ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

Total Quality Management - Part 09: Performance Feedback & Accountability

Have you ever given instructions to your staff members that changed the way they were to perform a duty or task? You would never require a change unless you felt that it would service their customers better, make their jobs easier or more efficient, right? The change is implemented, works -- for a while -- then disappears back to the old way of doing things.

WHY ??

Most of the time, the reason for REVERSIONS (an act or process of returning to a former condition )is our failure as managers to either provide feedback (negative or positive) on the performance of our employees, or our failure to make them accountable for their efforts.

Changes are inherent in your Quality Initiatives. Even if the employees, themselves, are responsible for those changes in the form of Continuous Improvement, if we, as owners and managers, do not follow up on the progress of those changes, they are doomed to reversion.

Which tasks do you think would be pursued more diligently by your staff:

1. A task that is monitored and measured with regular feedback scheduled, or

2. A task that, once assigned, is never mentioned again?

Which tasks will you staff members pay more attention to:

1. A task for which they have been given full authority, responsibility, and accountability, or

2. A task for which you are responsible and make all decisions, but which they are expected to pursue and complete?

Accountability is one part of a pair of characteristics that will enhance both performance and attitude in your business. The other characteristic that enhances performance is authority. Both must be given by you to your staff members if you expect them to succeed.

Accountability can not be assigned unless your employee is capable of completing the task or project. This means that you are doomed to failure if you don't train, prepare and support any employee for which you are assigning accountability for a function or project. Accountability makes the employee fully responsible for his actions.

Authority is your delegation of the power to accomplish a task or project without undue oversight by you or anyone else. This does not mean that you forgo control of your business. The manager's greatest strength is in exerting management control (knowing what is going on) without harming a staff member's authority to complete the task. Over-management is just as dangerous as under-management in the participative management of the Quality Movement.

Providing feedback to your employees is a key to their accountability for tasks. Both positive and negative feedback are similarly important, although the methods of delivery of each are different. Positive feedback should be made publicly while negative feedback must be made privately. Both forms of feedback are best done often and as strong or weak performance is noted. If poor performance is overlooked, the morale of your good employees will suffer. The personal self-motivation of employees does not last long if non-performers "get away with" poor performance. Even if poor performance is criticized, we can not assume good performance as the norm in our businesses. Strong performers will continue their efforts and more if they believe that management appreciates their efforts. Positive feedback of strong performance provides that method of appreciation. And mediocrity can be improved faster by the example of positive feedback of strong performance than by the punitive threats of negative feedback of weak performance. Everyone needs "positive strokes". Feedback is the vehicle for providing those "positive strokes" and it improves morale and the desire and acceptability of the assumption of accountability and authority. This ends up leveraging your time as a business owner and manager with the talents of your staff.

When assigning accountability and providing feedback for performance, the measure that is best used for the productivity of your agency is the effect on the customer. If you design your projects and tasks to be responsive to the opinion of and endpoint of customer satisfaction, you will dovetail this important employee function into an integral part of the Quality Initiative that you are designing for your agency.