Return to Measures


  • There are several target options available:

  • RPs – Reference Periods = What you once did – a performance benchmark achieved in the past, equivalent to an athlete’s PB – average performance over a 4 week historical period, say – it lets you assess if you’ve made any progress since

  • Budgets = What you are expected to do and hopefully have agreed to do in the coming year

  • BPs – Best Practices = What you could do, even must do, to compete in the next year or two – the best performance levels others, even you, have already proved possible

  • Waypoints = What you should achieve to keep ‘on track’ towards your goals

  • Goals = What you aspire to do – ‘long-shots’ – long term aims, even dreams

Pitfalls to beware:

  •  Quantified goals can cause problems:

    • Tell a process line to complete 200 applications per day, or a salesman to take £10,000 worth of orders per week, and all you’ll get are ‘actual’ figures adjusted so that these targets become upper limits, never to be exceeded

    • Tell a hospital A&E department to discharge or admit all patients within four hours of arrival and this can lead to massive cancellations of non-urgent procedures plus considerable inconvenience and suffering for other patients

    • Tell a police sex crime unit to improve its detection rate and ‘widespread retractions’ of rape allegations have followed in the past so that fewer crimes are recorded, making targets easier to reach

  • Quotas can also be negative:

    •  One sees employees standing around for an hour or more at the end of a working day

    • They’ve completed their quotas, so they don’t need to do more work

    • They’re waiting for 5 p.m. or the whistle to blow so they can go home

    • They’re even unhappy doing nothing – they’d rather be busy and earn more

  • According to Dr Deming: “Targets are often set to accommodate the average worker – naturally, half of them are above average, half below – peer pressure holds the upper half to the target, and no more – the lower half can’t make it so the result is losses and chaos, dissatisfaction and labour turnover”

  • And, if you tell a team to increase its efficiency by x%, albeit without telling them how, this should raise at least two questions:

    • If they can do x% next year with no plan, why didn’t they do it last year?

    • And if x% is possible with no plan, why not (x+5)% or more?   




In the private sector, budgets are managers’ short term targets for income, expenditure, profitability and growth in the coming year Most budgets cover expected costly resource needs and contingencies for extra capacity – they rarely mention customer satisfaction, employee motivation or corporate knowledge levels In the public sector, most budgets cover output volumes – e.g. …

Best Practices – BPs

Best practices may not be perfect, and even include much waste, but they demonstrate that better performance levels can and are being achieved, and therefore should attract the question ‘how?’ At Lucas, every business unit had to compare its performance with its best international competitor, identify any shortcomings and detail how it intended to close …


You may be buffeted by strong and variable headwinds and all sorts of events, but reaching predetermined waypoints lets you know whether you’re heading in the right direction and on schedule or not Waypoints are staging posts en route to your eventual goal Teams should use simple control charts, as above, to monitor actual performance …


Global competition is now so intense that best practices soon become the norm, whereupon even better is needed, often quickly, if customers are to keep returning to you The key, as the photographer Cecil Beaton once said, is: “Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the …

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