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Providing Feedback on Performance Measures ...

Recommended Reading - " Designing Feedback: Performance Measures for Continuous Improvement"
by Carl G. Thor, Crisp Publications, Inc., 1998.

Designing Feedback is a short, straightforward book on the who, how, what, and why of feedback systems. Dr. Carl Thor has put together a concise plan for the design, development, and use of feedback in a variety of work settings.


Who: The person who can directly use feedback to improve results should be the first to receive it. For example, statistical information on machine #6 should go directly to the operator. Information on deteriorating corporate public image should go to the Public Relations Director.

Usually, the most important "player" in any feedback system is the front-line worker. Real-time feedback to a worker can result in immediate adjustments to work leading to better results.

As important as operational feedback is to the front-line worker, the scope of feedback received by individuals should change as you move up within an organization. Someone always needs to have a view of the entire operation. For example, the supervisor of the employee on machine #6 should receive information on all of the machines. What if machine #7 is having similar problems?


How: Giving appropriate and effective feedback to individuals is an art. Supervisors should gear both positive and negative feedback to fit the individual employee's personality. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when giving feedback is that it should always be given in a constructive manner with the focus on how the employee can improve his or her performance in the future.

Remember that the reward and recognition system provides another form of feedback. If promotions and bonuses consistently seem to go to those responsible for long-term successes, the organization is providing official feedback to employees that this is the type of behavior it values and which employees should try to model. If, on the other hand, rewards seem to go to "today's hero" based on short-term results, that's where employees will focus their efforts and commitment to a long-term strategic plan could be compromised.

According to Thor,

"it is better for the organization to have one set of books. If what shows up in the mainstream measurement system also appears to be the basis for recognition and reward, focus is obtained and success is much more likely."


What: After discussing the who and the how of feedback, a large portion of Thor's text is devoted to different types of measures, the "what" of feedback. What an organization chooses to measure should provide the basis of its feedback. Thor mentions several types of performance measures, including two that fit easily into a Government setting: customer satisfaction and process quality. First, some common customer satisfaction measures are quality of service, timeliness, completeness, and cycle time. The second measure, process quality, can be very useful in a Government setting as much of the work is process-oriented. The key process measurement is waste. Waste measures can include the waiting time for an answer, time taken to correct mistakes, and time wasted due to unplanned downtime. All of these measures are trackable and quantifiable.


Why: Remember, what gets measured gets done. If measures provide feedback on an organization's progress toward meeting its goals, employees will be able to adjust their actions to better meet those goals. An organization's strategic plan with its established goals can help managers make clear decisions on what to measure and how to measure it and may also provide guidance on how to design group and individual feedback for employees on progress toward meeting those goals.

This book is an excellent source for ideas on measurement and feedback. Thor has taken a complex subject and developed an easy-to-follow plan for success.



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