NBU urges caution over provincial government's "Performance Excellence" review

U.S. management professor says that while these reviews can show short-term benefits, many also lead to unrealistic workloads and ultimately cause long-term damage

Fredericton (24 Dec. 2014) — Throughout the past few years, the provincial government has introduced the concept of Performance Excellence, a process improvement program, into the public service. Since Performance Excellence was introduced, the New Brunswick Union (NBU) has expressed concerns about the support being provided to employees in the wake of changes caused by Performance Excellence. 

Why many of these reviews fail

Dr. Satya S. Chakravorty, a professor of operations management at Kennesaw State University, penned an article for The Wall Street Journal on why so many process-improvement programs similar to Performance Excellence fail.

Chakravorty studied several companies using similar systems to Performance Excellence and determined unsuccessful programs act like a metal spring - when pulled too far, they stretch, yield and fail. During the stretching phase, employees find themselves, "willing to tackle all necessary tasks in the early going." Basically, they take on an increased workload in order to help make the project a success.

During the yield phase, the process improvement experts have moved on and management is focused on another project, "implementation starts to wobble, and teams may find themselves struggling to maintain the gains they achieved early on."

After time, cracks begin to show

Faced with pressure to keep up with their day-to-day duties as well as new processes resulting from the project, the workload on employees gets heavier and cracks begin to show.

The fail stage is exactly what the name suggests. Chakravorty writes, "in the final stage....team members find themselves unable or unwilling to tackle improvement tasks, and the effort ultimately collapses."

The workload builds up to an unmanageable point and becomes too much. The efficiencies gained and money saved would, most likely, be lost; and there would be additional negative impacts due to the stress placed on employees.

What becomes clear when looking at the research is the need to support employees throughout the process and continue after its implementation. Any gains made by the provincial government will be short-lived if the workload isn't properly distributed, employees aren't continuously consulted and a concerted effort isn't made by management to remain engaged beyond the initial success.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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