The irrelevance of KPIs
Amid the hoohaas for change and the thrills of a Ministers’ Salary Review Committee, many well meaning experts have offered their views and suggestions on how to assess the performance of ministers and the appropriate rewards due to them. KPIs have been booted around as the panacea of all the ills that have surfaced. KPIs are widely used as a HR tool and also seen as a better and more objective tool for performance appraisal. It also has many drawbacks and easily misused by management to serve the wrong objectives with very adverse consequences for the organisation. The recent political developments have provided many interesting aspects on the misuse or misinterpretation of KPIs as a management tool. Kan Seng was promoted to Coordinating Minister earlier, Mah Bow Tan openly announced how great and successful were his housing policies and programmes. He would probably write a memoir on his great contributions to public housing and expecting the people to thank him profusely. These incidents were evidence that they were doing well, or their superior must be telling them so, for a job well done. How well they have done, in the eyes of their superior, using whatever KPIs, can easily be deduced by the amount of performance bonuses and growth bonuses they received over the years. Check it out. From their confidence and the high positions they held in cabinet, there were no doubts that their performances were rated very highly. What about the people’s assessment of their performances? Though the people did not have access to their KPIs, from the reactions and feedback in the media, it is quite clear that both must be ranked at the bottom of the people’s assessment. Here lies the first fault, what their superior think is good may not be good to the people. Both the ministers and their superior could be congratulating themselves for achieving all the goals in their KPIs. But to the people these are not the goals that are good for the people. So we have conflicting expectations and KPIs to start with. How then could KPIs be used to be both relevant to the superior of the ministers and the expectation of the people, if the KPIs are in conflict? Who then shall set the KPIs, the superior, the ministers or the people? If only the three can agree on the same set of KPIs, perhaps that will be a good reason to use KPIs to appraise ministers for their performance. It is a non starter in the first place.