Friday, January 22, 2010

Why Compare Performance?

This past week I was in Victoria speaking at a conference on Performance Measurement. I have been asked to present at this conference about a half dozen times and it is a real credit to the strong performance measurement culture of WorkSafeBC that this organization continues to ask for our participation.

One of the BC Reporting Principles, adopted by the BC legislature, states the following:

Public performance reporting should provide comparative information about past and expected future performance and about the performance of similar organizations when it would significantly enhance a reader’s ability to use the information being reported.

Comparative data provides stakeholders with a context to understand if what we achieved is good, bad or indifferent.

Some of our key performance indicators do have direct comparators. Thanks to the AWCBC, we can plot our administrative costs, injury rate, duration and premium against other workers’ compensation systems in Canada. Not all the comparisons are perfect. One has to take into account that jurisdictions such as Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan cover a much lower percentage (~70%) of the employed labour force than we cover in BC (~93%).

Some of our key performance indicators have no direct comparison. Our ‘voice of the customer’ program has no direct comparator in Canada regarding overall satisfaction levels for workers and employers. Some jurisdictions report on return to work at the aggregate level but none in Canada publish a statistic comparable to our indicator that measures the success of RTW for cases referred to vocational rehabilitation for that purpose. While our key performance indicator for assessing our funding status is unique, there is an industry standard that can provide another context for comparison. This AWCBC measure is reported on their website and in the Appendix to our Annual Report and Service Plan. True the the principle, this additional context is included so stakeholders have another way to judge how WorkSafeBC is performing even though there is no direct comparator to our 'Percent of Target Capital Adequacy Reserve' indicator.

WorkSafeBC also reports on a public contribution index. This measure reflects the percentage of 800 surveyed British Columbians expressing an opinion who rate WorkSafeBC as making a somewhat or very positive contribution to BC. Scores in the mid 80% range in the last four quarters are a reflection of the commitment of staff to making a difference for each and every human being they encounter. No other workers’ compensation system I know of measures performance in this fashion (or, if they do, they are not telling anyone about their results). From some historical data from firms who used to ask this question and report, we have a scale that suggests our current level is near the top of the observed range for some other BC corporations. Still, having some current external comparator in the workers’ compensation business would help our stakeholders properly evaluate our performance.

All of this is not to say we have performance measurement ‘solved’. Measurement is essential to improvement. If you can’t (or chose not to) measure something, it is debatable that you can understand it or improve it. That said, not every jurisdiction can or should measure the same things nor should they necessarily measure similar things in the same way. Performance Measurement should be strategic as well as meaningful and useful to stakeholders and those accountable for the system. More importantly, every person working within the system should be able to see how what he or she does contributes to organizational goals and influence the key indicators of the system.

Whenever possible, I encourage comparison. Sometimes that means WorkSafeBC has to generate measures for others to use; at other times, we are asking jurisdictions in Canada, the US, Australia, or New Zealand to restate their data in a way that helps us understand our own performance better.

Why compare performance? Comparison leads to understanding and that leads to questions that can make all our systems better for those we serve.

1 comment:

Zanuck said...

It would be very helpful to the comparison process if there was a set of standardised measures. Difficult to achieve and, I suspect, rather like herding very independent-minded cats, but very helpful.