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As my client realized, among the most challenging things management must do is to vigilantly monitor performance and share information about the state of the business to organizational members. The Balanced Scorecard and other performance management tools depend on such symbolic action as the way to inspire cooperation among all members in realizing the vision for an organization according to a strategic plan. The proactive, even prospective application of a Burkean orientation to rhetoric combined with a Weickian perspective on organizing—what I call “dramatistic organizing” (Smudde, in press)—that I applied to the Balanced Scorecard is just a first step in correcting the balance of positivism and humanism when measuring and managing corporate performance. Other approaches could be advanced as well. The bigger challenge, though, is making inroads with the management literature and practice—in that order.
Thanks to the recognition of communication’s centrality in performance management by the likes of deWaal (2002) and Kaplan and Norton (1996), making the argument that the rhetoric of performance management is a necessary dimension for success is fairly easy to make. The next step is to prove the concept by focusing on the benefits of the rhetorical-organizational nature of performance management through case examples of successful implementation in particular discourse forms. Organization and rhetoric scholars should be at the lead of this pursuit, especially those familiar with organizations and performance measurement/management 746 approaches. Although there may not be many of this pedigree, scholars with a willingness and interest in this kind of study can team with business scholars and practitioners to devise and study the effectiveness of the system I have explained here. Applications could come through MBA programs and on-the-job/consulting situations. In the end the kind integration into the business field must first occur in business journals. Crossing the chasm from academe to the main stream will not be easy, and this quest will not be swiftly completed. But the promise of applying “dramatistic organizing” in this new direction in organizational studies and adding value to both fields of rhetoric and performance management may be good.
747 Footnotes 1 A performance measurement system, as defined by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and Lawrence Maisel in their 2001 report, Performance Measurement Practices Survey Results, is one that “enables an enterprise to plan, measure, and control its performance and helps ensure that sales and marketing initiatives, operating practices, information technology resources, business decision, and people’s activities are aligned with business strategies to achieve desired business results and create shareholder value.” Simply put, a business measures what it must to make sure it achieves its objectives and goals (also see Coveney et al., 2003; Epstein and Birchard, 2000; Frost, 2000; Gore, 1997; and Harbor, 1997).
Some methods for measuring performance have gained immense fame while others have faded away. Note that such methods are different from process-related and output-focused measurements like total quality management, which is a statistical approach based on Deming’s work to ensure continuous improvement of output quality throughout a process (cf. Goetsch and Davis, 2002). A parallel example is six sigma, which also uses statistical methods about variation in data and processes (denoted by the lowercase Greek letter sigma) to ensure the high quality and reliability of products, services, and transactions. All system components must perform to specific targets, and so too must each critical aspect of every component. The idea is that a system will produce less than 3.4 errors or defects per million—produce the right thing the right way 99.9997 percent of the time (six standard deviations), which is nearly perfect (cf. Pande, Neuman, and Cavanagh, 2002).
2 Much recent scholarship argues that communication practitioners must be at the nexus of business planning by being business strategists (D’Aprix, 1996b, 1997; Dozier, 1995;
Ferguson, 1999; Garone, 1995; Gayeski, 1996; Jensen, 1995; Landes, 1997; Ledingham and Bruning, 2000; Potter, 1998; Whitwell and Argenbright, 1998; Williams, 1996). In this vein, the most effective communication professionals are those who participate in corporate planning, counsel organizational leaders on all communication issues and opportunities, and build relationships among people in other departments and organizations. For example, more-effective communication is key during organizational change, including change that is spurred by corporate-performance issues, through face-to-face communication between supervisors and employees (not large employee meetings led by executives) about facts (not values) (Larkin and Larkin, 1994, 1995, 1996a, 1996b; D’Aprix, 1996a). Fleisher and Mahaffy (1997) go so far as to describe how the Balanced Scorecard could be specifically used to manage public relations departments’ performance.
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751 Table 1. Performance measures for the balanced scorecard and their benefits by functional area.