The Term Performance – Some Personal Notes 1

To begin with my contributions to the blog I would like to share some personal reflections on the term performance. From the blogposts so far I could learn that for school teachers in the US PM heavily influences their everyday-working life, that PM works as a means of control and as a means to decide over status, income and future development within their profession.

When I sat down and asked myself where to locate performance measurement in my own personal life and to ask where it affects me personally I was first thinking along the same lines – PM within organizational contexts and mainly in the working sphere: At the end of a semester when I finish a seminar I judge the lecturer’s performance in an online survey and give quantitative marks on qualitative dimensions of their performance. In my former job at a consulting company I filled in the time I spend for tasks into a computer-program after each work day and in the end the program would calculate my “productivity”. In my job now at a research institute an intern evaluation system ranks the scientists with the help of their citation-index, the number how many times and in which journals scientists have been cited. So I can see myself in two different roles: as the one who is evaluating (quantitatively) others and as the one who is evaluated formally.

All these procedures of performance measurement form an integral and normal part of my everyday life. They are deeply rooted in my expectations of what formal organizations – in my examples universities, private companies and research institutes – do. Many of them go unnoticed and unquestioned, some I experience as superfluous nuisances and for some I feel a strong discomfort of being controlled and pressured.

But the actions and experiences of judging and being judged by means of the term “performance” don’t end there. My thoughts went on to other spheres of everyday life and less formalized ways of evaluating: When a digital voice at a helpline asks me if I am ok with the call being taped to “improve customer’s satisfaction” I’m only half aware that another person’s friendliness, effectiveness and know-how is being evaluated when I say “yes”. When I see a frustratingly bad movie on a Saturday night – I relieve my anger giving only one pathetic star at the IMDB website. The pizza I ordered arrives cold and expensive – surely, I will let others know about it and write about the delivery-service on Yelp. Certainly, not everything mentioned here is a ‘performance’ in a strict sense and certainly not all the judgement that is made in everyday-life is measurement (as a formalized and transparent process of comparing and ranking results, experiences etc.) but still there seem to be some parallels between the examples described.

So I asked myself: Is there a common principle behind these very diverse and at first sight seemingly incomparable events? What is behind all this? Has my frustration when only two persons “like” my new profile picture on facebook got something to do with this blog on performance measurements?

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