The Performance Paradox: Understanding the Real Drivers that Critically Affect Outcomes, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Performance Paradox

Understanding the Real Drivers that Critically Affect Outcomes, 1st Edition

By Jerry L. Harbour

Productivity Press

192 pages | 75 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781563273902
pub: 2008-08-12
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How does performance improve? A simple yet often unexplored question. To quantify it, it must be measured. To measure it, it must be understood. The good news is that once we actually examine how to test performance, a number of basic principles and natural laws emerge. Principles and laws with universal applications across diverse subjects, and when correctly applied, not only unravel the mystery of how performance improves, but how you can improve performance in your organization.

The Performance Paradox explores the misunderstood subject of performance. While examining the varying measures of performance, the author discusses how to find what is true – that is, what is known and what is not known about performance, what needs to be known, what is useful, and what is not. The book exposes hype and fad and helps you embrace fact and reality. Sprinkled throughout you will find sage and practical advice which can be translated into concrete action irrespective of your intended area of application.

Based on extensive research by the author, this book provides a deeper understanding what measures of performance can actually tell us about performance or, more specifically what they can tell us about how performance does and does not improve and the practical implications of such derived insights. By examining real-world examples of how abstract ideas can be concretely applied, Jerry Harbour can help transform any business or organization into a high-performance one where results are obtained, rather than imagined.

Table of Contents

Seeking What Is True

Checking Our Assumptions

R&D Spending

Healthcare and Life Expectancy

Bombing Precision


Dollars Spent Equals Games Won

Performance Paradoxes


Performance as Subject and Why x Matters

Defining Performance

Developing a Performance Equation

Taking the Equation One Step Further

Understanding the Three Types of x Variables

Adding Oomph to Your Performance Equation

From Sea to Land

Small Round Balls That Fly

Things That Go Boom

The Power of Good Logic

Creating Task Models


S-Curves and Performance Limits

Performance Improves Exponentionally

Normal Curves

S-Shaped Curves and Logistic Functions

The Limits of Performance

Projecting Unrealized Performance Capacity


How Innovation (Sometimes) Begets Improvement

Overlapping S-Curves and What They Mean

About Innovation

Innovation Types

Type I Innovations

Type II Innovations

Type III Innovations

Type IV Innovations

Innovation and Performance Gains

Biological and Technological Evolution

The Role of Innovation Shifts


Modeling Performance

The Dilemma of Safety versus Productivity

Models: Definitions and Characteristics

Performance Models

Modeling Case Study

Outlining the Case Study Steps

The Value of Performance Modeling

Value to the Oakland A’s

Value to the U.S. Military

Some Limitations of Performance Modeling


Measuring Performance

Some Definitions and General Observations about Performance


Descriptive Measures

Predictive Measures

Prescriptive Measures

Models of Performance Should Drive Measures of Performance

Units of Measurement

Interpreting Measures of Performance

SPOTC Measures of Performance


Improving Performance

Capacity Matters

Realizing Unrealized Performance Capacity

Model- and Measurement-Based Performance Improvement

Improving SPOTC Performance


Performance: A Summary




Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Human Resources & Personnel Management
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Management Science
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Quality Control