Performance Readiness

Walk lightThe media today are filled with many stories about jobs. I am struck by the fact that there are few references to job performance. Sometimes the term productivity is broadly used to suggest optimal performance but with little detail. All jobs are made up of key tasks that must be performed to a specified standard. When these standards are met consistently; the organization, its customers and workers should prosper.

In the course of working with executives and managers, I found that key tasks are not clearly understood and consequently, performance standards are not well articulated. This becomes a major issue in job evaluations, performance management and employee engagement. When asked about recurring performance problems, Continue reading

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The Art of Collaboration

3d business men briefcaseMost plans for success call for collaboration among interested parties. Conversely, there are many examples of conflicts arising from the unwillingness or inability to collaborate. It seems we are programmed to look after our own self-interest regardless of the costs. The way most of us define “successful” communications is by being able to “get our message across”; which is essentially adversarial.

The range of situations is endless. Continue reading

A promise made is a debt unpaid

Stressed Over MoneyIn our work, our firm relies heavily upon clients and colleagues to contribute to achieving successful outcomes. Ideally, these contributions will meet agreed qualitative standards and be delivered on time. Unfortunately, there are more instances of unfulfilled promises than ones that are kept. Ironically, the ones in the greatest and most frequent deficits are service providers.

The promise “debtors” are often persons of high integrity who are fully capable of what is required. Certainly, when I am a “promise debtor”, I am filled with remorse and apologies. Nevertheless, the damage is done, especially when I become a bottleneck in the delivery of our famed “Supreme Service”. I know full well that reliability and responsiveness rank highest on the customer’s definition of quality but there are times that I miss.

In the “old days” of time and motion study, workers did mundane, repetitive work so it was easy to define productivity. Then, a good worker was someone who came to work every day, on time and responded promptly to the factory whistle that signalled times to start and finish. The assembly line kept moving. When I see awards given today for good attendance and long service, it represents a bygone era.

With the ratios of work becoming increasingly focused on the application of knowledge, there are more unpredictable elements in today’s work. Even tasks we might have performed frequently have nuances brought on by new information, which can delay our response times. Is it realistic to expect every promise to be kept? Where is the line drawn when we become unreliable and non-responsive?

We don’t expect perfect performance from professional athletes, doctors, politicians or any other group that earns our respect. We do get concerned if there is a high margin of error for pilots, surgeons, architects and others where public safety is involved and back this up with requirements for additional safeguards. Personal resilience, flexibility and a commitment to continuous learning have now become our assurance of authenticity.

How much of the decline in public trust can be attributed to an erosion of our commitment to bring our best game every time? I have seen many instances where the least productive employees provide orientation to new employees. They say them “Here’s how we do things around here; if you want to get along, you will work at the pace we set”. This always results in a de facto performance standard that is lower than that for organizational success.

What if we are now entering a period where there are no more employees and everyone was a freelancer? In truth, the demands of the marketplace are causing more functions to be outsourced and contracts are more specific about what is to be delivered and for how much.  With this trend, what does your “best game” entail?

Somehow the word “professional” comes to mind. Typically, we associate this term with fields that have prescribed educational and ethical criteria such as medicine, law etc. but it also serves to differentiate from amateurs.

Therefore, I submit that all of us should promise to be professionals in whatever we do. This means that we will strive to be reliable, responsive in our efforts to achieve goals that are mutually beneficial. We will recognize “stumbles” as learning opportunities for self-improvement and actively seek to improve.

God bless.

Trust me?

Finance Minister Chris Sinckler delivered the Budget and Estimates to an anxious nation wondering what drastic measures could be effectively applied to turn things around?

Key phrases such as “institute a sequence of managed structural adjustments and reforms”, “until global growth and recovery is evident, an 18-month programme of fiscal adjustments and specific growth initiatives will have to be implemented to pull our economy around, stabilize and grow the international reserves and create new jobs through major private and public investment” and finally, the theme is of BGDS 2013-2020 is “Adjustment, Reform, Recovery and Sustainability”. Continue reading

Just enough to get by

 

In these times of economic distress, we hear many calls for: “all hands on deck”, “shoulders to the wheel”, “bring your A game” and exhortations of that order. Everyone is being asked to dig deep and think of the common good. Why is this necessary? Continue reading

“You Really Oughta Wanna”

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This week I have heard the Prime Minister and the Leader of Government Business in the Senate emphasize the importance of increasing productivity. They exhorted members of the public service in particular, to “pull their weight” and “be punctual”.

MC910216326This certainly recognizes a perennial performance issue that is generally characterized as low productivity. Recent reports commissioned by NISE and the Barbados government and others conclude that: a large segment of the population don’t want a job and that a large percentage of workers in the public and private sector are disconnected from their jobs.  Consequently, the cost of doing business in Barbados is so high it has an adverse effect on our competitiveness.

The title of this article is taken from the subtitle of a book written in 1984 by Robert F. Mager and Peter Pipe, called “Analyzing Performance Problems”. It is still in print and still relevant. The point is that the laudable words of exhortation by government leaders cannot, by themselves, lead to improved performance. Continue reading