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A recent forum discussion I was involved in centred around how you should engage people with measures and the effect of incentives, on the culture of performance.

In my experience there are several aspects that alter the culture of performance, of which incentives (at the normal levels in organisations) is one of the least influential. One of the more dominant is:

Punishments, penalties and the culture of failure:

People will distort measures, or resort to dysfunctional behaviour, to avoid poor ones if there perceive (rightly or not) that they will be punished for them (and whether the punishments are implicit or explicit). It also applies when the messenger gets punished. When the need/urge/peer pressure/management pressure to avoid these penalties supersedes their common sense, you get the sort of silly situations that the NHS had with patients waiting in ambulances to stop the watch starting on 4 hour waiting times.

They will hide information, distort it, be economical with it, or report it differently to avoid this.

A (not THE only) way around this is to retrain the behaviour and address the underlying belief about failure and punishment. If the staff realise that they can learn from the information and it is a failure to learn that will be seen as poor performance you are starting to change the game. Again this relies in explicit messages and actions from management.

Again it comes back to local utility and understanding its value at that level, so people can make informed, sensible judgement and decisions with the information (not necessarily measures) they have at their disposal. They can also refine their judgement as they learn from the situation.

In other words, all of this is about the culture, messages and context that surrounds the discussions about measures. Understanding what is the current norm. HOW you invite people into the discussions, the baggage they bring, the context they have learnt their existing cultural norms from and the extent to which you can signal changes.

For this reason I have no “favourite way” to engage teams in measure discussions. Only questions I ask, and signs I look for, that tell me what the situation might be like. In many cases it can be excellent – in others, more problematic, and I apply different tools in different situations.

Phil Jones
Excitant Ltd