Improvement in individual, group, or organizational performance cannot occur unless there is some way of getting performance feedback. Feedback is having the outcomes of work communicated to the employee, work group, or company. For an individual employee, performance measures create a link between their own behavior and the organization's goals. For the organization or its work unit's performance measurement is the link between decisions and organizational goals.
It has been said that before you can improve something, you have to be able to measure it, which implies that what you want to improve can somehow be quantified. Additionally, it has also been said that improvement in performance can result just from measuring it. Whether or not this is true, measurement is the first step in improvement. But while measuring is the process of quantification, its effect is to stimulate positive action. Managers should be aware that almost all measures have negative consequences if they are used incorrectly or in the wrong situation. Managers have to study the environmental conditions and analyze these potential negative consequences before adopting performance measures.
Performance measures can be grouped into two basic types: those that relate to results (outputs or outcomes such as competitiveness or financial performance) and those that focus on the determinants of the results (inputs such as quality, flexibility, resource utilization, and innovation). This suggests that performance measurement frameworks can be built around the concepts of results and determinants.
Measures of performance of a business usually embrace five fundamental, but interlinking areas:
Within the operations area, standard individual performance measures could be productivity measures, quality measures, inventory measures, lead-time measures, preventive maintenance, performance to schedule, and utilization. Specific measures could include:
While financial measures of performance are often used to gauge organizational performance, some firms have experienced negative consequences from relying solely on these measures. Traditional financial measures are better at measuring the consequences of yesterday's actions than at projecting tomorrow's performance. Therefore, it is better that managers not rely on one set of measures to provide a clear performance target. Many firms still rely on measures of cost and efficiency, when at times such indicators as time, quality, and service would be more appropriate measures. To be effective, performance yardsticks should continuously evolve in order to properly assess performance and focus resources on continuous improvement and motivating personnel. In order to incorporate various types of performance measures some firm's develop performance measurement frameworks. These frameworks appear in the literature and vary from Kaplan and Norton's balanced scorecard to Fitzgerald's framework of results and determinants.
Kaplan and Norton's balanced scorecard approach operates from the perspective that more than financial data is needed to measure performance and that nonfinancial data should be included to adequately assess performance. They suggest that any performance measurement framework should allow managers to ask the following questions:
However, the balanced scorecard is flawed as it does not allow for one of the most important questions of all:
• What are our competitors doing? (the competitor perspective)
Keegan proposed a similar, but lesser known, performance measurement framework titled the "performance matrix." The performance matrix is more flexible, as it is able to integrate different dimensions of performance, and employs generic terms such as internal, external, cost, and noncost.
A number of suggestions have been offered by various experts on the subject of designing performance measurement systems. Below is a list of suggestions derived from a number of these experts. Some of these apply to all measures and some apply to a limited number of a firm's measures. A firm's performance measures should:
Other recommendations for organizations that are developing performance measures include:
Wisner and Fawcett provide a nine-step process for developing a performance measurement system:
Finally, it is important that the performance measurement systems used by managers be continually reviewed and revised as the environment and economy changes. Failure to make the necessary modifications can inhibit the ability of the organization to be an effective and efficient global competitor.
R. Anthony Inman
Revised by Marcia Simmering
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