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Case Study of Applying Performance Management to a Telecommunications Company to Increase System Engineering Performance:


A major Telecommunications company was experiencing rapid growth in product sales. One of the company’s enterprise and wireless center of excellence utilized critical computer servers to host important applications for its internal business clients. A critical computer server was basically defined as a devise which was directly coupled to the design and manufacturing processes of the company, and should it fail, the design and manufacturing processes would basically come to a stand still. Due to the high demand from customers for the company’s products the critical servers operated twenty four hours a day, year round. System Engineers who were employed by the company were responsible to establish the server requirements from the internal business clients, order the computer equipment, and get the servers into production (commissioned) in the quickest time possible. Every day lost in getting these critical servers up and running for production meant production potential losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Management team of the company’s System Engineers, feeling the pressure of record orders from customers, needed to find a solution to improve the efficiency of this work process. A Performance Management approach was undertaken.

Business Analysis:

Initial analysis revealed that the pinpointed result for the System Engineers to improve was identified and measured by “The Total Time to Commission Servers (Days from Customer Order to Registration)”. Once these precise performance requirements of result and subsequent measurement were established baseline data was collected to determine the current level of performance to improve upon. Each System Engineer gathered performance time data and the totals were brought together in aggregate to be measured at a team level. Further analysis revealed that a behavioral checklist could bring tremendous value towards improving the efficiency toward a standard means for the System Engineers to gather the business requirements and toward the commissioning procedures.

The Solution:

The systematic approach to problem solving in human performance is always to first gain a precise definition of the performance problem (results, and supporting behaviors). Once that is accomplished we can set up measurement requirements to gauge progress and to determine how to improve on these critical variables of results and behaviors. Then we can build, from the measurement data, information systems which immediately confirm to the performer the effect his behaviors have on his results while he is working. Finally, and most importantly, we can apply positive reinforcement to the behaviors that are producing the increase in results. This causes performance to change and to accelerate. The solution for the System Engineers was a two step process. The first step was to build a behavioral checklist detailing all of the things the System Engineer was expected to do during the commissioning process. The behavior checklist provided a powerful prompt (direction) to let each Engineer know the critical things to do in an attempt to reduce the commissioning turnaround time. The Engineers followed the lists and checked off each item as they were completed. Each week the Engineers measured the items completed on the checklist and collected the time accumulated to the commissioning process. This was the first step in the Performance Management solution. The second step consisted of implementing individual feedback graphs for each Engineer to confirm the time spent commissioning on a daily basis, and to gauge the progress from prior commissioning efforts. Small attainable goals were also determined for each week of work as a means to reward the Engineer for attainment. Also, management positively reinforced the Engineers on a variable schedule for completing variable checklist items and for goal attainment which was correlated to the behaviors from the list and demonstrated.

The Results:

The aggregated results for all System Engineers are depicted in the graph below. The Performance Management solution’s initial phase of “performance measurement” is indicated by the first vertical black line on the graph. The Performance Management solution’s second phase of “feedback and positive reinforcement” is indicated by the second vertical black line on the graph:

Case Study Telecommunications03 

To summarize the results:

  • During the initial phase of “performance measurement” the average increase in performance for the System Engineers went from a fifty day commissioning time to a thirty seven day commissioning time within the first three weeks of intervention or about a 1.3 times improvement over baseline.
  • During the second phase of “performance feedback and positive reinforcement” the average increase in performance for the System Engineers went from a thirty seven day commissioning time to a twenty day commissioning time within ten weeks of the second intervention, or about a 1.5 times additional performance improvement over the first phase.
  • Financial calculations were conservatively estimated and measured by “increased business opportunity of sales from increased production opportunity to the internal business clients” and were estimated in the order of 10 Million dollars during the total twenty week period of the Performance Management interventions.
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