Maybe get voted "off the island"? RE: productivity standards (lo ng)

From:"Morken, Tim" <>

Maybe peer review is like getting voted off the island!

-----Original Message-----
From: Phyllis Davie []
Sent: Thursday, February 22, 2001 6:35 PM
To: Bert Dotson; Histonet (E-mail)
Subject: Re: productivity standards (long)

  Thank you for your thoughtful contribution to this discussion.  I now have
a question.  I love to avoid busy work.  I assume that you have a peer
evaluation system in mind.  I have never worked with such a system.  Would
you mind sharing this system and your experience with it?
Thank you

Phyllis Davie

> From: Bert Dotson <>
> Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 16:32:58 -0500
> To: "Histonet (E-mail)" <>
> Subject: Re: productivity standards (long)
> One must first ask the obvious questions: (1) what is the purpose of the
> standards? (2) how will they be used? (3) how will performance relative to
> the standards be measured?
> There may be a number of purposes behind the decision to use some sort of
> standard that I am unaware of but in my experience they really come down
> two. Standards are set up to measure laboratory performance or to measure
> individual performance. The first instance should be less controversial so
> I will tackle it first.
> Measuring laboratory performance can be used for cost accounting,
> setting staffing levels, benchmarking against peers/competitors or any
> combination. In these instances, it is very important that the standard be
> tied to some relatively universally acknowledged measurements or the data
> are meaningless.
> On this continent we have two such systems that are up-to-date and
> widely used and one that is hopelessly out-of-date and still frequently
> used. The two current standards are LMIP measurements from the CAP and
> Canadian workload measurement system. The hopeless one is the old CAP
> workload values that are still used by some but reflect none of the
> technological and market-place changes (automation, wider availability of
> ready-made reagents, shift from pathologist gross to technician or PA
> gross...) that have occurred over the past 10 years. The LMIP is a
> subscription system that carries a healthy price-tag but roughly measures
> the amount of output (slides) that can be expected from an average FTE
> a period of time. This works out to about 1000 slides per FTE per month
> inclusive of a certain percentage of special stains etc. The Canadian
> system assigns a number of units of effort (minutes) to each technical
> task. The numbers of each task performed are then counted up and
> by the unit and you have an approximation of the level of effort required
> for a given lab. This system is much more versatile for cost accounting
> for laboratories that perform a lot of specialty tests or have
> significantly different mix of workload from those in the LMIP (all
> research labs). The Canadian value to produce one finished H&E slide from
> one cut and blocked tissue (but not processed) is nine minutes.
> No system can be perfect and there will be justifiable variations from
> lab to lab. Canadian standards are based on actual time-studies in
> laboratories and contain small increments of overhead activities and
> step-function costs such as supervision and processor changing. Larger
> laboratories can perform better because they spread these activities over
> larger specimen volume. LMIP is simply not suitable for research settings
> because it is based on actual clinical laboratories performance over
> time-spans (thus accounting for some fluctuations in daily workload). So
> Tim Morken pointed out, these measures must be put into the context of the
> specific lab and its performance versus these measures over time. I
> disagree that simply looking at labor utilization versus workload may be
> used for staffing decisions because such a decision making process invites
> technicians and supervisors to "game" the system. Academia and the
> government are notorious havens for such "gaming behavior."
> The use of "standards" for assessing individual performance is a real
> problem. A government study (post office or census, I can't find the
> reference) in the '50s examined the performance of card punch operators
> when given various performance expectations. The study found that those
> that were given specific expectations in terms of the number of cards to
> processed seldom reached the expectations (regardless of the actual
> and experienced significant stress when they did so. Those who were not
> given expectations soon surpassed the productivity of those that were and
> experienced no stress--go figure.
> If you must provide quantitative measures of employee productivity (as I
> must thanks to policies beyond my control) be VERY careful. From almost
> years now of experience with this I can tell you there is no good way to
> it. The best method I have used is a multivariable regression that allowed
> me to identify individuals whose presence in the lab significantly
> total laboratory productivity. The powers that be found that method too
> complicated (they didn't understand it). Currently each individual keeps
> track of the number of blocks they cut and embed and these are monitored
> over long periods of time to control for differences in daily assignments
> and workloads. This is less than adequate but it does tend to give a more
> realistic picture and stifle some of the negative behaviors.
> I can provide a few pointers for those establishing a new system or
> modifying an old one:
> Do Not set a standard "X blocks per hour." There is no way to properly
> monitor this unless you intend to stand over the techs with a stop watch
> and an abacus all the time. If you only monitor sometimes then performance
> when you monitor will be significantly different from when you don't. You
> will be measuring ability and not productivity. I disagree to some extent
> with the statement someone made that some techs are more talented. Many
> poor performing techs are capable of cutting at rates close to those of
> better techs. They just don't.
> Do Not count blocks over short periods of time (days or weeks). You do not
> have an unlimited supply of blocks. Those one person cuts are those
> person doesn't. You will create block hogs.
> Do have behavior and quality measures in addition to productivity. If
> productivity is the primary basis for deciding compensation or continued
> employment, poor quality and counter-productive behaviors will abound.
> I've tried to be brief but given the amount of time I have wrestled with
> this issue it is difficult. And it is silly. Everyone in the lab knows who
> is not pulling their weight--just introduce peer evaluation and avoid all
> this busy work.
> Bert Dotson

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