Changing a light bulb

Being pregnant for four months instead of nine does not rate you higher on your performance scorecard. You do not exceed expectations because you do something faster than it’s supposed to take. Similarly, 9 women cannot deliver a baby in a month by sharing the load.

Some things take time. Tinkering with the efficiency or increasing the resources will make no difference. It might even cause harm. When ten people are tasked to change a lightbulb the process does not go faster. Every step in changing a lightbulb forms part of the critical path. There is no benefit to bulk.

Efficiency metrics revolve around the critical path. Whether it’s a process or a project, we must define and optimise the critical path. Once done, we have a timeframe for effective execution. This is the benchmark for performance excellence.

Out-performing this benchmark is not celebration worthy. It’s noteworthy. As in, you should take note because something is amiss. Either the quality was compromised or the original spec was inaccurate. The first is a critical failure, the second is a business intelligence opportunity that should be harnessed for future spec improvement.

It is not fair to individuals to expect them to outperform a process. It is dangerous to reward them for outperforming a critical path on a project. Both create counter-incentives than compromise on the efficiency of your system as a whole.

Perhaps the first point of order is to start with the required performance of the whole and design individual performance expectations based on how they support and enable it.

Corentin Marzin

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