What do prescription medicines, washing machines and performance management have in common?
The answer emerges from several articles published in the Academy of Management Perspectives and the Measuring Business Excellence Journal over the course of 2009. They reflect a trend in performance management literature of using metaphor to paint the complex picture of some of the theories linked to this discipline.
In their February 2009 article, a group of professors from US based business schools compare goal setting with a prescription strength medication, with powerful and predictable side effects: “Rather than being offered as an “over-the-counter” salve for boosting performance, goal setting should be prescribed selectively, presented with a warning label, and closely monitored.” (Ordonez et al, 2009a). Some of the assertions made by the article were met with a strong response by Locke and Latham, pointing out some of the flaws in the research approach and conclusions (Locke and Latham, 2009a). The debate continued in two more articles (Ordonez et al, 2009b and Locke and Latham, 2009b), however the relevant point here is the use of goals as prescription medicine metaphor.
The performance management system as a washing machine metaphor comes from an article published by a team of practitioners and academics from the UK (Meekings et al., 2009): “Performance measurement and management frameworks are analogous to new washing machines in the sense that they need to be properly plumbed-in, connected-up and switched-on before they can deliver value.”
Same as a washing machine, a performance management system needs to be plumbed in:
1. located in the organisation (Performance Architecture)
2. connected to the relevant performance insight sources as input (Performance Insight)
3. connected to outlet pipes to eliminate redundant and distracting data (Performance Focus)
4. connected to a power supply – empowered employees that take action (Performance Action).
Meekings A., Povey, S. and Neely, A. (2009), Performance plumbing: installing performance management systems to deliver lasting value, Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 13-19
Locke E.A., Latham, G.P. (2009a), Has Goal Setting Gone Wild, or Have Its Attackers Abandoned Good Scholarship?, Academy of Management Perspectives, Vol. 23, Nr. 1 / 2009, pp. 17-23
Locke E.A., Latham, G.P. (2009b), Science and Ethics: What Should Count as Evidence Against the Use of Goal Setting?, Academy of Management Perspectives, Vol. 23, Nr. 3 / 2009, pp. 88-91
Ordóñez, L.D., Schweitzer, M. E., Galinsky A. D., Bazerman, M. H. (2009a), Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Overprescribing Goal Setting, Academy of Management Perspectives, Vol. 23, Nr. 1 / 2009, pp. 6-16
Ordóñez, L.D., Schweitzer, M. E., Galinsky A. D., Bazerman, M. H. (2009b), On Good Scholarship, Goal Setting, and Scholars Gone Wild, Academy of Management Perspectives, Vol. 23, Nr. 3 / 2009, pp. 82-87