Then there is the simple impediment of “other people not doing their job”. In the case of individual performance that might be where you cannot meet your target response times, because the people whose input you require are not co-operative. Even worse is the scenario where a team target is set. You deliver 100% on all your parts of the process. Most of your team-mates do likewise. Unfortunately there is that one lazy or incompetent member of the team who lets the side down. Result? Disharmony. Strife. Resentment. And an overall decline in everyone’s attitude and output. “Why should you carry them?” you start to wonder.
The purpose of a target is to focus the mind. The problem with targets is that they DO focus the mind. They direct the focus upon meeting the target rather than taking the broader approach that might be defined as “doing the job”. The simplest example is the call-centre targeted with answering all calls within 3 rings. That can be done, if you cut short every call that you pick up, rather than taking the time necessary to resolve the problem of the person on the phone. Worse-case scenarios include police forces targeting “clear up rates” will focus on the most easily-achieved convictions rather than the most serious crimes. It also leads to the insidious practice of “taking into account” a number of other offences, which may or may not have been committed by the person admitting to them. Buyers might be encouraged to focus on achieving savings, at the expense of quality or reliability of the product acquired, or robustness of contract put in place.
Whenever targeting an area for improvement, a careful risk analysis needs to be done, to establish what actions could lead to meeting the standard, whilst simultaneously eroding other important aspects of non-targetted performance.
Performance-related pay makes the fundamental assumption that there is slack and/or inefficiency in the system. Whilst this is often true, it isn’t always the case.
Contrary to popular belief, most people do actually want to do a good job that they can take pride in. It follows therefore that they may be physically, mentally, psychologically incapable of working either harder or smarter than they already do.
These barriers may not be insurmountable. Training, more flexibility around working hours or job descriptions may produce more efficient systems or create