Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Standards and regulations

Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1983: 22) wrote,

... the aspect of productivity that needs serious attention is not the mechanical output of a production facility; it is, rather, the capacity of the organization to satisfy customer needs most fully with whatever resources it has at its disposal ... But mechanical notions of productivity lead often to products that meet ever more refined minimum standards, frequently resulting in a decline in customer satisfaction with them. The former thrust calls out for innovation - indeed, for innovative thinking on every level of the organization’s affairs - while the latter confines innovation to a marginal and unexciting role

Is there a danger that the existence of minimum standards in professional work is problematic? To what extent do we need mechanical notions of productivity when undertaking professional work? The widespread use of key performance indicators, standards and regulations is clearly a reaction to increasing dissastisfaction with service from all sorts of professionals. But are we in danger of creating a situation that almost guarantees decreasing standards, because we make people accountable for measurable outputs, rather than for the quality of their decision-making?


Kanter, R.M. (1983) The change masters. New York: Simon & Schuster.

1 comment:

occupiers said...

Interesting question Will.

I find the "service-profit chain" concept by Heskett (and?) a useful model in respect of tackling this issue.

As a Facilities/Workplace Management, and/or performance management consultant (and ex pupil of yours, of course!) its a balance, as are most things in reality. A trade off between "assurance" that a minimum acceptable standard has been achieved, and encouragement for managers (and outsourced providers/ contractors) to seek higher levels of performance.

A bit like school league tables..."encouraging" all schools to attain a minimum standard of GCSE passes, but aiming to also account for the 'best of the best' at the top end.

Also look at Dr Tim Springer (Illinois) - on linkedIn - work on "knowledge worker productivity". Productivity cannot be measured in traditional ways, as we dont work in factories...(unless one os unfortunate enough to work in a call centre - the modern factory....)

cheers Will
Paul Carder
occupiers@ntlworld.com

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