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Planning and Measurement in Your Organization of the Future

Planning and Measurement in Your Organization of the Future

by D. Scott Sink, Ph.D., and Thomas C. Tuttle, Ph.D.; Industrial Engineering and Management Press, 1989

We are reviewing a book on measurement the was written in 1989, because the timeless and time-tested concepts, principles, and examples presented by Sink and Tuttle provide guidance for measuring organizational and group performance that can be applied to improve employee performance management processes.

Effective measurement is fundamental to establishing the performance elements and standards used to plan, monitor, and appraise performance and to designing credible incentive and recognition programs. In particular, employee performance management coordinators who have been asked how to measure group performance will find help here.

The Role of Measurement

The authors describe measurement as the linchpin for performance management and an integral part of each step of the performance improvement planning process. In addition to establishing conventions for the use of measurement terms, they provide operational definitions of seven performance criteria: effectiveness, efficiency, quality, productivity, quality of work life, innovation, and budget-ability. The authors observe:

"Measurement, when done properly, (i.e., linked to a purpose or goal that managers and employees have accepted) can drive and motivate performance improvement."

Split Roles of Performance Appraisal

Amid the valuable information provided on measurement, the authors include a discussion on performance appraisal. They define performance appraisal as a type of measurement system with two roles: first, to judge and assign value to performance to link it to reward systems (a control oriented measurement system); and second, to assess, develop, and improve performance. They recommend that to be successful at improving overall performance, organizations will need to design appraisal programs that balance these two roles. Sink and Tuttle's view of measurement (and appraisal) is that, while control is an important and valid role for measurement, it is overemphasized at the expense of measurement systems designed and developed to support improvement.

Measurement is often seen as threatening because it has been used to "beat up" on people. Using measures to improve performance and build a commonly accepted vision regarding where and how performance needs to be improved will help overcome the current fear of measurement and performance appraisal.

To emphasize performance improvement and minimize the focus on control, the authors suggest separating the performance appraisal interview into two distinct sessions. They observe that "the unwillingness of most managers to separate the performance appraisal process into two separate sessions is one of the most critical road blocks to the success of this process in American organizations. We try to make one measurement system satisfy two uniquely different requirements [control vs. improvement] and that hasn't and won't work."

Guiding Principles

In addition to concepts, models, and frameworks, the authors provide a set of 16 guiding principles for designing measurement systems. Principles most applicable to employee performance management include:

  • Acceptance of the measurement process is essential to its success as a performance improvement tool.
  • Measure what's important, not what's easy to measure.
  • One must create visibility and ownership for the resulting measurement systems in order to ensure effective longer term use.

Measurement cannot be used to drive performance improvement; the driver must be an overall strategy and the performance improvement plan.

  • What is needed is not a standard set of measurements created by experts and imposed on organizations, but rather a method by which organizations can create performance measurement systems suited to their own inevitably special needs and circumstances.
  • The greater the participation in the process of creating a performance measurement system, the greater the resulting performance change, and the greater the ease of implementation of future changes based upon performance measurement.
  • A performance measurement system must not appear to those involved as simply a passing fad.
  • To be useful, a system must be credible to those whose behaviors are being assessed, and not seen as gamed.
  • Boundaries of the organizational unit to be measured must be clearly defined.

Sink and Tuttle's book may already be well known in your agency among the staff and program managers who have been tasked with implementing the Government Performance and Results Act of 1990 (GPRA). Their accessible message and practical guidance can also be valuable to human resource management specialists and any manager or employee trying to define and assess performance. Beyond that, using this book to establish a shared language and approach among line, staff, and HR functions could go far to integrate performance improvement efforts.

In summary, the authors provide a comprehensive method for designing measurement systems whose principles and techniques can be applied to performance management process design.

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