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Early in my career, I found that setting clear performance standards for my team was critical to success. The standards described my expectations of the team members, allowed me to assess how well they were performing, and helped me identify areas where they needed additional coaching, resources, and support. Performance standards made interacting with the team much easier, as we all knew what had to be done, how, by when, and what acceptable results looked like.
They also helped me better support my team by defining the resources and support required, and why they were needed. I could then take this to my leadership and make a case for getting the resources my team needed. It also made performance reviews much easier to complete, as I could look at my standards and determine if a team member met or exceeded the goal.
About twelve years ago I was introduced to a format that I have found to be particularly useful in writing clear standards. It is called Performance-Condition-Criteria-Measure (PCCM). This format describes the task that needs to be done, what resources and support are needed, what successful completion looks like, and how the task will be measured. Leaders will find this useful for defining expectations for staff, but it can also be used to examine a task in detail and communicate it to others.
A PCCM table can easily be created in Word or Excel. You can make it as plain or fancy as you would like, but I prefer a plain, straight forward table. An example is shown below.
Let’s take a look at each element in more detail.
The performance section describes the specific, observable actions or activities that must be accomplished to complete the task. For example, I create a simple new-hire report for one of our internal units every week. If I were to delegate this to another staff member and describe the performance for the activity, I would define it like this:
Using data from the ASU data warehouse, run the Weekly New Hire query that shows all of the new faculty and staff hired the previous week. Export the results into an Excel spreadsheet and delete the Employee ID and Status columns. Save the spreadsheet in the Weekly New Hire folder on your computer using the following file name/reporting period dates format: Weekly New Hire Report 010115-010715.
This clearly defines the task and provides general guidelines around what must be done. It does not, however, provide much detail about when this must be done, what system to use, or how to complete the job.
The criteria section adds specific definition to the work outlined in the Performance section. The criteria describe exactly how the task must be done, when, how, and to what level of quality. I like to define the criteria first, as it will make defining conditions easier. If I were to describe the criteria for running the new hire query, they would look like this:
With this information, I can communicate the specifics of what must be done to say the work was completed correctly and on time.
A clear description of what must be done and the expectations for that work are great, but if the staff member to whom I delegate this task does not have the ability to do the work, then they cannot be successful. The condition section describes the tools, equipment, software, level of authority, access, knowledge, skills and abilities that a person would need to have to complete the task and meet the expectations defined in the previous two sections. If any of the conditions are not met, then the results will be less than desired or the task cannot be completed. The conditions for running the new hire query are:
The measure section describes the metrics which will be applied to the criteria. Ideally, you will be able to put a number on the performance (e.g. seconds to complete the task, number completed, etc.), but it is also OK to have a yes/no or complete/incomplete assessment here as well. For the new hire report, the report just needs to be run and delivered, so all of the associated metrics revolve around whether or not it was done. The measures for running the new hire query are:
Were the following criteria completed (Yes/No):
As long as all of these criteria are assessed as ‘yes,’ then the work was completed successfully. If any of these criteria is assessed as ‘no,’ then the work was not completed correctly and must be fixed.
Once the task is fully defined, you will have a performance standard that looks like this:
Using data from the ASU data warehouse, run the Weekly New Hire query that shows all of the new faculty and staff hired the previous week. Export the results into an Excel spreadsheet and delete the Employee ID and Status columns. Save the spreadsheet in the Weekly New Hire folder on your computer using the following file name/reporting period dates format Weekly New Hire Report 010115-010715.
Were the following criteria completed (Yes/No)
Since each staff member will have multiple jobs and responsibilities, the PCCM table will have rows for each task. When you are done, you will have a document that clearly defines the performance standards for a person’s job. If you are a supervisor or manager, I highly recommend that you engage your staff in the process of developing the standards. They will be able to provide insight into the work they do, what they need to do the job, where they may need additional resources and training, and it will help build their buy-in to the expectations associated with their work.
Now this is not a document that you spend time on and then throw in a drawer. It is a living document that should be used whenever you meet with your staff (or your leadership) for coaching, to discuss job performance, and during reviews. You may also find that the standards need to be adjusted over time to address evolving job functions or changing customer needs.
The Performance-Condition-Criteria-Measure approach is a very simple, yet powerful tool. Leaders will find it very useful when defining what they expect their staff to do and accomplish, and use it to assess their team members’ performance. Others will find it useful in defining their tasks and what they need to do the job and be successful. They can then use this information to make a case for the necessary resources and support they need to achieve a specific level of success. I hope you will find it as useful as I have. As always, I welcome your questions and feedback. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Clayton Taylor, MBA, is a Management Research Analyst, Pr. and Certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt working in the Office of the Executive Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer at Arizona State University. He currently consults with nine diverse Business and Finance operational areas to lower costs, improve operational efficiency and provide the highest quality customer experience to internal and external customers. Mr. Taylor can be reached at email@example.com.