The term profit maximization to an economists performance maximization as most especially in the public service arena, where the resources are so huge and institutions are charged with enormous responsibilities which have implications for millions of people.
Performance maximization should be on the top of the agenda of all public institutions. The only those institutions can deliver is clearly identify and execute their strategic objectives.
Public institutions must be fully prepared to measure and manage and improve on their ability to deliver on the national mandate.
Performance management in Nigeria's public sector is a major challenge for a country that is largely public sector driven. The public sector is the largest employer of labor and responsible for most positive macro-economic impacts. In recent years, the performance of most public sector organizations has dwindled significantly. This is not unconnected to the fact that it is not on the agenda of any public establishment in Nigeria. Performance management is limited to an annual (performance appraisal exercise). The National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) is one of the key institutions in the mix of institutions facing the challenge of performance management. Andrews, Boyne & Endicott (2006) reported a similar challenge in the United Kingdom.
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"In the UK Central governments now classify a range of public organizations on the basis of their performance. Poor performance have been named and shamed in service areas such as health, local government, education and criminal justice. The classification system assumes that failure is attributable to mismanagement or bad decisions and actions by service provider".(p 274)
The National Board for Technical Education is an organization under the Federal Ministry of Education responsible for overseeing the affairs of technical and vocational education in Nigeria which is not offered by the universities. The board's vision and mission statements are captured respectively in NBTE website as follows:
"To uphold the ideals of a free, united and egalitarian society and promote good quality technical and vocational education; a system that is flexible and accessible to all for the purpose of producing competent and relevant technological manpower needed for sustainable national development".(para.3)
"To promote the production of skilled/semi-skilled technical and professional manpower, to revitalize, and sustain the national economy, reduce unemployment and poverty through the setting and maintenance of high standards, provision of current and reliable information for planning and decision making, sourcing and disbursing of funds and adequate linkages with industry".(para.4)
The board has a governing council and four statutory departments namely, programs, personnel management, planning research & statistics department and finance and supplies department. The management team is headed by an Executive Secretary who also serves as the Chief Executive.
N.B.T.E's Core Mandate
The core mandate of the NBTE, is to coordinate the activities of all technical and vocational institutions and bring up new ideas for national development. A summary of the categorization of institutions under the NBTE's supervision is presented below:
Table one Institutions Supervised by NBTE
Colleges of Agric.
Colleges of health Tech.
Other Specialized Ins.
Sub-total (Mon technics)
Based on the foregoing an enhanced performance management culture of NBTE would do a lot better in propelling its ability to achieving its mandate and surpass the expectation of Nigerians, with a new orientation towards performance management, as against reliance on an annual performance appraisal system.
Performance Management is witnessing rapid transformation moving from a simple process perspective to a more strategic dimension in organizations today. It entails the collective analysis of goals and objectives. Buchner (2007) provides a very insightful theoretical background for performance management. His study proposes a view of the concept from two perspectives, the individual and the institutional perspective. He proposes that the former must drive the latter in a collective manner.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Traditionally, the term performance management has been defined as "Management's effort to make its employees to work in the most efficient and effective manner, using specific and tested techniques and processes". (Warren as cited in Buchner, 2007).
Weiss and Hartle as cited in Buchner (2007) describe performance management as the establishment of a collective appreciation of what is to be achieved and the way and the manner in which those objectives are to be achieved, with a view to increasing the probability of achieving success.
According to Rummler and Brache as cited Buchner (2007), a performance management system regards the human being to be at the center. The people will receive inputs and resources, perform specific schedules or tasks and produce outputs.
Rummler and Brache as cited in Buchner (2007) itemized specific issues that influence performance. They were concerned about a number of issues; the specific nature of performance, the sufficiency of activities, expected results in line with the targets, the feed-back mechanism, the availability of technical skills and knowledge, and the capacity of the individual to deliver.
A comprehensive performance management system requires first, the clarification of what is most important in the organization, second, collecting the relevant management information for comprehending if delivery consistent with the plans and third to learn from the information, which in turn helps deliver better performance going forward. This may sound like a simple an intuitive process, but making it happen in organization can be very challenging. (Marr 2009).
Kaplan & Norton (2009) developed the balanced scorecard, a formal method to incorporate both financial and nonfinancial performance measures into organizational management systems. They used the balanced scorecard to translate organizational visions and strategies into performance objectives and developed measures that can be monitored over time. The goal is to help managers better understand strategies throughout the organization, using cause and effect to anticipate and prevent challenges, identify and take advantage of opportunities.
Eldenburg & Wolcott (2005) emphasized that the Balanced Scorecard is a tool for continuous strategy analysis of the organization from multiple perspectives. The generic methodology is to use the four perspectives: financial, customer, internal business process, and learning and growth. Within each perspective, managers and other employees study the organization and identify linkages with other perspectives based on cause and effect. For example, training employees to be strategically ready would lead to an enlightened environment which will lead to suggestions that improve customer-related business processes, such as reducing the time between receipt of a customer order and product delivery. Increased customer satisfaction would lead to increased patronage which will impact positively on financial performance. Accordingly, managers identify the most important performance objectives - the aspects of operations that must be successful for the organization to achieve its vision. Measures are then developed for the performance objectives within each perspective to help managers and employees monitor and work toward long-term goals.
Fig.1, The four perspective of the balanced scorecard adapted from Eldenburg and Wolcott (2005) page 636.
The Performance Management Challenge at the NBTE
In order to get to the root of the matter, the audience of the Executive Secretary of the NBTE was sought for his opinion specific issues relating to the performance of the institution. The Board has at its helm of affairs the office of the Executive Secretary. The management is comprised of four departments at its base and other subunits namely, programs, personnel management, planning research & Statistics and finance and supplies departments. He shed some light on the current state of performance management in NBTE, its performance management philosophy, performance measurement frequency and key performance measurement tools. His views are discussed below.
Performance management philosophy
Performance management in NBTE as an institution entails the CEO communicating objectives to various departmental heads. It is the responsibility of heads to see and actualize such objectives, although, there is no follow-up on targets and goals, because individuals are upgraded whether they meet goals or not.
Performance management philosophy in NBTE is such that the purpose is based on shift to the next cadre of authority and not on merit. Personnel view this as an avenue to get promoted even if they did not deliver as per target required. In as much as a staff has served a certain term, it becomes incumbent that he is appraised or evaluated.
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Performance measurement is not tied to results but to subjective option and tenure of service. There are no pre-set goals to be achieved and no measurement standards that will demand performance. Even if goals are set, such goals are rarely communicated down to lower level managers. This creates gaps in the corporate sense of direction.
Frequency of use
The frequency of use of performance management is minimal compared to its effectiveness in boosting productivity. The organization uses performance management once yearly which is basically meant for promotions or where there is a special purpose that may warrant such. There are no control tools in place to determine exactly what was achieved and who is responsible for good performance.
Key performance measurement tools
The organization is ready and willing to accept a performance management strategy to rank departments and personnel to reflect output as set objectives. The performance tool in place presently is the Annual Performance Evaluation Review (APER). It is a simplistic format which entails heads of department vouching for his subordinates once every year. This system is weak and tantamount to forgetfulness and bias. This tool has its set-back in the area of the duration of reviewing performance.
This is an enormous challenge facing the NBTE. The brief discussion session with the CEO reveals that this is a study being conducted at the right time. The institution is performing its functions, but not in a manner that is consistent with the contemporary practice of performance management.
A high centralized system, where almost all key initiatives emanate from the office of the CE is very plausible.
On performance measurements, he observed that there are no clear standards for determining what is achieved against what is expected. This signals a system that is practically operating below optimal giving the general nature of human beings.
The over-reliance on (APER) the Annual performance evaluation and reviewed system has really impacted negatively on the performance management culture. APER, makes performance issues appear to be a once - per - annum transactions. The APER system for appraisal is basically a trade-off which has over the years encouraged a culture of the "the boss-know-best". Accordingly staffers hardly challenge poor judgment by their superiors because he holds the big stick at the end of the year.
What is more? The interactive session with the CEO, reveals one critical dilemma. It is either that management of performance is not a well understood phenomenon or that it being confused with the practice of an annual appraisal system since what is still predominant in practice is the use of annual appraisal forms after about 33 years in operation. Clearly this has significant disadvantages considering its high level of subjectivity. Rosthein as cited in Miller & Thornton, (2006) pointed out that senior managers generally found it challenging to appraise managers that they had known for less than a year.
This finding further buttresses the assertion that the N.B.T.E needs to embrace performance management in its complete ramification. Personnel are constantly moved around or transferred from one department to the other and in many cases do not spend enough time before the appraisal period. Abu-Doleh & Weir (2007) further confirm this in their study by observing as follows:
"although performance appraisals are an organizational fact of life, in all their existence, appraisals, appraising and appraisal systems are still not fully understood and appreciated moreover, employees still express resentment and unhappy feelings towards them. Organizations today are paying more attention to employee performance and productivity as never before in a bid to not only remain competitive but to survive. Yet as important as this human resource function has become, performance appraisals are still facing systems failure". (p.75)
Recent fortune magazine studies have shown that only 10% of effectively formulated strategies were implemented. The chief Executive could not show clearly how he determines actual performance against set objective. Accordingly, it is crucial to mention that the Chief Executive must make organizational performance management a generic duly for everyone within the organization. From the NBTE down to all the institutions they supervise, it must be clear what the strategic priorities are and all must be willing to take full responsibility to meet the set standards. Performance goals must be at the forefront of all decision making process.
Performance Management and other Learning Systems
Performance in a public sector system is subject to different interpretations. The main challenge in creating a performance learning system for a public sector organization is how to make the employees unlearn old habits for which they have been rewarded for many years. A performance learning system, required would entail educating the entire staff about what N.B.T.E really stands for and getting them to act in new ways that will forge the organization towards delivering world-class services. Performance management has gone beyond human resource department. It is not restricted to a definite section of an organization: it is spread across the organization.
Based on systems thinking, performance management cannot be effectively over emphasized without all, putting hands on deck to ensure the correct measurement and control happens. These concepts will ensure the integration of planning, review of financial management and improvement in the entire system to enable managers make well-articulated decisions.
Business intelligence software has made analysis of capability of a greater number of employees giving room for measurement and report of activities.
Cultural and Ethical Considerations
After 33 years in operation N.B.T.E would have become set in certain ways. Expanding its performance management scope will require cultural and ethical considerations.
Wang, Shieh and Wang (2008) propose that "organizational culture is the collective beliefs and values shared by all members of the organization" (p.1013). Whallach as cited in Wang et al. (2008) emphasized that "organizational culture can be classified into three types, namely bureaucratic culture, innovative culture, and supportive culture" (p.1014).
Organizational culture derives from three sources: a) the values and assumptions of founding members of the organization; b) the learning experiences of members of the organization; and c) the new values and assumptions brought into the organization by new members (Wang et al, 2008).
Generally speaking, organizational culture can help instruct the employees, socialize new members and improve organizational performance. Some studies have shown that organizational culture can influence areas throughout an organization. For example, it may impact on the union of employees, productivity and welfare or even innovation (Harel & Tzafririn as cited in Wang et al, 2008). According to Wolfe as cited in Wang et al, (2008) Culture is the total way of a group and this determines acceptability of certain actions. This influences on the goal setting of an organization, personnel management and the use of performance management reports.
Flexibility in Changing Times
US President William J Clinton while signing the Government Performance and results act of 1993, observed:
"Chart a course for every endeavor that we take the people's money for see how well we are progressing, see the people how we are doing, stop the things that don't work and never stop improving the things that we think are worth investing in".
The dynamic nature of public performance was clearly elucidated president Clinton.
NBTE must as a matter of fact, rethink its policies and processes for performance management seriously. Efforts must be made towards ensuring that goals are communicated effectively, create internal capacity and processes to deliver the outcomes.
Putting NBTE through the Learning Journey (What NBTE must do)
The learning journey from an individual perspective requires that all NBTE staff could be made understand the advantages, intricacies and challenges of making NBTE a more productive institution with a performance management system. A system, that on the one hand, goes beyond yearly appraisals to linking the hearts and minds of the employees towards making the institution better in delivering its mandate ensure the effective functioning of the tertiary institutions. On the other hand, a system could entail the development and institutionalization of concrete performance management structures.
Trailing from the collective design and development of corporate missions and translating the mission into activities or objectives the everyone will perform every day and tracking down the achievements via processes and reports to show performance, non-performance and specify where the gaps are as well as spell-out immediate corrective measures that will revert the course of action to the set standards.
The learning journey from a systems perspective would require a holistic look at the entire institution. First and foremost what is the existing value orientation towards performance management? As it has been observed the institution has over the years learnt and adopted a master-servant performance management philosophy devolved by playing to the whims and caprices of the supervisor. Once this is practiced, a subordinate is deemed to be performing. This is the system in place. A type of existing value genotype has been in place for more than 30 years would be difficult to change because it has become deeply etched in the system in fact this is the system.
The overall learning journey will be first to put NBTE through new values indoctrination. This would entail using the collective wisdom of all the employees to determine the sets of values that must be imbibed to create the type of performance management culture that will turnaround the institution. These sets of values would include, high-level of honesty and ethical behavior in the discharge of their duties as an educational quality control agency, a strong determination to see higher institutions in Nigeria compete favorably with top ranking institutions world-wide, imbibe leadership qualities that would make them serve as sources of inspiration to the leadership of the institutions they regulate. A high value context is fundamental to achieving its vision which suggests that it is an institution which aims to sustain an egalitarian society and promote quality technical and vocational education, with a mission to promote the education of young men and women with skilled and semi-skilled technical and professional manpower, which would revitalize, and sustain Nigeria's economy.
Has this happened? The answer is a no. An obvious fact is that one can count the number of staff that can recall the words of its vision and mission and much less those that have accepted values that are consistent with the vision and mission.
The next step in the learning journey will be in handling systemic issues that will arise from putting a performance management system in place. This is where the use of the systems' collective wisdom will be most useful. The existing institutional capacity it best posited to drive the systemic issues. It is very common to find institutions fall in love with seductive ideas especially in the area of performance management and quickly import them to their organizations only to for it to fade away like any other fad. With new values properly inculcated, NBTE employees can be challenged to collective determine guidelines for meeting their obligations to the Nigerian educational system. As observed earlier by Weiss and Hartle as cited in Buchner (2007) they described performance management as the establishment of a collective appreciation of what is to be achieved and the way and the manner in which those objectives are to be achieved, with a view to increasing the probability of achieving success. An example is to throw the performance management challenge open to all and using systems thinking to make them see how far they can make Nigeria a great nation by discharging their duties to the best expectations and conversely how their non-performance easily create a Nigeria that is technologically backward and create citizens that are not employable and who cannot compete on a global scale.
Challenging the institutional capacity to build its own performance management ideals and culture will go a long way in helping the employees to unlearn the old ways, because it builds on the emotional side of the employee which is the strongest force in driving individual performance. They should therefore be guided by top management in the development of key departmental objectives consistent with the new values. Top level personnel will then serve as mentors monitoring the attainment of the objectives. They will also be innovative in putting creating unique strategies to achieve its organization and operational needs, work within the limits and prospect of the organization's budget, follow the trend of the accreditation world, and create a sound connection between industry needs and the institutional capacity.
Maintaining quality assurance for one institution alone can be very challenging. Imagine regulating over 100 institutions, each with over 25 faculty members. This can be very daunting. The National Board for Technical Education must be interested in performance management as its own driving philosophy, from two broad angles.
Firstly, N.B.T.E should be interested in the performance of the institutions it accredits and supervises. Secondly, N.B.T.E must perform internally to be able to drive performance in over 100 institutions in a huge country like Nigeria. Firstly, the institutions it accredits and supervise for quality assurance, NBTE should institute performance targets using specific metric.
From a practical perspective, what is the rate of absorption of the graduates in industry or how many graduates from a specific institution are able to set-up enterprises after graduation. The NBTE can also create ranking for all categories specific parameters like No. of Doctoral degree holders on faculty, No of Foreign faculty members, and post qualification performance of students. Based on these parameters, institutions can be ranked on an annual basis. This type of ranking will help to boost to competitive spirits among the institutions, which will greatly affect the performance culture. Secondly, its internal capacity for performance management must be boosted significantly. Its strategy must be very clear creating an environment of strategic readiness. As once observed,, an opportunity without competence leads to a fairy land. In embracing a full scale performance management culture, N.B.T.E will be effectively undergoing a reform. It will be a more focused institution with a clearly defined and clearly communicated corporate mission. The employees will wake-up to their responsibilities, because they are aware of their targets and the role they play in the overall success of not only the N.B.T.E, but also of the institutions they supervise.