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Activity Appraisal – Part 2 : ICMS – Success is NOT Logical
Activity Appraisal – Part 2
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“What one thing would you like to change in your wife or husband?”

This question is guaranteed to initiate a lively discussion at any gathering of husbands and wives. After an initial group response of nervous laughter, individual answers tend to fall into one of the following three categories:

  • The Pious Response … “I wouldn’t change a thing.” 
  • Get real! There has been only one perfect person to walk this earth and His name was Jesus. While you may be currently blessed with a wonderful husband or wife, each one of us can and should improve. If you cannot openly talk with your spouse about an issue such as improvement, then you have just exposed a potential flaw in your marriage. Inadequate and infrequent communication between husband and wife is the number one root cause for divorce. My wife, Sue, did not give a pious response. She gave a plural response.
  • The Plural Response … “Just one thing? How about five?”
  • If you’ve never asked for suggestions, don’t be surprised if you get a lot of input. In other words “if you don’t want the answer, don’t ask the question.” When I asked my wife “what one thing would you like me to change”, she mentioned more than one thing. No, I am not going to share all those items with you. But I will say that they were not a big surprise. In fact, I knew most of the things on her list before she even said them. Would you be able to do the same?
  • The Personal Response … “For my spouse to change, I first must change.” 
  • If you want to see a change take place, offer to help the other person. For example, one of the things my wife asked me to do was to loose some weight. She offered to help me accomplish the change e.g. purchase a new book together on healthy eating habits, learn some new recipes, offer encouragement, set a mutually agreeable goal and define a way to celebrate achieving the goal. While I have the primary responsibility to make the change, Sue will play an important role as I implement the change she has recommended. Would your spouse be supportive or combative?

While change is useful, it is often misdirected. “Maximum performance cannot be achieved unless people’s significance is openly acknowledged.” say Les Carter and Jim Underwood in their book The Significance Principle“Businesses spend millions of dollars to improve corporate performance. While they must give attention to changing trends and organizational efficiency and improve procedures, they will ultimately fail if they ignore the significance of their people!”

Spending a lot of money to install an ABM system does not insure success. Some organizations have spent millions for an ABM computer system (noun) but have not achieved an ABM payback (verb).  One reason is the misconception that ABM reports are exclusively for management’s use. Activity Accounting reports should be inclusive, not exclusive.  Give ABM reports to all employees.  Train everyone “how to” read, interpret and use activity accounting reports.  Cost effective ABM training is available on the Internet at www.LearnABM.com. (Acknowledge each employee’s knowledge of their work (activities) and the ideas they have to improve it.

In my article “Activity Appraisal- Part 1”, I explained a method that managers can use with their employees to appraise performance and prioritize activity improvement.  It all starts with asking each employee “Which activity would you be most interested improving?”   Employee responses to this question will fall into the same three categories discussed above:

  • If they respond piously“I wouldn’t change a thing”, they are either not interested in continuous improvement or they are concerned that an honest answer will result in a rebuke or loss of job. A pious response is a punitive response. Employees are concerned about the punitive damages that may result from truthfully answering the question. Senior management has the primary role in resolving this concern e.g. tell employees whether waste will be eliminated or re-deployed. Honest answers result from confidence in the inquirer.
  • If they respond plurally“I’d like to change all my activities”, there is either pent up frustration with the current work environment or you have an enthusiastic employee that is totally committed to continuous improvement. Either way, capitalize on their response. Use the techniques discussed in the “Activity Appraisal – Part 1” article to define action plans to reduce costs e.g. prioritize the activities by magnitude of cost.
  • If they respond personally“I’m willing to help improve all of our departmental activities”, you have a positive ingredient for cost improvement. Personal commitment leads to action. Action leads to change. In my book “Pryor Convictions: 31 Insights into ABM” I discuss the power of multiplication. If you improve ONE activity in ONE department and define ONE improvement idea that results in ONE thousand dollars of savings for ONE month, the total savings is $1,000. If you increase it to TWO, the savings increase to $32,000. With THREE you achieve $243,000! In other words, if all your employees are willing to get personally involved in the activity improvement process, the sky’s the limit.

Happy wife, happy life. That’s a motto that I learned to live by over 30 years ago. If Sue’s happy, we’re all happy in the Pryor household. The same basic principle applies to a job. Happy work, happy worker. If you enjoy your activities, you’re a happy worker.  Happy workers are more productive workers. Use the reports from your Activity Based Management (ABM) system to create a positive dialogue with your organization’s employees.

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Tom Pryor
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