Performance Management Saves Lives

LifeguardYou can always count on Bob Hanson of Sarasota County for a good performance management story.  Here’s one that I heard him tell recently:

The Parks and Rec department struggled with recruiting and retaining lifeguards for the public pools. People viewed being a lifeguard as only a summer job, not a career, so job satisfaction was low and turnover was high. The County department allocated budget to raise the hourly pay but this had little impact on the situation.

Enter performance management. Rather than treating this as budget issue, try to optimize processes, or streamline headcount, management went back to first principles to determine what outcome they were trying to achieve. Lifeguards are there to protect citizens. Lifeguards prevent emergencies and quickly provide medical assistance if they do happen.

Once they focused on these outcomes, it didn’t take the Parks and Rec department long to realize that protection, prevention and assistance weren’t their core strengths. Instead, these are attributes of the Public Services department. As a result, they transferred responsibility for safeguarding pools to Public Services, giving lifeguards a career path as emergency medical technicians (EMT) or as firemen.

Guess what? Job satisfaction and retention skyrocketed. Lifeguards are even better trained than they were in the past so citizens are presumably even safer. Parks and Rec is no longer distracted with a problem area. All without any additional budget.

That’s performance management at work. And maybe even saving lives.

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5 Responses to Performance Management Saves Lives

  1. Mike R May 17, 2007 at 4:50 pm #

    While this is an interesting story, it sounds a bit too contrived to me. I doubt it’s real. What measures did they use to figure this out?

  2. Jonathan May 17, 2007 at 9:13 pm #

    Don’t know what measures were involved or even if they ever established measures. One point of the story is that they were able to achieve this alignment only by using objectives, without having to rely on measures. Thats’ something that most people have a hard time with. We’re involved with performance *management*, not just performance *measurement*.

  3. Robert E May 18, 2007 at 11:14 pm #

    When Amazon was considering offering the ability to see sample pages from books, they didn’t have many measures to go by; this simply had not been done before. In order to understand if this feature was successful, Amazon would have to launch it using a significant number of books and that would come with a significant cost. With no experience or measurements to go by, they had to either invest the resources to do this or just pass. CEO Jeff Bezos felt this would be successful and okayed it.
    Because this decision proved successful, it is now a reference example in business books. In retrospect, we can look at killer ideas, killer applications, or great moves and say why would anybody have done differently?


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