Performance Measures and Learning LO12224

John Constantine (RAINBIRD@TRAIL.COM)
Mon, 27 Jan 1997 09:28:54 -0800

Replying to LO12204 --

Slamet Hendry questions...

"Sometimes, a few of these measures conflict, e.g. improving A may hinder
other effort at improving B. This is not surprising, since we live in a
"systemic" world. But when A and B are deemed crucial for the
organization, what do we do?

Do we prioritize such conflicting measures? B is more important than A."

Haven't we all seen these types of situations before? If A and B and
independent variables, neither is more important than the other; taken in
context, both are crucial for the organization, are often prioritized as
if one were indeed more important than the other, and produce results
such as the following:
"Prescription A and Prescription B were tried for two weeks each. The
patient felt better after the two weeks with A, and better after ONE week
with B."
Therefore...B is better than A, correct? No.

The above simply points out the difficulties with using inaccurate data,
insufficient data, or unrelated data to resolve problems in organizations
and elsewhere. The scenario Slamet describes gives great support to those
efforts which are designed at seeing the WHOLE picture, rather than just
this piece or that piece. Seeing the whole as it operates can point out
why it APPEARS that improving A hinders improving B. It can also point out
what role each (A and B) plays in the operation of the whole. But it
cannot, I don't believe, tell us all we need to know about the
organization's functioning.

Government bureaucracy is often guilty of duplicative, repetitive tasks
operating in different programs and different departments for a number of
reasons. Maintaining one's classification and salary range are but two.
Reducing the likelihood of layoffs or RIF's is another. Maintaining the
status quo is a third. I'm sure there are scores more, but the point is
that information needs to be used for the purpose intended, which is tied
to the "best operation" of the organization, and not for controlling
people. Yet I'm afraid that is what is usually done, the data used by a
supervisory level rather than by the front line unit to make improvements
in the processes for which they are responsible.

Performance appraisal systems still go on using subjective views of
"personnel metrics", without understanding the limitatiions and the
dangers inherent in them, and the potential damage they will inflict on
the organization.

Can a true learning organization not become aware of these and related
components? Does the lack of understanding indicate a particular level of
that awareness? And, can the system ITSELF act in its own best interests
by studying these components and viewing them as a system? Or must that
come from somewhere else entirely?

I'm reminded of a story of a company which operated on several floors of a
NY office building. On the third floor, reports were generated each week
and each month, compiled and put in a bin for transfer to the fourth
floor. This happened week after week, year after year.

One day an employee looked at the reports as they were being wheeled out
for transfer to the fourth floor. She thought to follow the cart and ask
if the reports were summarized by the upper echelon, since she was an
industrious person and wanted to make improvements in her department. She
hopped on the elevator with the reports, got off at the fourth floor, and
noticed that the entire floor was empty but for one person at a desk far
in the rear of the huge area. She went down to ask the person where the
reports were summarized and was told that they were not summarized at all,
just put into file cabinets along the walls. When asked if the person at
the desk knew what was in the reports, she was told no, only that he was
responsible for making sure they were neatly filed and the cabinets

Maybe a little food for thought?


Regards, John Constantine Rainbird Management Consulting PO Box 23554 Santa Fe, NM 87502 "Dealing in Essentials"

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