ORGANISATION STUDIES STREAM
A CRITICAL RESEARCH AGENDA FOR ORGANISATIONAL PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT
Dr Jacky Holloway, Performance Management Research Unit, Open University Business School, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA. email: email@example.com
DRAFT, JULY 1999 – IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT OFQUOTING, PLEASE SPECIFY DRAFT STATUS! EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST IN RESEARCH IN PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT ARE WELCOMED BY THE PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT RESEARCH UNIT.
Acknowledgement: Thanks are due to Richard Laughlin and fellow members of the Management Control Association for constructive comments on earlier ideas for this paper.
Managers are continually under pressure to measure theperformance of their organisation, but there is little empirical evidence about the impact of measurement on performance. Furthermore, many measurement tools and techniques lack clear theoretical foundations. This paper proposes investigations into neglected aspects of organisational performance measurement, reflecting the concern of managers and illustrating the potential impact of theoreticaldevelopments on practice. Issues about theory, epistemology and methodologies that accompany such a research agenda, are also raised.
This paper may be a bit unusual for a formal conference discussion as it concentrates neither on presenting empirical results, nor on developing theoretical explanations, but simply seeks to make the case for more of both of these. As such, it is‘ work in the early stages of progress’ on which feedback on all aspects of the paper will be welcome. And as befits a primarily qualitative and subjectivist-inclined researcher, I felt it important to put the development of the proposed research agenda in context. Its origins lie as far back as the completion of my doctoral research (Holloway 1990), which had examined the operation and impact offormal approaches to performance measurement in vogue in the British National Health Service (NHS), my employer in the 1980s. My focus was the extent to which systems approaches (such as Peter Checkland’ soft systems methodology and Stafford Beer’ viable systems model) could assist in the s s design of ‘ better’ performance measurement systems for operational control, strategic planning, andorganisational change. I ended my thesis on an up-beat note, having demonstrated to my own satisfaction (and, fortunately, that of my examiners!) that careful choice of an appropriate systems methodology could contribute to at least less-dysfunctional performance measurement structures and processes, while noting that performance measurement and control were inherently problematic in terms, for example,of the stakeholder interests served. Because it was not obvious at that time how one ‘ did’ a PhD in ‘ systems’ it had been necessary to , develop a methodology that linked systems approaches to analysis and organisational design, with problem situations and their (often highly political) contexts. Having a natural preference for interdisciplinarity, a dislike of the functionalist and unitaryassumptions present to some extent in most systems approaches, and the tail end of a Marxist streak, the aforementioned methodology included what may now be seen as a ‘ out’ clause. This took the form of the explicit and deliberate get incorporation of ‘ ideas from outside the systems analytical approach … where these would have some important and useful parts to play. Rather than blend a systemsmethodology with some other analytical perspectives, opportunities were built in for explicit departures from systems thinking or practice where necessary. … Several ‘ free standing’ devices [such as Hopwood’ s ‘ uncertainty matrix’ 1980] brought additional insights and perspectives to bear on the analysis , without posing problems of conflicting assumptions’ (ibid., p.428) . A similar approach...