Critical Incident Technique

  • Ronald L. Jacobs


Many human resource development (HRD) professionals, not to mention many managers, may wonder how it might be possible to analyze work that is mostly cognitive in nature. That is, work that expressly requires thinking as the major part of completing the task. Can work analysis actually be used to document what occurs inside your mind? For many, work analysis techniques are believed to be better suited for work that is more straightforward and observable in nature, simply because that is the way most techniques have been used in the past. But as has been pointed out in this book, work has undergone much change, becoming more complex and requiring greater demands on individuals doing the work. In response, work analysis techniques should be available to respond to those changes. This chapter focuses on the critical incident technique, a technique that was first introduced in the 1950s by John C. Flanagan, a well-known and respected researcher and consultant in the field of industrial psychology. Now the critical incident technique seems even more important as a means to document the behaviors required to perform certain complex, knowledge-based, units of work.


  1. Jacobs, R. L. (1986). Use of the critical incident technique to analyze the interpersonal skill requirements of supervisors. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 23(2), 56–61.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Illinois at Urbana ChampaignChampaignUSA

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