[The HR Experiment] – [Re-drawing Performance Appraisal in Governments]
To build systems that work, we need to incentivise performance. And to incentivise it, we need to measure it first – objectively and precisely. Private sector generally pays a lot of attention to that. Hence, perhaps, it is able to build far more efficient systems.
Performance measurement in government, however, remains subjective. The performance appraisal forms for most posts contain pretty abstract and/or vague parameters. They are not data driven. For instance, it would ask you to rate an individual on integrity, dedication to work etc. which can’t be measured in concrete terms. Factors other than performance slowly start weighing in. Then, because there is really no data to backup a rating given, most people tend to get similarly high ratings and the appraisal process loses any seriousness. So naturally, it becomes difficult to objectively incentivise performance and eventually we end up with a sub-par system.
We, at Ajmer Development Authority (ADA) in Rajasthan, want to create a system that works, as much as possible, on its own. To achieve it, we want a scenario where each person’s performance is measured regularly and objectively. It may not be a 100%, but something is better than nothing. There can be 2 ways of going about it. First is bottom-up, where we start devising performance appraisal parameters for the positions lower down the hierarchy first and then move up. The reason is – it would be easier to quantify and measure their tasks. As we move up to the CEO, responsibilities become more abstract. The other is top-down, where we start from me.
So for instance, how can my performance be measured? My performance metric is only one – how well my organization performs. Plain and simple. So what can be performance criteria for my organization? We can break it into some components. One important aspect is say, citizen service delivery. We are in urban development. So anytime anyone buys or inherits a house / commercial property, they have to get their name recorded in our records. This is called ‘name transfer’. So if say, at the end of last month/quarter, we were taking on an average 25 days to dispose name transfer applications with 5 days standard deviation and this month we were able to improve the average to 20 days with 4 days as standard deviation, we have improved. Similar metrics can be devised for othre citizen services. Once this is defined at top level, it can be broken down and defined until each individual in the chain. Now, if at the end of the year performance review, one has the data that X person took how many days on average with how much standard deviation and how he/she fared compared to peers, performance appraisal suddenly becomes much more meaningful. Year end is far away, such reviews can be conducted periodically to continuously improve performance. Now if the individual is assured that whatever he/she is (or isn’t) doing will get reflected for sure in the performance appraisal, work will start happening more efficiently. Note this is not a one pill to solve all problems in governance and a lot needs to be done after it, but it provides a start.
Likewise, another important component of our organizational performance is how much revenue we generate? We don’t get any funding from the government, we have to generate our own revenues and spend it in infrastructural development of the city. So if overall revenues go up, the organization – and as a corollary I – do well. Next the revenue can be broken up into various sub-components (say revenue from plot auctions, revenue from developing new colonies, revenue from urban lease, from conversion of land use and so on) and objectively performance of each and every person in the chain be measured. Then instead of rating everybody subjectively or even slightly better based on an assessment of the effort they put in, we can rate everyone objectively based on results and outcomes! Suddenly the organization becomes much more result oriented. Inter-sectional coordination will become much better. Every person will be able to see his/her work and most will try to consciously improve. Similarly, other components can be defined.
So what we are looking for is this advice. Help us devise ways to track our performance. One more thing, in order to succeed, performance measurement musn’t impose a burden big enough to become a task in itself. If it takes a lot of time, its adoption would be difficult and expensive. It should integrate in the organization like some salt does in water. It should be as automated as possible. It may be possible that we may have to adopt more IT systems to do our work so that performance measurement may become easier. We may need to tweak some of our existing IT systems or do some process re-engineering. If it brings more efficiency, then so be it, we will do so. It will be worth it.
At this stage, looking to engage with people who would have anything to contribute to this experimental project – an idea, advice, question, critique anything. You could want to get over a call/email to discuss more, you could want to travel here to get a first hand feel of things. I can share any information which is sharable under proactive disclosure clause of RTI. I will be happy to share it publically so that more can get a better perspective. We need an end-to-end clarity. At this stage, there is no money to be offered because we don’t have much clarity. We don’t want to hire a consultant and be taken for a ride. Once it becomes more structured, however, a proper project can be framed.
So, let’s re-draw!