Burgess, T. and Heap, J. (2012), "Editorial", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 61 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijppm.2012.07961aaa.001Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Volume 61, Issue 1
Welcome to the first issue of this volume. Reflecting the international nature of the journal, this issue’s six papers originate from six different countries: Brazil, Greece, Iran, Malaysia, Netherlands and the UK. Four of the contributions are research papers, two are reflective practice; four papers focus on productivity at the organisational level while two deal with individual performance.
Environmental matters are to the fore nowadays and in tune with this the authors (Alexopoulos, Kounetas and Tzelepis) of our first paper examine the link between a firm’s environmental performance and technical (productive) performance. An econometric approach of stochastic frontier analysis is used to analyse data obtained by content-analysing financial reports of sixty Greek firms listed on the Athens Stock Exchange. In general the authors fail to find a strong connection between a company performing well on environmental performance variables and high productive performance. Such a pessimistic result is worrying and cries out for further research. However, some positive aspects do come out of the research, e.g. the indication that regulatory action and incentives can improve company environmental-linked behaviour.
In the second paper Abdul Razak, Kamaruddin and Abdul Azid (Malaysia) present a method of evaluating the performance of individual maintenance workers. They demonstrate the method’s use and validation via a case study carried out in an electronic packaging company. This is an interesting piece of work, which stands in contrast to much of the work that we publish that is focussed on the workgroup, or organisation or national level. The method relies on combining both expert judgement and rigorous statistical analysis to establish detailed and overall measures of performance of individuals carrying out knowledge-based tasks. The model appears to contain the potential for extending its use to other domains.
Mehrabad, Anvari and Saberi (Iran) offer a very mathematical approach to modelling future behaviour of production systems in the third contribution to this issue. Their intention is to develop a system that helps managers to set priorities and targets for the performance of the system they are looking to control. A key starting point of their argument is that forecasting and prediction is under-researched in performance measurement systems; a claim that seems to ring true. A case study of a power plant is included to illustrate the use of their process and its claimed superiority over conventional methods.
In our fourth paper Oprime, de Sousa Mendes and Pimenta focus on critical success factors in the development of continuous improvement activities in 46 Brazilian industrial companies. They use a questionnaire survey to elicit data on the potential impact on performance outcomes of three key areas of:
incentive systems; and
In general they discover evidence for the proposed connections. Human factors are found to have a major contribution in that activities that encourage staff to participate are found to be important; e.g. staff training, incentives for suggestion schemes, and face-to-face communication. Once again research indicates that human resources make the difference in organisational performance.
In our fifth paper Oeij and his colleagues provide a conceptual piece where they propose a more qualitative approach to productivity than hitherto; an approach that integrates quantitative and qualitative aspects in a model they call Q4. This is a high-level, strategic approach that they argue can be deployed in the many situations that we find in industry and commerce today. Part of their thesis is that conventional approaches to productivity measurement are rooted in the traditional realm of manufacturing where much reliance is placed on counting physical quantities. They argue that nowadays economic and social activities are more complex, for example their reliance more on knowledge work, and require matters such as quality of service to be considered. To illustrate their approach they describe three mini-case-studies of different organisations. Overall their paper is a thought-provoking piece that challenges many established methods of exploring productivity that dominate much of the literature on productivity.
Laureani and Antony review current certification practices across a range of industries and proposes a standardised approach in the issue’s final paper. They identify a high variation in certification practices, in particular the reliance on organisation-based approval systems, which render it extremely difficult to argue that the quality of work delivered by lean-six-sigma practitioners is comparable. This then brings in to question the quality of lean-six-sigma initiatives and as such could lead to the undermining of what is an increasingly-relied on approach to improving organisational productivity. Laureani and Antony then put forward some positive proposals on a standard approach to certifying belt-holding practitioners. A corollary can be drawn here between the current situation with lean-six-sigma and ISO 9000 certification; many will remember how the early form of the ISO standard became discredited by its degeneration into a marketing tool by the actions of some disreputable certifiers. Practice needs to heed the warning from the authors and follow their advice if they wish to avoid this being the fate for lean-six-sigma.
Tom Burgess, John Heap