Radnor, Z. and Heap, J. (2008), "Editorial", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 57 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijppm.2008.07957daa.001
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Volume 57, Issue 4.
Some things go in and out of fashion. As well as clothes, music and other obvious examples this also applies to areas of industrial and commercial activity. Warehousing and stock control were out of fashion for many years (never written about in other than very specialist publications) until they became part of “logistics”.
However, it often seems that we have progressed little since earlier days of simple stock replenishment models, though more complex models now exist, because most stock controllers (and logistics managers) do not understand them, they are little used.
The moral…academics and others who publish papers in journals such as this need to ensure that new ideas are translated into the language of the practitioner even if at times the underlining concepts and ideas feel the same!
The first paper in this is issue considers what many people describe as the “factory for the 21st Century” - the call centre. This paper reflects on the relationship between HRM, line managers and performance - probably like some papers did nearly 100 years ago when Henry Ford launched his factory in Detroit. The paper by Harney and Jordan investigates the role of, and for, the line manager with regard to HRM policy and the performance of the call centre suggesting that with a stronger HRM relationship between the line manager and HRM the better the performance.
The second paper also considers workers conditions with regard to performance and productivity. This time rather than the human relationships it investigates the physical relationship - in particular the light or illumination. The paper, by Quintana, Leung and Chen, establishes a statistical framework to examine shop floor illumination and its effects on labour performance in a manual electronics assembly plant. Through systematic experimentation they suggest ergonomic, environmental and economic ideas with regard to the level of light and productivity. You would think that 100 years on (thinking back to that Ford factory again!) that workers’ conditions would be so well understood that factories (both manufacturing and service) would get it right first time. However, these two papers illustrate that as contexts and economies change it is important always to reflect and explore.
The last academic paper highlights this need to recognise the situation and system, never accepting things at face value. The paper by Radnor reflects on how measures and targets are manipulated (or muddled or massaged or manoeuvred!) in order for performance to “read correctly”. The focus of too many organisations is to “hit the target and miss the point” changing either figures or even the process or operation in order to achieve the target. We need to remember, as we all too often remind you in these editorials, that measures and measurements are merely a tool which can help to support the decision making process of the organisation - not to drive the wrong behaviours. The paper suggests degrees of “gaming” recognising that a combination of activities take place within organisations - what is needed is the recognition of what is happening.
We like new technology! We have all heard of “virtual reality”. Many of us know that music we hear is often synthetic - played on virtual rather than real instruments. Until now, the guitar was the general exception but now “RealStrat” is available and any keyboard player can get authentic Fender guitar tones into their mixer and recording rig without knowing one end of a fretboard from another…and the results are extraordinarily good. Is this progress? (Answers on a postcard, please!)
New technology can be oh so powerful - one of us recently succumbed to a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA!) which appears to have and do everything except make the dinner (which is a shame!). Although this is wonderful it is also quite frightening when one small device has the ability to receive and send e-mails, access the internet, write documents (including spreadsheets and presentations), guide you across the whole of Europe and, of course, be a telephone! What is there left for future generations?
We also like old technology. The other of us (it is up to you to work out who is who!) has just ordered a new, state-of-the-art, desktop PC - but with Windows XP rather than Vista. It does everything needed, and is more efficient - and therefore significantly faster. This is years after the great quality revolution when we were told the customer is king. This was no easy task. Specifying XP rather than Vista involved a significant amount of hassle and trouble. Who is king? Ask your local (??) call centre.
In the reflective practice session, both papers reflect upon some of the issues - and difficulties - in comparing the performance of public sector organisations. The first paper suggests that we have an increasing supply of performance indicators but that these are not necessarily reliable or useful! The second shows how measures and indicators used within the private sector might be applied to the public sector, though it recognises the need to “translate” between sectors.
All in all, we have yet another issue that we hope informs, challenges and interests you…and at the same time pushes forward our understanding of some of the background and foreground issues underlying productivity improvement and performance management. That is what we are here for!
Zoe Radnor, John Heap