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Homepage / Comments on report: Performance Management in UK HIgher Education Institutions: the need for a hybrid approach

Comments on report: Performance Management in UK HIgher Education Institutions: the need for a hybrid approach



Hi Mike,

Hope you are well.  I stumbled across your paper (Franco-Santos et al, 2014) via linked in and would like to congratulate you and your colleagues on an excellent piece of work.

From my time consulting in Central Government (DfE and BIS), I can advise you that the struggle between the stewardship based model and the agency based model are by no means unique to the HEI sector, although I wonder whether the sharp definition that you make between the two models might be helpful or unhelpful in moving forward.

I was also reminded of the differences in performance management that I encountered when I was sent by Ford Motor Company to help with the integration and optimisation of their recent acquisition, Volvo car.  Volvo operated towards the stewardship end of the spectrum as defined in your paper, whereas (no surprise) Ford operated toward the agency end of the spectrum.  Part of my role was to close that gap.  One of my big discoveries was that the Volvo ‘system’ was not as soft as it initially looked and was focused by what they called their common scorecard  based on four broad goals:

  • number 1 customer satisfaction
  • profitable growth
  • next generation products
  • next generation leaders and employees

10 years on, I think this was more or less the exact wording of each.  As I came to work with these goals and the behaviours that they drove, the more I came to appreciate their power, and wish that we had the like within Ford.

Coming back to your paper, and reflecting on my learning from Volvo and it’s application in subsequent consulting environments, I believe that the most important part of any performance management system is the part that should predate it — having the team come to a joint view of why they are here, what are their shared values, and what are the common goals that they should set consistent with these values.  All too often this is missing, often because people are too busy doing, and we find people ‘agreeing to differ’ while rowing in different directions counting the strokes.  Your paper seems to illustrate that this important alignment process has not occurred in many HEIs.

Peter Coote

 Added Reference Link

Monica Franco-Santos, Pilar Rivera & Mike Bourne, (2014), Performance Management in UK higher Education Institutions: The need for a hybrid approach.

Written By: Cranfield CBP

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  1. Mike Bourne 30/01/2014 at 11:20 am - Reply

    Thanks Peter, good to hear from you

    I think the report has implications outside the University sector. Anyone who has a serious research or discovery operation will face many of the same issues as Universities and increasingly we are seeing companies having to operate different performance measurement and management approaches in different parts of their business.

    With regards to the two models we presented, the agency and stewardship approaches, we are not saying that universities take pure versions of either of these approaches. Rather they are reference models that enable us to talk about the issues and highlight the benefits and shortcomings of each. The real issue for us is the pressure on institutions which is pushing people to be so much more “quantifiable results” focused. This leads to hitting the target but missing the point.


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