Applying The Three Levels of Performance

How Would You Grade These Performance Improvement Programs ?

To optimize performance, companies need to improve all Three Levels of Performance:

     1. The Organizational Level (where strategy is established)
     2. The Process Level  (where workflows are streamlined)
     3. The Job/Performer Level  (where individuals do the work)

Typical improvement campaigns (i.e. customer focus, process redesign, TQM, cost reduction, cycle-time reduction, Lean, Six-Sigma) focus on only one level. As a result, these efforts do not optimize overall results. In fact, they can do more harm than good if the “fixes” in one area create unintended, negative side effects elsewhere.

Breakthroughs occur when leaders address all Three Levels of Performance and manage the whole system, not just tinker with a few of its parts.

With that in mind, how would you grade the following four performance improvement programs? (The names of the actual companies have been changed) ...

How Does Strategy Relate to Process Redesign ?

How Does Strategy Relate to Process Redesign?


There are a wide variety of models for strategy formulation, strategy execution, and process redesign. How do all three areas link together? 

The Evolution of Process Redesign

When the Rummler-Brache Group began first focusing on process improvement, our thrust was on the development and deployment of tools for analyzing and designing cross-functional processes such as order fulfillment, product development, pricing, and budgeting. It didn’t take us long to discover that our interventions in this area were less likely to be effective and almost certainly to be inefficient if they weren’t preceded by some strong up-front planning. We concluded that any process design/redesign should begin with ... 


The Questions that Need to be Answered


Before performance at any level can be managed, the expectations for that performance need to be clearly established and communicated. This need is particularly strong at the Organization Level. If we have not clearly defined the business we are in, we certainly cannot effectively design and manage the Organization Level of Performance or establish goals, structure, and management practices at the Process and Job/Performer Levels. Without the guiding hand of a clear strategy, we cannot be sure that we are allocating our resources appropriately, managing our critical business processes, and rewarding the right job performance.

To slightly alter the old Chinese proverb, “If we don’t know where we are going, any processes and jobs will get us there.” We will not add to the vast number of models, theories, and methodologies for strategic planning. Our objective is to identify those questions that need to be answered if an organization’s strategy is going to effectively guide the Three Levels of Performance ... 

Getting Started

Getting Started


Say you believe that the systems view of an organization represents the way work gets done. You are determined to manage each component of the system you manage. You agree that the tools at all Three Levels of Performance should be at the heart of any comprehensive effort to formulate and implement strategy, improve quality, productivity, cycle time, and cost, and design an organization that works. You have vowed to use the questions that support each of the Nine Performance Variables as the basis of your management system. However, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. At this point, your primary question is most likely “How do I start?”

One way to begin is by initiating a Three Levels project. Before there can be any widespread commitment to the Three Levels as a way of life in an organization, the approach must demonstrate its worth. The best way to make a short-term contribution and to show long-term potential is by applying the Three Levels tools to a strategic issue facing your organization. The following steps ... 

Seven deadly sins

Overcoming the Seven Deadly Sins of Process Improvement


As with other performance improvement efforts (TQM, self-directed teams, Six Sigma, Lean, Just-In-Time inventory, etc.), most organizations can point to the results of their efforts: cost savings, quality improvements, and cycle time reductions. However, there has been more sizzle than steak, more activity than results. In our experience, most failures to realize the potential return on an investment in process improvement arise from committing one or more of the seven deadly sins.

Sin 1: Process improvement is not tied to strategic issues. One company in the food business was proud of its seventy cross-functional process improvement teams. When asked about results, executives mumble vague homilies about “culture change” and “empowerment.” Noble pursuits, no doubt, but what’s the increase in shareholder value? Almost every one of an engineering conglomerate’s dozens of business units has documented its processes. When asked how they’ve used these “maps,” they admit that they haven’t. Too many process improvement teams are convened to address self-selected “backyard” issues that are not  ...