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SEMS Says

Grand challenges for performance measurement research

Today, performance measurement and management practices are commonplace across all industrial, commercial and public sectors. However, as we move further into the 21st century, there is an increasing belief that the world as we know it is changing. When once the view “if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it” generally was accepted, today we are seeing evidence that contradicts this view, that is “performance without measures.”

At the IIE Annual Conference and Expo 2011, the Industrial Engineering Research Conference (IERC) has an Engineering Management track that will hold a featured session on this subject.

The featured session will pull together the findings and lessons from three different, but related studies to explore the future challenges for performance measurement research: a comprehensive literature review in the context of emerging business trends, a Delphi study exploring the future priorities for performance measurement, and a microethnographic study exploring the outcomes of performance measurement instances.

The session will deliver three related messages as well as facilitate exploring each message through participant interaction. We will attempt to outline a research agenda for dealing with the three research challenges the field faces.
 First, performance measurement and management is a social phenomenon. Viewed from a social systems lens, we no longer can accept the notion that “if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it.” We are seeing too much evidence today that contradicts this view.

Second, we will demonstrate that current performance measurement theory and practices potentially are not compatible with emerging business and social trends, including emergences of global multicultural networks, facilitated to some extent by the open innovation movement; increasing emphasis on servitization and the trend toward service-dominant logic; shifting of value from manual work toward knowledge work; increasing emphasis on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as the future economic engines; economic and environmental sustainability; and the need for increased transparency.

Third, we will explore how best performance measurement may be used as a learning system, particularly in the context of emerging social and business trends.

What is perhaps more significant is that there is a need for rethinking our approach to how we research the field of performance measurement.

Umit S. Bititci is professor of technology and enterprise management at the Strathclyde Institute for Operations Management, University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. He will present the session described above at the IERC, which will be held May 21-25 in Reno, Nev.

Stimulate innovation through interfirm collaboration

As customers, competitors and markets keep changing, it is imperative for companies to keep an eye on what is happening around them and to act accordingly in a proactive way. In times of economic downturn, innovation is even more critical as it is an important instrument that helps shift the situation to a path of sustainable growth.

As governments acknowledge the importance of innovation, they develop policy programs using roughly similar types of supporting mechanisms to stimulate innovation, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Innovation support mechanisms can be categorized broadly as three groups. One group includes investments in infrastructure and hardware, such as IT infrastructure, buildings and business centers. The second consists of policy programs focused on innovation in individual firms through intellectual property programs, subsidies, loans and consulting. The third group consists of policy programs focused on collaboration between firms. This includes joint research and development initiatives.

In the Netherlands, the “innovation performance contract” (IPC), a collaborative innovation support mechanism, has proved its effectiveness for several years. The IPC brings groups of 15 to 35 companies together around a central theme and appoints a facilitator who helps the companies translate the specific theme in alignment with the needs of their firm. Every participant receives a subsidy from 30,000 to 60,000 euros to work on individual and collective innovation goals. Because of the collaborative character, firms can combine their goals (and subsidies) in a common project. This implies an important prerequisite: revenues of the collaboration need to be divided according to the investments that have been made.

Experience has shown that successful collaborative innovation projects are characterized by equality of the partners. Both the financial involvement and the level of expertise need to be in balance. All too often collaboration is transactional, where, for instance, one partner receives part of the financial shares in exchange for doing a larger part of the work. In those cases, “clever” entrepreneurs become mainly interested in solving local problems instead of finding the solution for a specific market need. Long lasting and successful collaborative innovation projects are those where people with different backgrounds meet to combine their fields of expertise to discover and address new market needs.

Raf Sluismans is a visiting professor at Hasselt University and the executive director of the Kizok Research Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Sluismans is also the program manager at UNU-MERIT (Maastricht University). His work focuses on the development and large scale implementation of consulting interventions in SMEs. Sluismans has chaired sessions in the Engineering Management track at IIE’s Industrial Engineering Research Conference in 2009, when his team won a track best paper award, and 2010.

Preview of SEMS events at the IIE Annual Conference and Expo 2011

Research and Applied Solutions conferences
The Society for Engineering and Management Systems (SEMS) again is sponsoring tracks this year at the IIE Annual Conference and Expo 2011 scheduled from May 21-25 in Reno, Nev. The Industrial Engineering Research Conference (IERC) and Applied Solutions Conference will provide many learning and networking opportunities for SEMS members and anyone interested in engineering management. Participants from industry and academia will come away with much value in terms of new knowledge, findings from research and case studies and applications of IE methods and tools.

The 2011 IERC Engineering Management track co-chairs are Jennifer Farris from Texas Tech University and Sergio Gouvea da Costa from the Pontifical Catholic University of Parana – Brazil. The 2011 Applied Solutions Engineering Management and Industry track co-chairs include Michele Dekelbaum from The Methodist Hospital and David Stephens from Rheem Manufacturing Co. Both groups have been working with the SEMS board of directors and with the many contributors over the past six months to bring our members a high quality and expanded conference program.

IERC Engineering Management track
The IERC Engineering Management track has continued to increase in size and breadth over the past several years. More than 90 different presentations on engineering management research are planned across 34 sessions, including a panel session on performance measurement and the SEMS Town Hall meeting, with a majority of these having full papers submitted for inclusion in the conference proceedings. More than one-third of them will be from international presenters. The sessions include both invited and contributed presentations on the following topics:

  • Action research in engineering management
  • Decision analysis
  • Engineering management education and training
  • Engineering management in healthcare
  • Enterprise knowledge and learning
  • Knowledge worker performance
  • Leadership in engineering management
  • Lean enterprise
  • Lean product development
  • Management of innovation and research and development
  • Marketing of technology
  • Motivation of the technical workforce
  • Performance measurement systems
  • Process improvement
  • Project management
  • Quality systems implementation and sustainability
  • Risk management
  • Service systems engineering
  • Strategies for managing organizational change
  • Systems and engineering management
  • Team-based work systems

This year, the Engineering Management track also includes a special featured session, “Grand Challenges for Performance Measurement Research,” presented by Umit Bititci from the University of Strathclyde in the United Kingdom. Bititci describes his session in the column on Page 8.

Applied Solutions Engineering Management and Industry track
The Engineering Management and Industry track at the Applied Solutions conference has presentations scheduled for May 24 and May 25, with a wide variety of engineering management topics planned:

  • Application of industrial engineering practices to the balanced scorecard
  • Best practices in mistake proofing – systems for process excellence
  • A case study: Transforming UPS through technology
  • Conceptual integration of governance process with sustainability
  • Ideation: When traditional brainstorming just doesn’t work
  • Inside influence: Leading change from the middle
  • Managing virtual teams: Effective strategies for team performance
  • Performing a hospital labor opportunity assessment utilizing comparative data

Attendees also will have the opportunity to attend a panel presentation discussing how to maintain your technical skills while progressing in your career. It also includes presentations on transitioning from industrial engineering to management.

SEMS Town Hall meeting
The SEMS Town Hall meeting is an interactive forum held during the annual conference for the benefit of current and potential SEMS members. SEMS President Eileen Van Aken will update members on the state of the society and plans for the future. Attendees will have the chance to meet and ask questions of the SEMS leadership (the board of directors), network with other members, and provide suggestions for future activities. In particular, attendees will be able to give input and become involved with several key initiatives, such as the SEMS website, webinar series, international presence and student-focused initiatives. To learn more about SEMS or become more involved, this is a “don’t miss” opportunity.

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