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The Adaptive Performance Map (from Satir Model) - Erik Kondo



The Adaptive Performance Map is my modified version of the Satir Model created by Virginia Satir. The chart describes different stages and possible pathways people take in terms of the performance of certain tasks that require the synthesis of knowledge and/or skill acquisition. It shows the relationship between the Performance of a task vs. the passage of Time.


A major take-away is that the performance level of some tasks does not improve over time along a steady line. Many complex tasks involve significant setbacks and dips in immediate performance that precede a significant rise in performance level. In fact, it is possible to categorize tasks into those which naturally improve over time through the normal course of “doing” (Task I), and those that require some type of significant modification event to improve their performance (Task II).


For example, when learning a new language, the more you engage in conversation, the better your language ability. In some respects, it just “happens”, particularly in childhood. Or imagine that you are given a tool for a job that works better than your old tool. You notice the improvement immediately and your resulting task performance level increases. For the Task I category, a modification leads to rapid positive feedback. You are confident that you are on the correct path throughout your journey.


On the hand, Task II is the category in which a modification will likely lead to am immediate drop in performance level before enabling new higher levels. In this case, performance has more or less has plateaued. There may be small increments of improvement over time, but no leaps or bounds. Think of a child riding a bicycle with training wheels. The more they ride, the better they get. They can ride further and faster. They can learn to make skid turns. But their performance is highly limited. Remove the training wheels, and now the child can’t even keep the bike upright. Their performance has drastically decreased. They are likely to become fearful and frustrated.


If the child is given proper support and instruction, it is likely that they will soon be riding on two wheels. They will be able to greatly exceed their previous limited performance level. Or the child may decide they want their training wheels to be put back on. Or they may also decide to quit bike riding entirely – to give up. The Task II category results in three possible pathways to choose from, whereas the Task I pathway is clear.


In many cases, Task II situations can be identified by the existence of the performance plateau. Task I situations are unlikely to level out since performance naturally improves over time. Imagine, you keep practicing something and you are not getting noticeable better at it, then it is likely that you are at a Task II plateau. You will need to try a modification that will likely worsen your performance before it gets better. Assuming you are aware of possible modifications, it has been your unwillingness to experience a drop in performance which has caused you to accept your current performance level.


Task I is like a fair weather friend. When feedback is positive, it is easy to continue the relationship. It is when things get difficult that you find out who your real friends are. Task II will test the strength of your resolve during the Fear and Frustration phase. It is at this stage that you are likely to make mistakes and try different methods to make the Modification work for you. It is here that those with weak commitment are likely to take the Revert and Quit or Give Up pathways. Those with conviction will stick it out until they reach the point of Initial Understanding. From here, feedback becomes positive as performance keeps improving along the Deeping Understanding pathway as it reaches to a new high.


In certain respects, the pathway of Deeping Understanding mirrors the smooth sailing of Task I. Upon closer examination, it can be seen that Task I and Task II can overlap and nest. There can be micro loops of Task I with a macro Task II pathway, and micro loops of Task II within a Task I pathway depending upon the time scale used.


The Adaptive Performance Map provides a perspective to the performance process that is difficult to see from within. When you are on a pathway, it is hard to view the “Big Picture”. You only see what was close behind you and what is coming right up. You don’t see the forest for the trees. The Adaptive Performance Map provides you the opportunity to step back and reflect upon the entire process of performance so you can literally think your way to higher performance through a deeper understanding of the many aspects involved.


Application of the Adaptive Performance Map


Once you have a basic understanding of the Adaptive Performance Map (APM), the next step is to apply it to a particular task that you want to improve. In order to do so, you will need to define the different aspects of the APM in terms of the task in real world terms.


Level I Performance – Describe your current level of performance. Level II Performance (Goal) – Describe the level of performance you desire to achieve.

Modification – What is the change that you will undertake?

Fear – How will the Modification likely create anxiety/apprehension during the execution of the task?

Frustration – How will the Modification likely create irritation/annoyance during the execution of the task?

Initial Understanding – What will be the signs/signals of starting to improve?

Deeper Understanding – What will the feedback be that confirms that you are on the pathway to your goal?


It is important to define these aspects on the APM so know where you are at all times. Task I do not require a map. You can “see” your destination and observe your progress (from positive feedback) as you get closer over time. On the other hand, Task II feels like you are going in the wrong direction. You have to trust your APM. Therefore, you need to provide your map with rich details to serve as guideposts to confirm your position.

It is important to realize that an unknown or incorrect modification can send you in the wrong direction. In this case, the change could lead to a permanent rather than temporary decrease in performance. This is the reason why the APM is a map of a known territory. While the territory is new to you, it has been previously explored by others. The Modification has been shown to be effective in the past. The mechanism that the Modification relies upon is known. In this respect, the Modification is not an experiment or innovation which might produce unexpected results overall. What is unknown is the exact results the Modification will produce for you.


Given the importance of implementing the correct Modification, it is imperative that the Modification is based on sound principles that apply to both the physical world and the science of human performance. The Modification works, but at the time of implementation, you don’t know how to make it work. And the Modification changes something you previously relied upon thus your performance suffers.


A bicycle is designed to ride on two wheels. The Modification of removing training wheels enables the known physics of bike riding to apply, but only IF you know how to ride a bike. If you depend upon training wheels to pedal a bike, then the loss of training wheels will decrease your mobility performance, until you develop the required balancing skill. After which, your performance will dramatically increase. The generalized APM of bicycle riding is known. What is unknown is exactly how this APM applies to any individual thereby creating a customized APM.


The APM is a tool that improves the relative performance of everyday people as opposed to the absolute performance of elite performers. Everyday people are typically stalled in their performance level relative to what they could do. On the other hand, elite performers may have already achieved their peak performance level. The APM helps to bridge the gap between regular people and elite performers. It enables the ordinary to become extraordinary - for those who are willing to make the effort and endure the Fear and Frustration stage.