How is Performance Management like Multi-wavelength Astronomy?

April 30, 2009
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In a magazine article about astronomy and cosmology I was struck by the similarities between performance management practitioners and multi-wavelength astronomers.

Of course, you may be asking what is a multi-wavelength astronomer. These are researchers who analyze mountains of data about stars and star formation in our universe. One specialty is X-ray astronomy, but for galaxies where there are young stars being formed from gravity collapse of gases, the resulting radiation emitted is more detectable as infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light across the broad wavelength spectrum. X-ray emission is relatively weak. Hence researchers depend on multi-wavelength data for more complete data to place those measurements into context for learning answers they are interested in.

The article’s point was that multi-wavelength astronomy combines the best available data in every part of the spectrum of the same object. This is similar to task of performance management practitioners. An organization cannot improve its performance by focusing on only one variable, such as only cost, time, quality, service-level and so on… 


In a magazine article about astronomy and cosmology I was struck by the similarities between performance management practitioners and multi-wavelength astronomers.

Of course, you may be asking what is a multi-wavelength astronomer. These are researchers who analyze mountains of data about stars and star formation in our universe. One specialty is X-ray astronomy, but for galaxies where there are young stars being formed from gravity collapse of gases, the resulting radiation emitted is more detectable as infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light across the broad wavelength spectrum. X-ray emission is relatively weak. Hence researchers depend on multi-wavelength data for more complete data to place those measurements into context for learning answers they are interested in.

The article’s point was that multi-wavelength astronomy combines the best available data in every part of the spectrum of the same object. This is similar to task of performance management practitioners. An organization cannot improve its performance by focusing on only one variable, such as only cost, time, quality, service-level and so on. These factors are interdependent. So, it is a much more complex problem.

As examples, the cost analyst may examine product and standard service-line costs and profit margins. The customer relationship management analyst may examine customer satisfaction and loyalty data. The six sigma quality team may examine quality. The lean management team may study process cycle-times, throughput rates. The operations analyst may examine schedules and resource capacity levels. However, all of things are connected!

The performance management practitioner examines how all of these factors fit together – better, faster and cheaper. But there is more. All of these factors must align with constantly changing strategic objectives defined by the executive team. Business analytics software, such as offered by employer SAS, provides the instrumentation for analysts and managers. This software is similar to what telescopes provide for astronomers – the power to see and to know.

Each of those analysts mentioned are trained in their field on how to think. In contrast, the performance management discipline, like the multi-wavelength astronomers, trains people where to think. Being good everywhere, the “excellence” message that motivational speakers often promote, is important but too simplistic. It makes you feel good to hear about being “excellent” but it rarely lasts. Why? Because there typically insufficient sustaining actions. Focus is required. That is what performance management brings. With performance management the objective is better, faster, cheaper and also smarter and healthier.