The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the aerial warfare force for the United Kingdom. The roles of the RAF include to protect the UK from the air, provide intelligence, and provide mobile air power. The RAF is the 10th-largest public sector employer in UK with over 37,000 employees.
Performance management plays a key role in the RAF. The Royal Air Force’s HQ Air Command needs to understand the performance and levels of readiness at the group, station and squadron level.
The problem was that the requirement to report to higher management was accepted, however, the task of collecting and reporting performance indicators was often done grudgingly by station staffs. The nature of what had to be reported was often at such a low level of granularity that it rarely provided useful information for the management of stations. The under-lying problem was that stations couldn’t make the connection between the corporate reporting they have to do and the local strategy they were following.It was recognized that there was a significant risk that this situation could lead to local strategies being out of alignment with higher level goals. Greater connectivity needed to be achieved between local strategies and corporate strategies.
To achieve this the RAF commissioned me to help introduce a more localized performance management and measurement system, subsuming the higher level reporting requirement, but reflecting their local strategy.
I worked closely with the station commanders, executive boards and senior officers to identify the local strategic goals, but also worked with Air Command staff to ensure that those were aligned to the overall RAF goals and priorities. I conducted a number of individual interviews and facilitated group sessions to develop local one-page strategy maps for the stations. Below you can see the strategic map for RAF Waddington.
Overall, the station’s purpose was to generate world-class Expeditionary Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Capabilities. The station identified three core competencies or things the station has to deliver well:
• To successfully contribute to operations and other tasks, today and in the future
• To provide and develop sufficient capable and prepared people
• To maintain, sustain and develop sufficient combat ready equipment.
The station identified eight drivers of performance which would enable the station to continue to deliver its objectives. These performance drivers are to:
• Enhance and maintain competencies, training and personal development
• To develop excellent motivation, fighting spirit, morale and ethos; to maintain and enhance equipment
• To direct and coordinate output to ensure optimal use of resources
• To foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement
• To communicate and engage proactively and openly
• To enhance health, fitness and well-being
• To cultivate a positive image and reputation.
Key underpinning resources were identified as money, people, equipment and stock, external services and infrastructure.
After we successfully developed one-page strategy maps for a number of RAF stations I was also asked to help develop the same for Force level e.g. the Tornado GR4 Force, which was based across two different stations. Below you can see the one-page strategy map for The Tornado GR4 Force.
Finding measures of performance
Once the strategy was mapped we identifiedkey performance indicators (KPIs) to allow commanders to track the strategy delivery. In order to find the most useful KPIs we first identified the performance related questions the leadership required answers to. We call such questions Key Performance Questions , or KPQs for short.
Starting with KPQs ensures that, by default, all subsequently designed performance indicators are relevant. In addition, KPQs put performance data into context and therefore facilitate communication, guide discussion and direct decision making (for more details see our article: What are Performance Questions.
Below you can see some examples of KPQs and KPIs linked to specific strategic objectives from the one-page strategy map of an RAF station.
Using the performance data
Once the maps, KPQs and KPIs were in place it was important to ensure that the resulting management information is communicated and used to inform decision making and performance improvement.
Stations have regular station management board meetings in which the station executives get together to discuss and review performance. The data was made accessible to commanders through a performance management software application as well as regular hard copy reports to inform commanders prior and during the station management board meetings. Whereas some stations preferred to deal with items on a by-exception-only basis, i.e. items are reviewed and discussed once the indicators show that there is a problem in certain areas, other stations put a rotating schedule in place to ensure all items are discussed on a regular basis.
Keeping things up to date
Stations are aware that the design of the strategic map with its KPQs and KPIs is not a one-off exercise and needs to be revisited at regular intervals. This will ensure that the station strategies and station management information remains relevant and in line with any changing priorities. The plan is to revise the performance management system for the stations on an annual basis.
The then Force Commander of the Tornado GR4 Force, Air Commodore Mark Roberts, said: "The Strategic Performance Management process we went through allowed us to clarify and map the strategy of our Force. The force has now been in existence for over 25 years and this is the first time we have had an agreed strategy that clearly identifies our output deliverables and performance enables. In addition to this we now have a framework of key performance questions we need to answer on a regular basis in order to manage our performance today and in the future. These questions also allowed us to design a set of meaningful key performance indicators. Whereas before we were measuring and reporting a lot of unnecessary data, now we have a clearly aligned framework."
A senior commander at one of the participating RAF stations put the benefits into the following kind words:
"Bernard Marr has helped us to get a grip on our strategy. Before, we were struggling to agree on one strategy and were measuring everything that was easy to measure. At the same time, we were not getting any value from collecting all that data. With the approach introduced and facilitated by Bernard Marr we were able to clarify and map our strategy on one piece of paper, identify the key performance questions we as executives want to answer on a regular basis, and design meaningful indicators that will help us answer those questions. For me, we now have performance management Nirvana!”
Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.