Attaining Superior Work Performance

By Ranjit Singh Malhi, Ph.D.

Superior work performance is work that is done in an effective and efficient manner (see Figure 1). Being effective means choosing the appropriate goals and attaining them. Effectiveness measures the degree to which predetermined goals are attained. It is essentially “doing the right things”. An important element of effectiveness is quality which is essentially “meeting or exceeding customers’ requirements consistently”. 

 FIGURE 1: Dimensions of Superior Work Performance

Being efficient means minimizing the cost or resources utilized in attaining predetermined goals. Efficiency measures the ratio of outputs such as products and services to inputs such as labour, materials and capital. It is essentially “doing things right”. Simply put, superior work performance is doing the right things right. It encompasses primarily producing quality work within deadlines, accomplishing work objectives with minimum utilization of resources, and making effective and timely decisions.

Basics of Quality

To enhance work performance, every employee should clearly understand the meaning and basic principles of Quality (see Figure 2). Take heed that quality is not merely an attribute of a product or service. It is also a mindset. Quality must become a way of life for every employee. Without employees exhibiting the right attitudes in their daily work, quality improvement efforts are doomed to fail. All employees should strive to do the right things right the first time and all the time. Problems should be viewed as opportunities for improvement and mistakes as valuable lessons learned.

What Quality IsWhat Quality Is Not
1. Meeting customers' requirements consistently 1. Meeting technical requirements
2. Preventing defects from occurring. 2. Detecting or rectifying errors.
3. Doing things right the first time. Tolerating errors.
4. Focusing on total employee involvement. 4. Focusing on the Quality Control Department or the front-line employees.
5. Being customer-driven (both internal and external). Being process-driven
6. Promoting teamwork 6. Focusing on individual effort.
7. Practising and open and honest communication 7. Sweeping problems under the carpet.
8. Leading by Example. 8. Delegating to subordinates.
9. Making decisions based on facts. 9. Making decisions based on hearsay or gut feeling
10. Continuous improvement or a moving target. 10. One best level of performance or a fixed target.

 FIGURE 2: Meaning of Quality

25 Tips on Improving Your Work Performance 

  1. Be in love with your job. Take pride in your work.
  2. Know your job thoroughly. Keep track of the latest research or developments in your area of expertise. Be well-informed for knowledge is power. You should also have a fair working knowledge of what the other departments in your organization do.
  3. Form the habit of performing every job to the best of your ability. Focus on doing the right things right the first time and every time.
  4. Determine your key work goals on a monthly or weekly basis. Goals are not equally important. Hence, prioritize the various goals and draw up action plans with realistic deadlines to attain them. Concentrate on attaining the vital goals first. If you are unsure about which goals are more important, double-check with your superior.
  5. Maintain a daily To-Do List which includes activities to attain your weekly goals. Prioritize them and estimate the amount of time required for each one. Do it preferably at the end of the previous day.
  6. Establish specific, verifiable and challenging work performance standards which cover important job dimensions and meet the requirements of internal and external customers.
  7. Practise preventive management by building quality into the work process. Anticipate what can go wrong and take preventive steps to prevent those errors from occurring.
  8. Before starting a task, be crystal-clear about the desired results or expectations of your superior. If you are unsure, do not hesitate to seek clarification from your immediate superior.
  9. Always double-check your completed work before submitting it to your superior. Ensure that there are no factual or typographical errors.
  10. Follow through on major tasks to ensure their proper completion.
  11. Learn how to make sound and timely decisions. Gather relevant information quickly; determine the root cause of the problem based on facts; examine the pros and cons of various alternatives; draw on the experience and knowledge of others; and then make the decision.
  12. Maintain a well-organized desk. Arrange systematically on your desk the items you use most frequently. Ensure the working area directly in front of you is always clear. Clear your desk of anything you are not working on. Keep to one task at a time.
  13. Don’t allow paperwork to pile up. Dispose of minor matters quickly.
  14. Set up a personal file system. All files should be clearly labelled. File papers neatly in the appropriate file folder. Clean out your files periodically and discard information that is no longer needed.
  15. Keep a notebook to jot down ideas and important information.
  16. Concentrate on completing the task at hand. Avoid making unnecessary phone calls or chatting idly with colleagues.
  17. Improve your oral and written communication skills.
  18. Focus on one task at a time. Complete a particular task well before tackling another one.
  19. Tackle challenging tasks while you are fresh and energetic.
  20. Focus on results, not on activities.
  21. Be a team player. Be cooperative and share ideas with others.
  22. Be creative. Challenge the established way of doing things.
  23. Create mutually rewarding working relationships with other peak performers who can assist you in enhancing your work performance.
  24. Constantly seek to improve yourself. Admit mistakes and learn from them.
  25. Continually ask yourself the following three questions:
    • Am I doing the right things?
    • Am I doing things right?
    • How can I do things better?

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