July 18, 2019, 5:16 pm

Using Performance Measures to Drive Maintenance and Asset Management Performance Improvement

Article Index


Element 5 - What you measure is less important than how you decide what to measure

The final, vital aspect in selecting appropriate performance measures is to realise that the objective of measuring performance is to motivate those who have the capability to influence performance to make decisions, and take actions which will result in improved performance.  They are unlikely to do so of they do not “believe” the measures, or if the measures are perceived to be externally imposed, and therefore not relevant.  The strongest performance measures are those that are “owned” by those who can influence performance, and effectively used by these people to drive performance improvement.  So while Elements 2 to 4 have outlined some of the principles, tools and techniques which can be used to select appropriate performance measures, it is most important that these principles, tools and techniques be used in a highly participative process, involving those whose performance is to be measured, in order to ensure a high level of ownership of, and therefore commitment to, the selected measures.

This implies that the process of selecting performance measures is best done through a series of facilitated workshops.  And it also implies that compromises may need to be made in the selection of measures, whereby a performance measure that is perhaps technically less accurate, or perhaps less relevant, may be preferred to another measure, which has a high level of understanding and ownership by those whose performance is being measured.

Only if a high level of ownership of the selected measures is obtained will meaningful performance improvement take place.  Almost without exception, all performance measures can be “doctored” so that reported performance does not reflect reality.  For example, a measure of percentage of planned work completed can generally be forced to 100% by closing all planned work orders within the scheduled work week, regardless of whether the work has actually been done.  So gaining ownership, and ensuring that people use the performance measures as an active tool for performance improvement is vital.

Element 6 – A measure without a target is meaningless

Look at the performance reports, charts, tables and graphs that are produced at your organisation.  Do they all contain clearly understood target levels of performance?  You would be amazed at how few do.  For some reason, many organisations assume that everyone knows what the targets are, and, therefore, what constitutes good or bad performance.  In reality, what then happens is that current average performance comes to represent the unofficial target level of performance, and, as a result, no performance improvement is ever seen. 

An effective control system, as all good engineers are aware, requires four key elements:

  • A target or reference point against which measured output can be assessed
  • A measurement system for measuring actual output
  • A means of comparing actual with the target, and
  • A method for adjusting inputs so that the desired output is achieved

This can be illustrated diagrammatically, as shown in Figure 2 below.

Proces inputs and outputs

Figure 2

Without a target there can be no control, or incentive for improvement, so make a point of ensuring that every performance report shows a target level of performance.  With this in place, everyone can understand the gap between current and desired performance.  Note that, in some cases, for the first time you may actually have to decide what target level of performance should be!

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