Building Performance Systems That Last

Building Performance Systems That Last

Joe Monaco (Monaco Group, Inc., USA) and Edward W. Schneider (Peacham Pedagogics, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0054-5.ch002
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LIFTOR is a human performance system that promotes the safe and efficient operation of industrial forklift trucks. The original installation occurred in 1985. In the ensuing 30 years, it was installed at 16 sites. In spite of meeting its design goals, not all of these installations have survived, but because the same problem existed, and the same system was used to solve it, we can attribute the failures to differences between the sites. Some sites were closed for reasons unrelated to LIFTOR. Others failed because of systemic conflicts, but most of them failed after specific events occurred, such as new managers, new budgeting or contracting policies, or loss of support from corporate headquarters. Most of them could have been prevented by relying less on a corporate champion, and more on good cost-effectiveness reporting, coupled with more systematic training and involvement of front-line managers.
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Organization Background


National LIFTOR (LIFT Truck Operating Resources), is one of the most thorough and comprehensive industrial performance management systems (PMS) in existence. Yet, of the 16 original installations on record, many failed prematurely. Others continued to work, original mission intact, for nearly 30 years. Which factors caused these differences? What are the implications for the design of performance management systems in the future?

A Performance System Analysis: LIFTOR Success and Failure

The LIFTOR performance management system did not start out as such. It evolved from a performance-based training initiative in one factory & distribution center. With successive installations, it took more than 20 years of continuous refinement before we could confidently explain any accident or failure in performance as a failure to follow one or more standardized LIFTOR practices. At that point, the LIFTOR performance system had become a truly comprehensive performance system!

Figure 1 is a summary of the LIFTOR installations in our study.

Figure 1.



It’s in the Same System, Different Sites

The above analysis covers 30 years at 16 different industrial sites across four different states (USA), with 1923 forklift operators. From this analysis, we have learned about successful implementations and also about the reasons for failures of the LIFTOR system. The success of this system is well-documented (Monaco and Schneider. 2015). Here, the authors observe key reasons for failures and explain them along with recommendations for future installations. All of this is possible because LIFTOR has been implemented uniformly as a standardized system. By comparing sites with different working environments, we can make valid inferences about the causes of both successes and failures.

Classifying Outcomes

Over the collective 153 site-years of their existence, these sites trained and certified 1923 forklift operators to LIFTOR performance standards. Classifying the sites by the proximal cause for their demise, we see that:

  • Four (24%) were closed by the company, for reasons unrelated to LIFTOR.

  • Four (24%) discontinued LIFTOR when new plant managers took control.

  • Four (24%) discontinued LIFTOR because existing local management failed to support it operationally.

  • Three (18%) stopped using LIFTOR when the corporate champion for the system retired.

  • Two (12%) discontinued LIFTOR to cut costs from local operating budgets.

Corporate innovations of all sorts often fail to endure past 3-5 years after implementation. They never become institutionalized as intrinsic aspects of the corporate culture (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 1997) but remain in the “flavor of the month” mindset of the company’s middle managers. LIFTOR had notable successes, making converts among corporate champions, forklift operators, and front-line managers. But there were a number of aspects of the implementations that left it vulnerable to termination. Among them:

  • 1.

    Site managers making false comparisons between typical classroom-based “forklift safety training” and the LIFTOR performance system.

  • 2.

    Managers believing “safe operation” and “rapid operation” to be opposing goals.

  • 3.

    Reliance on a champion for year-after-year funding and endorsement.

  • 4.

    Proponents failing to cost-justify the LIFTOR Performance System annually.

  • 5.

    Local managers ignoring LIFTOR Performance System Policies.

  • 6.

    Continued reliance on “outside consultants” to maintain certification of operators

Each of these deserves a detailed explanation.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Influences: Any condition, antecedent, or event that is both recognized by an operator and causes him/her to act in a particular way.

Accomplishment: A thing of value to another person using it to perform their job. Operators produce accomplishments and use them to signal or “influence” the behavior of others.

Front-End Analysis: A method to determine the gap and cause of performance problems in behavior before interventions are selected or implemented; a method to uncover the underlying causes of poor performance.

Systems Theory: Theory that holds that systems in nature are holistic, interconnected and interdependent. If a change occurs in one part of a system, other parts of the system are affected as well.

Organization Objectives: High-level accomplishments that can describe the organization's purpose in service to its customers. Can also be used to describe the accomplishments of departments, or other work groups with a common purpose.

OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration agency in the United States that serves as the main federal agency responsible for the enforcement of safety and health legislation.

Behavior: Any action that can be seen or measured in some other way.

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