When the sea was calm, all ships alike showed mastership in floating.

William Shakespeare (from Coriolanus)

Performance improvement

A number of our services fall under the broad heading of performance improvement. In many ways, these skills build on our capabilities for providing assurance – the difference being that assurance activities are focussed on preventing poor performance whereas our focus here is on continuous improvement.

Performance measurement – Few would dispute the mantra that “what gets measured gets done” and it underlines how important it is that key performance indicators (KPIs) are chosen carefully. All too often, organisations choose indicators that are not meaningful (because they are not well defined or statistically significant), not responsive enough to provide useful feedback or encourage the wrong behaviours. We help organisations define suitable performance indicators, develop systems to gather and validate the data, and report results in ways that capture the attention of the people concerned and help them to respond appropriately.

Setting objectives/targets – Objectives and targets complement KPIs by setting expectations of performance, and allowing people to readily identify areas that are failing to achieve expected standards. Assuming that the targets are based on robust measures, the next challenge is to ensure they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed). The last three letters of the acronym require a good understanding of how the targets can be met. This is also crucial to ensuring that targets do not encourage undesirable behaviours and that the cost of achieving the targets is not disproportionate to the benefits. Our modelling skills and structured approach to setting targets (based on extensive research we have done in the field) makes us well placed to advise in this area.

Developing incentive regimes – Targets are often linked to incentives designed to ensure that they receive due attention by senior management. These can range from financial incentives that place a monetary value on changes in performance or sanctions that apply if targets are not met. Particular care needs to be taken with the latter group, since these can encourage damaging behaviour to avoid falling below a target and provide no incentive to improve beyond that point. However, they have a clarity that people often find attractive – particularly for public sector services. We help clients understand the strength of incentives, compared with other performance drivers, and how to create incentives that ensure the right balance is struck.


To find out more about this Service in relation to a specific Sector, please select a Sector from the list below: