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Management And Training

Improving Performance Management

September 09, 2011
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Have you heard the story about success and the failure?

Someone once said, "A failure is a product or service delivered by a committee with no commitment to improve on the design."

Meeting the customer''s expectation means improving the design to deliver what is asked for — that is what real success is all about.

Today, I want to share the things I learned from applying the concepts of performance management over the last 39-plus years of measuring service quality.

First, I learned that measuring to improve performance really does make a difference in business success.

Companies who live by an ongoing system of process improvement pay employees better, have higher sales revenue, accumulate more assets and create more wealth than companies that do not keep their performance measurement and management commitment.

Complete Commitment

Measuring is the first indication that you are serious about keeping your word, your commitment for performance.

But, if your reputation is going to be reflected in the product you produce, you will want to be very clear that performance improvement is the mechanism that gets you there.

Occasionally, someone is laughing at the customer''s expense.

Have you heard this riddle: "How can a company make money selling their products so cheaply?"

The answer: They make their profits by what they don''t do and don''t deliver; they make their profits by not keeping their commitments.

When I first read that idea, I laughed. Then it occurred to me that it wasn''t so funny.

As a consumer, it is disappointing to think about the broken gadgets I''ve trashed after a few uses because it just did not last or perform as I expected.

There''s got to be something shameful in all that — not to mention unprofitable in the long term.

I want to raise this question about our facility services industry: "If you can''t afford to keep your promise the first time around, who is going to trust you the next time?"

Performance is not fixing a broken service or the broken promise; it''s doing everything possible to prevent the breakdown in the first place.

I want to define the performance idea as a relationship between four key elements.

To deliver performance you must:

  • Define
  • Measure
  • Manage
  • Improve.
These are the four imperatives needed to really achieve a quality result.

No one, or two, activities can achieve extraordinary performance alone.

Successful performance is like a four-legged table — always.

You cannot define performance "in general."

There is no such specification unless you are willing to accept failure.

A specification, requirement or even a simple request must be detailed enough to assure that everyone understands and delivers what is promised.

But, what kind of detail?

Maybe you think that performance can be found in terms like "guaranteed."

No matter how vaguely we may define the term "performance," customers may not think that way.

They often define it specifically and subjectively: To one person, performance may mean, "A shiny floor."

To another, it means, "It doesn''t show dust."

To some, it means, "I''m paying less than anyone else in the market."

To still another, it means, "It will impress my customers."

Someone has said, "It''s better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them."

But, you will know the quality of your performance is there; you will know that you delivered what you promised — that''s what really counts.

Keeping It Real

Journalist Sydney J. Harris has observed: "An idealist believes the short run doesn''t count … Even a cynic believes the long run doesn''t matter."

I''m a realist: Performance, keeping your word and your promises in the short-term, determines your long-term success.

Customers will forget how little you charge to do the job.

But, they remember your promise and how well you kept it.

I''m not a prophet, but I have a prediction: In the years ahead, technology itself will not create real success or personal happiness.

Even those companies who are the first to develop the exciting new technologies of today will lose their advantage in time.

Everybody will follow the leader and eventually develop the same or similar products.

The competitive difference in business success will be the people who give their word and keep their commitments.

Building a performance improvement culture in your company is done, not by what you say, but by what you do.

And, to keep your promises you must define, measure and manage your commitment to ever improving performance.

Vincent F. Elliott is the founder, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Elliott Affiliates Ltd. of Hunt Valley, Maryland. For more information, visit He is widely recognized as the leading authority in the design and utilization of best practice, performance-driven techniques for janitorial outsourcing and ongoing management.

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