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  • Mark Shaw

Why your performance management process is like a Ford Model T


If you were driving an original Ford Model T today, you would:

· Manually crank the car to start it.

· Use the two-speed manual gear box to achieve a top speed of about 70km/hr.

· Achieve fuel efficiency of about 18 L/100 km from the 2.9L four-cylinder motor.

· Suffer regular flat tyres as the they often broke free from the rims.

· Have the car painted any colour, so long as it was black.


While one of the world’s largest selling cars of all time, the Ford Model T has failed to meet the needs of consumers for many, many years.


Our current approach to managing poor performance can be related to the outdated Ford Model T.

  • While performance improvement plans were designed to address skill deficiencies, today’s problems are overwhelmingly about counter-productive behaviour.

  • While we expect line managers to manage poor performance, the complexity of managing counter-productive behaviour has grown exponentially.

  • While compliance to the production line process worked in 1908, compliance to fixed process such as PIPs fails miserably when applied to counter-productive behaviour in today’s workplaces.

  • Whereas technology reduced the production time for a Ford Model T by 90%, no decrease in the 60 or 90 days recommended for a PIP has occurred in 50 years.

  • While the emphasis on quality control was paramount for the success of the Model T, today reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way needs to be the emphasis for successfully managing counter-productive behaviour.


The solution is to use proactive reengagement programs (PRPs) rather than performance improvement plans (PIPs) as they are:

  • Better suited to managing counter-productive behaviour.

  • Recognise the complexity of the situation.

  • Manage risk over process.

  • Require days instead of months to resolve the problems.

  • Guarantee reasonable management action is taken in a reasonable way.

For over 20 years PRP deliver:

  • Problems resolved in 80% less time, effort, and cost.

  • 65% of PRP’s result in the employee remaining employed and ceasing their counter-productive behaviour.

  • 100% success in defending all management actions and decisions, including unfair dismissal claims.


Drive a Ford Model T if you are a member of your local historic car club, just don’t use the equivalent out-of-date PIPs to manage counter-productive behaviour in the today’s workplace.

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