by Leon Noone
“We need a procedure for this”. How many times have you heard that statement or something like it. Maybe you said it yourself. Fact is, that all the procedures in the world are next to useless without clear performance standards.
Why Performance Standards Are So Important.
A Performance Standard answers this question “How will I know that this job is being done perfectly? Remember: this job not this person. Performance Standards are about getting the job done; performance. They’re not about who does the job.
What Procedures Do.
Procedures prescribe. Standards measure.That’s the difference. Procedures tell you what to do. They provide, if they’re good, a step by step process to follow. If they’re poor, they’re simply confusing. But in either case they rarely specify what is to be achieved or how well. You can’t write a satisfactory procedure without knowing what you’re trying to achieve and how you’ll know whether it’s been achieved or not.
Standards And Policy.
You can tell how well or how poorly you’re implementing policy by using good performance standards. A policy may decree “no customer complaints”. Performance standards will specify how you’ll know whether or not the policy’s being implemented. Procedures merely lead you through the process you need to follow to reach the standards.
Administration and Effectiveness
Procedures are an administrative device. We assume that if procedures are being followed, “all’s right with the world”. It rarely is. Procedures are concerned with feeding the animals in an orderly, safe and cost effective manner. They rarely say how to feed them without the keeper being eaten. Procedures are concerned primarily with process and inputs: administrative issues. Standards are concerned with outcomes and results: business effectiveness issues.
Scaring the Horses.
Following this simple system might scare a few horses. Some people like the comfort that formal procedures offer. They may not be quite as comfortable hearing clear standards by which their performance can easily be measured. Some managers too, especially those who enjoy playing psychologist, might feel threatened by having to concentrate on job performance rather than employee behaviour.
What To Do Now.
- State your company goals for each major area – policy
- Specify how you’ll measure whether these goals are being achieved – standards
- Put systems in place that enable the standards to be achieved – systems
- Write a brief set of instructions to help people achieve the standards – procedures
That’s four simple steps: no fuss: no hassle: no elaborate and high sounding mission statements, best practice claims and other fancy devices much beloved by gurus and consultants. And no auditors, accountants and office administrators chiding staff for “failing to follow procedure” regardless of whether or not the job is being done successfully.
To satisfy all involved, follow that simple four step system. State your performance standards clearly and design correct support systems. Don’t be surprised if, at this stage, your procedures virtually write themselves.