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Evidence for the performance prism in higher education

Stacy Smulowitz (Department of Communication, The University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA)

Measuring Business Excellence

ISSN: 1368-3047

Publication date: 16 March 2015



This study aims to examine the potential for the Performance Prism (Neely et al., 2001) to influence the perceived outcome of a planned organizational change. General Systems Theory (Ruben, 1979; Thayer, 1968; vonBertalanffy, 1975) is used to understand the differences in stakeholder perception throughout the institution.


Thirty-two participants from four educational support services departments and the senior leadership group of a university were interviewed. A grounded theory, constant comparative method (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) was used to generate themes and codes from transcripts.


Findings suggest that implementers failed to adequately assess all employees’ satisfaction and contributions prior to implementation. Using the Performance Prism could have been the key to perceptions of success about the change effort.

Research limitations/implications

Research comparing the Performance Prism to implemented planned change efforts not using the Performance Prism is limited, especially in higher education. Also limited is research using the Performance Prism and General Systems Theory.

Practical implications

Understanding stakeholder satisfaction and contributions throughout the organizational system are vital to planned change efforts, especially in loosely coupled organizations (Gallivan, 2001; Neely et al., 2001; Ruben, 1979). Using the Performance Prism is valuable to further this understanding.


The study advances the literature about the use of the Performance Prism in higher education by providing an understanding of the implications of neglecting to consider all stakeholders at all levels of the system in planned change efforts.



Smulowitz, S. (2015), "Evidence for the performance prism in higher education", Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 70-80.



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