Friday, March 26, 2010

Applying Kepner Tregoe Performance System Engineering to the national debt problem

Kepner-Tregoe Performance Systems engineering goes like this at a high level

Define the situation the performer finds themselves in
  • clarify expectation
  • clarify signals to perform
  • set priorities
  • ensure adequate resources
Help the performer close gaps in skills and knowledge

Determine the response
  • Observer and pinpoint behavior
  • Track behavior and results
  • confirm data with performer
  • Intervene at coachable moments
Set appropriate Consequences

  • Provide encouraging personal consequences
  • immediately and often
  • supplement formal with informal
  • Avoid punishment if possible
  • Consequences can be positive and negative, short and long term
  • positive short term is prefered
Give feedback

  • Use performance based information
  • Describe actual behavior and its impact
  • Review desired behavior
  • confirm information with performer
  • Encourage performer to act on feedback

To me this explains the vast majority of situations where a behavior is suboptimal. This is true from dogs to politicians from the community council to the prime minister. It is true of me and you. If you want a council employee to act in the public interest to align their performance system with the public interest.

So with 1.4 trillion of national debt, I propose that as part of the performance system for both the UK Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer that on leaving office they are personally responsible each for 0.0001% of the difference between absolute debt when they took office and when they left office. So in this scenario, each additional billion of debt would cost them a thousand pounds. Each billion removed from the national debt they would get a grand. We could focus the mind a little more and remove an other zero from after the decimal point, but this would be both a positive or negative consequence aligned with the national interest.

The hard bit would be to make the accounting independent so that debt was not hidden off the UK PLC balance sheet and that other offices had performance systems aligned with the common good, child poverty, crime, etc. The measurement is always going to be the hard part, but at least debt is an absolute number.

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