Editorial

Thomas F Burgess (Business School, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)
John Heap (National Productivity Centre, Leeds, UK)

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Article publication date: 9 February 2015

Citation

Burgess, T.F. and Heap, J. (2015), "Editorial", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 64 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPPM-12-2014-0191

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Editorial

Article Type: Editorial From: International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Volume 64, Issue 2.

This issue contains the usual quota of seven papers; six standard papers and a reflective practice piece. Coincidentally three of the papers originate from Italian researchers, with the other papers authored by contributors from such as Canada, India and Brazil. The first paper deals with the public sector in general and the second covers the health care context. Other papers deal with manufacturing organisations and their supply chains. The deregulated energy market is a notable context for one of the remaining papers. Three papers rely on case studies while two use surveys as the methodology. A further two papers rely mainly on analysis of the literature.

In the first paper Goh, Elliott and Richards draw attention to the problems obstructing successful implementation of performance management (PM) in the public sector. By presenting and comparing five cases in the Canadian public sector the authors focus on the themes of challenges and barriers, success factors and context. Much as we might wish for the successful implementation of performance management, there are still many issues to be confronted as their research shows. Surprisingly, the challenges and barriers they found tended to be straightforward managerial issues such as coordination; both horizontally and vertically within the organisation. Too often PM was “owned” by a central function and seen by other parts of the organisation as a bureaucratic add-on. In the successful organisations, the authors attributed success to factors including clear vision, clear focus of responsibility and the development of PM capacity throughout the organisation. A key point that the authors bring out is the organisational context’s importance - such as size, environmental complexity and clarity of mandate - in determining how best to implement and get the best out of PM. Overall, this interesting study shows there is still much scope to improve PM in the public sector.

Following on from the previous paper, the second paper focuses on a related area where improvements in practice need to be made. Practitioners, when faced with a substantial capital investment that could potentially improve performance, usually carry out some form of assessment prior to deciding on whether to implement or not. In this paper Tumino, Miragliotta, Gastaldi, Mangiaracina and Perego model the link between technology implementation and performance improvement for a major technology, namely radio frequency identification (RFId). Interestingly they do this in a novel context of medical treatment in the (Italian) health care industry. Their contribution is twofold; first they provide a methodology for evaluating the benefits of technology implementation and, second, they evaluate RFId in this health care context.

The literature often stresses strategy as a key practice that the organisation needs to get right. In the third paper Sili, Bartolini, Raffoni and Visani concentrate on performance measurement systems that support this key organisational activity, i.e. strategic performance measurement systems (SPMSs). They carried out a survey of 88 medium/large firms operating in Italy and used cluster analysis to identify two very different types of SPMSs in use; one based on short-term financial indicators and the other centred on a multi-dimensional measurement model. However, even their multi-dimensional model demonstrates that managers place substantial emphasis on financial measures. Despite the sizeable amount of literature on balanced approaches, and the widespread adoption of Kaplan and Norton’s balanced scorecard, the authors draw the conclusion that financial measures still dominate in performance measurement systems. Surely here is a major challenge that has been identified for the performance management researcher to grapple with?

Privatisation and deregulation have lately affected many economies across the globe. Sectors such as energy supply have undergone major changes with new deregulated markets appearing. Companies are struggling to find ways of operating successfully in these new environments; ways that deliver good performance. Researchers also have to contend with these novel situations. This next paper illuminates this research challenge by examining how a case study company - an Italian electricity wholesaler - endeavours to manage risk in the electricity procurement process. Verbano and Crema use statistical analysis to understand the company’s complex situation and to point to how its managers could achieve better performance. The authors claim that they have created a simple tool that is easy to implement but offers potential for substantial improvements in performance. Practitioners would be well advised to investigate this claim.

With the increased globalisation of trade, improving the efficiency of goods-handling is clearly important. In the fifth paper of this issue Dutra, Ripoll-Feliu, Fillol, Ensslin and Ensslin carry out an in-depth structured analysis of the scientific literature related to performance evaluation of sea ports. They identify the journals and authors that are most frequently associated with the topic. They also identify that the literature is somewhat distanced from practice and considers operational aspects to the relative exclusion of strategic analyses. A further point they uncover in their analysis is the high frequency with which data envelopment analysis (DEA) is applied in evaluation studies - an observation which is in tune with what we see as editors of the IJPPM. We are concerned that the performance evaluation papers submitted to the journal too often reflect the ease with which the DEA methodology can be used, rather than the importance of the topic or the usefulness of the analysis.

It is an often-remarked upon statistic that the vast majority of firms in an economy are small in size. In contrast much of the scientific literature concentrates on larger firms. Further, in emerging countries a good proportion of these smaller firms are labour intensive. When taken together, these facts point to the potential for research in to performance improvement in labour-intensive small firms and, presumably, the opportunity to make a big impact in practice. In this paper Prasad, Jha and Prakash focus on the smaller firms in an important segment of the Indian economy, the manufacture of brass products for household use. They analyse the literature to shed light on what quality, productivity and business performance mean in this context; and how the concepts are linked and how they can be improved.

In the last paper, a reflective practice contribution, Cunha Callado and Jack, investigate the extent to which partners within Brazilian agricultural supply chains can use common sets of performance metrics within balanced scorecard systems. They conducted a survey of 121 companies that occupy various roles within the supply chain. The participants indicated which metrics they used and these were linked with the four perspectives of the BCS. The results show that the metrics and perspectives that are used in practice differ clearly between the four supply chain roles that they study. The only consistent point they identify is the use of customer satisfaction within the customer perspective. Basically the authors demonstrate that it is difficult for partners to use common systems of performance measurement; and that the approach to measurement is contingent on the company’s role in the supply chain.

Thomas F. Burgess and John Heap