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Nowadays, the issue of the “human element” receives more than before attention in the literature. Simons (2000) states that performance measurement and control systems cannot be designed without taking into account human behavior. Holloway et al. (1995) argue that successful implementation of performance measurement depends above all on understanding and accommodating the human element. A closer look at the literature reveals that a lot of this attention for the human element seems to be still focused on its relationship to the budgeting system. In this respect, Hartmann (2000) remarks that it should be investigated whether personality factors related to individual preferences for risk and uncertainty are important determinants of managerial behavior and attitudinal reactions to budgeting. And Vagneur and Peiperl (2000) state that individual psychological responses to performance assessment should be investigated, taking into account research from the fields of psychology, organizational behavior, behavioral accounting, and systems theory. Next to this, a lot of performance management research focused on the technicalities of implementing a performance management system rather than on behavioral issues (Martins, 2000). In recent years, an increasing number of organizations have implemented performance management systems that are based on critical success factors (CSFs) and key performance indicators (KPIs). A frequently used format in this context is the balanced scorecard (BSC) (Kaplan and Norton, 1996). Despite the increase in experience gained with these systems, there is still a lot to be learned about the factors that influence effective use of CSFs, KPIs, and the BSC (Vosselman, 1999). The influence of users’ characteristics on the use of a performance management system has been underexposed in scientific and professional literature (Vagneur and Peiperl, 2000; Krause, 2000).

Two recent studies into the behavioral aspects of performance management system implementation and performance management system use aim at filling this void. Lipe and Salterio (2000) found that managers’ cognitive limitations may prevent organizations to fully benefit from a performance management system, and that cognitive differences between managers may lead them to use the performance management system differently. Malina and Selto (2000) found that positive outcomes from performance management system use were mostly determined by the effectiveness by which the system is used as a management control device (defined in terms of effective measurement, comprehensive performance, and weight of the measurement dimensions), while these outcomes were not attributable to its use as a communication device. Positive outcomes are generated by better strategic alignment of employees and better motivation, which indicates that causal relationships exist between performance management system design, management control use, managerial and employee behavior, and performance.

In this paper the line of research into the behavioral aspects of performance management system implementation and use is extended by addressing the research question Which behavioral factors contribute to the successful implementation and use of a performance management system? (de Waal, 2002). A performance management system is regarded successful if managers use the system on a regularly (daily) basis. The research question is answered by studying three organizations that have designed and implemented a performance management system. The research aims to identify the behavioral factors that are responsible for the successful design and implementation of a performance management system.

Criteria for Regular Use

Since the objective of the research is to identify which behavioral factors are important to the successful implementation and use of a performance management system, criteria for regular use have been formulated on the basis of literature (Bruijn, 1994; Gelderman, 1998a, 1998b). These criteria denote when use of the performance management system, and its CSFs, KPIs and BSC is valuable to the organization and its managers. The criteria are a mix of tangible and intangible benefits but focus more on the intangibles (Mooraj et al., 1999). In the criteria for regular use the ideas of Lewy and Du Mée (1998) are included, who argue that successful implementation and use of a performance management system does not necessarily mean that the organization has its performance management system embedded in the planning and control cycle with periodic reporting and discussion. In their opinion, a successful implementation and use of a performance management system can already be achieved when the managers have an intensified awareness of the importance of the performance management system. The criteria for regular use are given in Exhibit 1, in the format of interview questions.

Criteria for Regular Use

Are the results of the organization, according to managers, improved through the use of the performance management system?

Are the results of the organization, objectively, improved through use of the performance management system?

Has the degree of performance management system use by managers increased?


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