Thursday 12 March 2009

Fit for purpose

Performance management and business intelligence somehow imply providing something more than the basic product or service that your customer might expect. But this is not so. Performance management is mostly about providing the right environment for an organisation to consistently and efficiently meet the standards expected by its customers.

Performance management initiatives are put in pace so that the organisation can perform its necessary functions to a good standard. In other words, ensuring its product or service is fit for purpose. Not just occasionally, but consistently.

This occurred to me yesterday as I walked through my local train station. And no, my train wasn’t late. I was struck by something much more important than that: safety.

Like many major towns and cities, Reading attracts its share of anti-social behaviour. But there has been a change in recent years – and a welcome one in my view. The local police are a great deal more visible. The presence of the Transport Police, and their uniformed cousins the Policy Community Support Officers, has made Reading Station a calmer and safer place to be. In addition to the coffee shops and boutiques, it has actually made it a rather pleasant place to be.

The crew on duty yesterday as I walked through the station were approachable and friendly. I stopped and chatted to them, and their Sergeant, about their thoughts on keeping the peace. Despite their youthful appearance, they also remembered a time when the station was a tenser and less safe place to be: a few drinks, and a few mates, easily spills over into disruptions that ruin lives both for the perpetrator and the victim. How much better to fund more police officers to calmly restore order and ensure and good night out stays that way?

Behind the calm and confident exterior of those police officers lies an array of performance management building blocks. There is the programme to get more police and PCSOs on our streets, the selection process, training, promotion boards, and on the job mentoring. All monitored and rolled up into government statistics.

This type of policing might be seen as the tip of the iceberg in work that encompasses so much more. Inevitably there is much valuable police work that that is unseen, unreported, and unappreciated. I have no desire to detract from that. I do, however, think that visible policing is a welcome and necessary initiative.

From a performance management viewpoint, it also a lesson that sometimes we need to take an all-round view of a product or service. In this case it isn’t good enough that trains run on time, although that’s always helpful, I also want to travel in a safe and calm environment.

Thank you Transport Police and PCSOs. And what a nice lot you are too!


  1. Caroline
    Like to agree with you that perf mgmt is a system, other parts include the actions and environment.

    Safety is an intersting measure and one we often find hard to measure/value. In many industries it is measured in terms of ALARP , 10 x -9 probability £xx per this right?> safety at any price?? very hard however something we need to face? why else would we allow anyone to drive a car ? think of the numbers of fatalities on the roads every year the compare that to RAIL OR AIR? road is 1000 times less safe?

  2. Ah - the cost of a human life. An unpalatable thought and an idea that doesn't look too good in anyone's marketing brochure.

    What’s interesting about the train station example is that it isn’t quite as extreme as that. But the value to the train operators to make the experience comfortable and pleasant is linked to reassurance and therefore safety. And, of course, profit. As you rightly point out the statistics often do not necessarily back up our emotional responses.

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