Performance Management in 3M

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Performance Management (PM) is the 3M Company’s name for its highly successful program of positive reinforcement to achieve specific, measurable gains in job performance. At 3M Company in Canada alone, it produced savings “in excess of $2.56 million” from January to September 1978. Furthermore, says Henry J. Marsh, personnel develop¬ment coordinator of 3M Canada, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a total of $4.3 million by the end of the year, including savings of $1.835 million in 1977.

Marsh began the program in 1976, a year after it was introduced by the 3M parent company in St. Paul, MN. (See “How Behavior Modification Improves Productivity at 3M,” TRAINING, October 1976.) Performance Management was developed by 3M’s Education and Training Department to help first-line supervisors increase their effective¬ness through measured results, in¬creased productivity, employee satis¬faction and personal growth.

Don Riesberg, who developed Per¬formance Management, took the con¬cept to 3M Canada, where Henry Marsh was assigned to introduce and sustain the program. Marsh, then a 30-year 3M employee, accomplished this task with enthusiasm and alac¬rity, drawing upon his own long expe¬rience as a foreman before moving into a training role.
Since the program began in Canada, some 300 persons have received Per¬formance Management training. The sessions began with manufacturing personnel, but, Marsh says, “office, sales and other groups also have come on strong.”

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The introductory phase now has been largely supplanted by reinforcement training— “Your Performance Management in Action”—: which Marsh believes is necessary and must be continuous. This year, for example, he’s holding a series of 51 reinforce¬ment meetings “to keep the principles fresh.” Where the introductory ses¬sions dealt with concept, the follow-up emphasizes success stories and “fine-tuning of technique.”

Divisional coordinators have been appointed now that the program has become widespread in the company. “These people are my right arm,” says Marsh, “because they are able to fol¬low up on the programs at the grass¬roots level and provide guidance and support to the individual performers.

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Some of the successes include:
• Rewind recovery in a tape-manufacturing plant increased from 67% to 90%, saving 3M Canada $68,000 in reduced waste. The project was so successful, Marsh said, that tape employees have issued “a chal¬lenge to our American friends” in the U.S. tape plants to match the per¬formance.

• Two sales supervisors project in¬creases of 20 and 10%, respectively by working more closely with dealer sales representatives. Reinforced by their manager, the two actually posted gains of 30.5%.

• The cost accounting department estimated it would save $199,500 in the first six months of 1978— and achieved $298,219. Performance Management activities ranged from rechecking taxes paid for overpay¬ment and recovery to reorganizing workloads to eliminate nonessential functions.

• The business communications division reduced inventory levels, projecting a $19,062 savings for six months and achieving slightly over that, $20,624. A BCD sales super-visor’s program to increase< sales-team performance produced an increase of 49.5% over the comparable six months of 1977.

Besides the review meetings, Marsh issues a quarterly report of Performance Management activities to all company management. Each proj¬ect is listed by the person responsible, project description and forecast and actual results for the period.

Marsh himself continuously rein¬forces Performance Management con¬tributors through memos with copies “to the persons who sign their paychecks.” This technique has been adopted by many middle and top man¬agers, and the copy list frequently in¬cludes the company president, J. L. Kuhn.

Marsh believes that this interest and participation by Kuhn and other managers is the key to the program’s success in Canada. “In the PM train¬ing program, we deal with our expec¬tations and our influence on others,” he said. “If Mr. Kuhn had low expec¬tations, we probably would respond accordingly.” As it is, however, the president of 3M Canada “has been ac¬tively supportive since the program’s inception.”

Employee recognition is publicly apparent, pervasive and meaningfully subtle. For example, managers have a three-ring binder that contains graphs for all Performance Management projects conducted by their workers. When a first-line supervisor walks into the boss’s office for a meeting, the project book is open on the manager’s desk to the supervisor’s chart. Rein¬forcement is provided, even though Performance Management may not be the subject of the meeting.

Performance Management recognition certificate was produced. Rather than serving as a one-time memorial to past effort, it was de¬signed as “a living document with an eight-year lifespan,” Marsh says. The certificate has eight spaces for maple-leaf stickers, each representing PM results for one year. “If you don’t have a payoff one year, there’s a blank on the certificate,” Marsh says. “This has, been a remarkably effective incentive for our people to continue achieving and not rest on their laurels for previous results.”

Marsh emphasized that the Per¬formance Management program “was no effort to squeeze blood out of a tur¬nip or sweat out of a rock” by pressuring supervisors and managers to per¬form beyond their capabilities or en¬durance or beyond reason.

Realistic goals are determined by the participants, assisted by their supervisors. A base line of activity is established, and a new level of per¬formance is agreed upon. Then it’s up to the supervisor to provide the rein¬forcement necessary to achieve the results.

Among the small but tangible rein-forcers extended to PM participants are the following:
• letters of commendation;
• coffee and doughnuts;
• lunch in the company cafeteria for hourly rated workers
• review of results for managers, sometimes held over lunch or dinner and outside of normal bus¬iness hours;
• tickets for special events;
• a limited number of “dinner for two” certificates for special achievement;
• time off to attend company training programs;
• 3M “logo” specialty items, includ¬ng pens, pencils, desk sets and metric converters.

“But, above all, it’s recognition of the individual by his or her peers and superiors,” says Marsh. “No tangible reinforcement can be any more than a sign of the appreciation that must come for an interested and involved supervisor.”

Recognition and reinforcement begin with any advance from the base level of performance and are intended to encourage pursuit of the goal, not just attainment. “After all,” says Marsh, “any progress is an improve¬ment in the status quo, and our objec¬tive is to be supportive and rewarding, not punishing.” That’s also why only gains are recorded, not failures. To criticize the failure to reach voluntary goals would be counterproductive, ac-cording to Marsh. “It would inject an element of risk, and we might find ourselves facing antipathy of the sort an army gets from its yardbirds: ‘Never volunteer for nothing!'”

Because of the program’s success in 3M Canada, Marsh has had visitors come from many other 3M sub-sidiaries to see how, it’s done. This year, he described how at a meeting of international management at 3M’s world headquarters’ St. Paul. “Henry Marsh has become a resource for 3M worldwide,” noted Jay L. Bee-croft, director of education, training and development for 3M.

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Two brown loose-leaf notebooks—a guide for program leaders and a lesson book for each person receiving the training—are the backbone of 3M Company’s Performance Management program. The leader’s guide delves into the psychological principles be¬hind the program, which is designed to enhance the effectiveness of foremen and other first-line supervisors. The guide also contains diagrams that can be made into visuals for overhead projection. The entire program follows a visual-exposition format adapted es¬pecially to the simplicity of the overhead-projection system. Slides were not employed, because “the ob¬ject was to keep the program as simple and economical as possible,” says J. L. Beecroft, director of education, train¬ing and development for 3M.

The leader’s guide covers, among other subjects: achieving results, meeting objectives, involving man¬agement, applying behavioral laws, training supervision and developing a working environment.

The lesson book is divided into eight instructional topics, each varying in format but basically containing an in¬troduction and directions, a study unit, summary checklist and “action step.” A major component is the plan¬ning of at least one project to be im¬plemented and, later, evaluated for re¬sults.

The lesson plans include:
1. Principles of Performance Management. This covers development of skills for managing performance effectively.

2. Increasing Productive Performance. Reinforcement is the sub¬ject of this lesson, with emphasis on the types and effects of reinforcement and the need for individualized attention.

3. Reducing Nonproductive Performance. This covers the “no action” and “punishment” post-actions to per¬formance. The positive and negative aspects of each post-action are covered.

4. Expectations and Change. Long-and short-run expectations are de¬scribed. This lesson covers the “extra effort necessary” to change manage¬ment style from more punishing to less punishing and more reinforcing.

5. Project Selection. This covers sys¬tematic application of the principles already learned. It outlines potential projects for each student, ranging from personal work involvement to crew performance and others.

6. Applying Reinforcement Princi¬ples. This requires selection of at least one project and completion of a base¬line graph against which to measure results. It also covers data feedback and reviews material on reinforce¬ment.

7. Initial Change and Maintenance. This describes the different approaches required when a person is learning a task and when one is main¬taining a high level of performance. Emphasis is placed on the need for greater reinforcement in the early stages of a project. How to make the best use of reinforcers and why they wear out also are explained.

8. Trouble-shooting the Project. The previous seven lessons outline principles and guides; this one covers “your project in real life.” It describes what to expect from the first Performance Management project and reviews possible problems. A performance outline is provided to help each person plan additional projects.

Source : Training Magazine, January 1979.

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