Performance measure question?

Subject: Performance measure question?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 09:53:48 -0500

John Fleming reports: <<The department in question has performance measures
they are expected to meet. For example, one of the perfromance measures is
"Percentage of Successful Completion of Adult Offender Probation
Dispositons" My task is to come up with a number, say 65%, using available
research tools. Management can then take that number and decide of the
department is on
target or not. I'm wrestling with a way to describe the process of coming up
with the 65%.>>

Let's start with a warning: First, be wary about performance metrics, since
the people being monitored are usually smart enough to deliver precisely
what you ask them to deliver--even if that's not what you or the clients
really need to have delivered. Second, try to come up with an approach to
performance measurement that helps you identify problems that lead to
failures (e.g., rather than one figure, create separate figures for each
step in the completion process) so you can work on those problems. End
result: the processes that work well will continue working well, and the
ones that don't can be quickly detected (they have the lowest completion
rates) and fixed.

Now, the suggestion: You'll need to work directly with the people who will
be assessing the priority to concretely define their criteria for a
successful completion:
- Good criteria: 1. Paperwork completed within 24 hours of final meeting. 2.
Paperwork approved by manager with minor or no revision. 3. Offender
successfully given probation.
- Bad criteria: Manager satisfied that job is complete. Fewer problems than

The first set of criteria are objectively measurable (provided that you
define "minor" revision adequately) and relate directly to whether the job
was done right; the second set is entirely subjective and does not related
in any obvious way to the completion of the job. Aim for the former type of
criteria. Obviously, this isn't always as easy as I've suggested, but if you
can spend some time with the managers discussing examples of what they
consider good and bad, you can probably figure out how they make decisions
even when those decisions are relatively subjective.

To describe this on your resume, don't look for a single buzzword: describe
the activity (e.g., worked with senior managers to define the criteria for
operational success; developed a process for measuring the operation with
respect to these criteria and seeking opportunities for improvement). Tweak
the wording, of course... that's just a quick and dirty first draft. If
you're applying for a techwhirler job, you might want to tie this to
audience and needs analysis.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"When ideas fail, words come in very handy."--Goethe

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