Standards Of Performance

Written by Joe Driscoll

November 27, 2009

Much has been written about the effective executive. The rewards are for doing the right things, effectiveness, as compared with merely doing things right, efficiency. Does this same wisdom apply to all workers? You bet it does!

It is little wonder that performance, measured by productivity, sales, customer service or quality, falls short of expectations when those responsible for achieving results are not focused on doing the right things. A company’s success will largely depend on how well it can utilize its human resources. A high priority of all managers must be to develop systems that will focus their human resources on doing the right things.

Much lip service is given to the process of goal setting and performance appraisal. But all too often this becomes a hurried activity that is carried out in a subjective, perfunctory manner which yields little benefit and can often result in demoralizing confrontations. While it is often used for less redeeming purposes, it should not be overlooked that the only true purpose of a performance appraisal is to IMPROVE PERFORMANCE.

In order to develop an effective system for the improvement of performance, you must begin with the development of meaningful performance standards. These standards will cause attention to be focused on “doing the right things” and will establish an objective basis for appraisal. This process will improve performance in your business.

How do you get the process started? You begin by thinking through the major elements of each job. Items such as the responsibilities, duties, desired results, influencing circumstances and available options.

A standard of performance is a statement of conditions that will exist when a job has been done well. Good standards of performance share the common characteristics of being relevant, reliable, objective and contributing to the accomplishment of the organizations overall goals.

Effective standards of performance should be developed jointly by an employee and their boss. They should be written to include unambiguous statements of the results required by the employee’s activities. They should include acceptable means of measuring the desired results as to quality, quantity, time and cost.

Let’s examine the development of standards of performance for a position of quality assurance manager. In summary, the major responsibilities of this position are to minimize the the instances in which sub standard products are shipped to customers, to develop practices that will minimize internal waste and to originate programs that will further the company wide objective to efficiently deliver superior quality products.

Look at each one of the major job elements independently. First analyze the level of quality of the products that are being shipped to the customers. Review the company’s historical performance in this area. For example, if customer returns have averaged seven per month, ranging from a low of three to a high of fifteen, examine the cause of the returns to determine if closer scrutiny by the quality program can narrow that range and lower that average.

After jointly reviewing the historical performance, analyzing the causes and discussing corrective actions for improved performance, together establish the standard of performance for this portion of the job. It might read something like this.

“Satisfactory performance has been achieved when monthly customer rejections are not greater than seven per month. Superior performance has been achieved when rejections are three or less per month. Customer rejections in excess of ten in any one month are unacceptable.”

Similar standards would then be developed for each major element of the position of quality assurance manager. This process will provide a foundation upon which your employees will begin to concentrate on “doing the right things”. You will have the basis for conducting meaningful performance appraisals that will accomplish the objective of improving performance.

One of the greatest benefits of writing standards of performance is the communication that takes place during the process. The focusing of your employee’s attention on these performance issues and the focusing of your attention on the employee’s position will pay a substantial dividend.

It will be helpful to remember to concentrate on developing a limited number (three or four) of important and well written standards than generating a long list that may get neglected. The objective, after all, is to get people to focus on “doing the right things”.

Your first efforts at writing standards of performance will be more cumbersome than you think and results may not be entirely satisfactory. However, your first efforts will be better than having nothing at all and you will improve with each succeeding attempt.

Because it’s your business, make sure that your people are doing “the right stuff”.

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