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Elephants & Performance Measurement and Management

By Pippa Bourne

elephant pixs

“Performance measurement is really all about finance. Right?”  Someone said this to me recently at a meeting I attended and it made me cringe.

I considered how I might respond to this. How could I convince the person I was talking to that performance measurement and management, far from being a dry subject, is actually all- encompassing, stimulating and essential.

''The problem is that it’s very difficult to describe just what performance measurement and management is. ''

And, on top of that, it’s a very clunky phrase. Trying to describe what it is reminds me of a story found in Hindu legend about the blind men and the elephant.  The elephant comes into a village one day and the blind men go to find out what it is. One touches the tail and exclaims: “Ah, it’s long and thin like a snake”; another touches the ear and contradicts the first man, saying: “Not at all.  An elephant is like a fan.” A third touches the leg and says: “You’re all wrong. It’s like a tree trunk.”  And so on….

''Performance measurement (and management) means different things to different people depending on their focus.''


Finance people tend to think it is about finance. HR people believe it’s about people. Marketing people focus on customers … and so on. In fact, it’s about all these things and it is essential not to focus just on one aspect. If you do, it’s like driving down the M1 looking only at your fuel gauge!  You also need to look at the road ahead, at your speed and at other road users.

Like driving, people in organisations need to monitor many different activities. The difficulty is to know what your priorities should be.  As if that weren’t hard enough, we live in a world where change is rapid.  Technology affects what we do and how we do things.  Employees’ expectations are changing. Customers’ expectations are changing (think about the backlash against plastic). So, priorities must be reviewed and changed if necessary. 

Cranfield’s Performance Project Group is a small and unique collection of people working in a variety of sectors who meet quarterly with “expert” speakers (both academics and practitioners). The aim is to identify how organisations are managing and measuring performance in the “new world”; how they are preparing for the future; how they cope with changing expectations and much more…

If you would like to join this group, gain a unique insight into this important subject and shape thinking in the field contact c.angus@cranfield.ac.uk


Cranfield’s Strategic Performance Management programme is designed to help Directors, managers, project leaders and senior line managers who are responsible for implementing strategy, designing and refreshing their scorecards or developing their organisational performance management system.


Find out more information on Cranfield's Strategic Performance Management programme

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