Performance Management

Keith Baker (University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 29 May 2009



Baker, K. (2009), "Performance Management", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 381-382.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

“Performance management” is a term that is increasingly used among both public and private sector managers to describe personnel appraisal systems, the monitoring of achievement or progress towards operational goals. However, despite the popularity of the term, the academic literature is somewhat fragmented and this makes discussion and analysis difficult. Thorpe and Holloway make a useful contribution by bringing together a comprehensive range of scholars and disciplines to analyse the subject.

The book itself is divided into three parts. The first engages with the background and theory of the subject, the second section examines how performance management is understood in different disciplines and intellectual domains. Finally, the third section attempts to outline how performance management can be understood from a multi‐disciplinary perspective. However, the arrangement of the book leaves a little to be desired as the second section jumps awkwardly from a discussion of abstract theoretical issues (such as marketing, accounting and the role of the internet) to a discussion of applied performance management in small firms, the public sector and voluntary organizations. As such, the book would have benefited greatly from the addition of a fourth section that applied the previous theoretical debate to large organizations, small firms, the public and voluntary sectors. At the moment the reader is left with an implicit discussion of performance management in large organizations. As a result, it is something of a monotonous read through rather dense theoretical territory before it reaches a more applied discussion. However, it should be noted that the inclusion of a chapter discussing the implications of the internet and electronic management systems is very welcome and gives the book contemporary salience.

The individual chapters in Performance Management are otherwise well written and tackle their specialised subject with academic rigour. However some chapters are marred by occasional lapses into “conversational” headings which may be attempt to leaven the text but actually seem rather out of place given the substantive nature of the work. However, the chapters are informative and each makes a clear contribution to the book. The supporting argument is well made and indicative of considerable forethought and research on the part of each author. Several of the chapters are usefully illustrated with conceptual diagrams. While this is welcome, the small size of the book and the close integration between image and text lessens the impact these would otherwise have had. Hopefully, a second edition would correct this by simply increasing the size of the diagrams.

Although Performance Management is a worthwhile collection of essays, it suffers from one serious oversight. It fails to engage with issues of justice and in particular with perceptions of procedural justice. As performance managements impacts directly on the workforce of an organization, a discussion of perceptions of justice and even “fairness” should have been included. This oversight may be attributed to the fact that justice tends to be discussed by American scholars and is not really a concern of European academics. As such, it is disappointing that the opportunity was not taken to contribute to a much‐neglected area of the literature. One final criticism of Performance Management concerns the formatting of the book as the 8 ¾” by 5 ½” layout makes the book somewhat difficult to read. While this may be the publisher's preferred layout, a larger paper size would have improved readability of the text.

In sum, Performance Management is a worthwhile addition to scholarly debate and would be particularly useful for MBA students or those academics with research interests in applied organizational theory.

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