance: This job performance is low and noticeably deviates from the tasks and standards as seen in the performance plan. CURRENT POSITION (JOB TITLE): YEARS IN CURRENT POSITION:
  10. 10. 10 NAME OF HEAD/ LINE MANAGER: REVIEW PERIOD: Tasks/ Activities Standards Evaluation (Mark with ) Excellent Performance Performance According to standard Poor Performance Excellent Performance Performance According to standard Poor Performance Excellent Performance Performance According to standard Poor PerformanceAny comments: …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………...... ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..Signature supervisor: ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..Signature employee: ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
  11. 11. 11ReferencesArmstrong, M. (2009). Handbook of Performance Management: An evidence-based guide to delivering high performance. London: Kogan Page Publishers.Allen, M. (1997). Skills for critical understanding and writing. Melbourne: Oxford University Press:1-8,155Bourne, M., Neely, A., Platts, K. and Mills, J. 2002. The success and failure of performance measurement initiatives. Perceptions of participating managers. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 22(11): 1288-1310. thClur, B. (1999). Managing the acquisition and transfer of know-how. Paper delivered at the 11 World Productivity conference, Scotland:2-3Coleman, H., Rogers, G and King, J. (2002). Using portfolios to stimulate critical thinking in social work education. Social Work Education, 21(5): 583-595.Elder, L and Paul, R. (2010b). Critical thinking Development: A Stage Theory with implications for Instruction. Dillon Beach, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking. ndEvans, D.W. People, communication and Organisations. London: Pitman, 2 edition: 172-178Halonen, J. (1985). Demystifying critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology,22(1):75-81.Huysamen, R. (1997). Developing Cognitive Capacity of Management. Stellenbosch, IACE Conference program jointly presented by the University of Stellenbosch, Department of EducationalPsychology and Specialised Education and the International Association for Cognitive Education, 13-14.Lipe, S.K., Beasly, S. (2004). Critical thinking in Nursing: A Cognitive skills workbook. Philadelphia PA, Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins: 4-5.Meehan, E. J.1988. The thinking game. New jersey: Chatham House Publishers:3Mumm, A.M. and Kersting, R.C. (1997). Teaching critical thinking in social work practice. Journal of Social Work Education, 33(1):75 – 84Paul, R. (2009). Critical thinking: where to begin. Santa Rosa, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking.Paul, R. and Edler, L. (2009).The Role of Socratic Questioning in Thinking, Teaching and Learning. Dillon Beach, CA: foundation for Critical Thinking. [Online] Retrieved on 30 November 2010 at 1.Paul, R. and Edler, L. (2001a). Mini-Guide: How to study and learn. Dillon Beach, CA: Foundation for Crticial thinking.Paul, R. and Edler, L. (2001b). Minituare guide to critical thinking:concepts and tools. Dillon Beach, CA: Foundation for Crticial thinking.
  12. 12. 12Paul, R (1990). Introduction in Paul, R and edited by Binker, A.J.A. Critical Thinking: What Every Person Needs to Survive in A Rapidly changing World. Rohnert park,CA: Center for Critical andMoral Critique.Pesut, D.J., Herman, J (1999). Clinical reasoning: The art and science and creative thinking. Albany: Delmar.Raven, A., Prasser,S.G. Information Technology support for the creation and transfer of tacit knowledge in organisations. [Online] Retrieved on 30 November 2010 at, E.H., Powell, K. 1997. Visual tools for critical thinking: London, England: Bloomsbury:54