Office of Nuclear Regulation: Implementing A New Strategic Performance Management Approach

Office of Nuclear Regulation: Implementing A New Strategic Performance Management Approach

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is responsible for regulation of nuclear safety and security across the UK. The ONR is a non-statutory agency of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that employs about 400 people. ONR, formerly the The Nuclear Directorate and originally the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, came into existence 50 years ago to ensure workers and the public were protected from the hazards of emergent nuclear energy technology.

A new strategic performance management approach

Championed by Mike Weightman, HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and Director of the organization, ONR commissioned me to facilitate the process of building and implementing a strategic performance management framework.

At that time, the organisation was facing several significant challenges that triggered the requirement for more consistent and focused performance management, as Planning Manager Kathy Donnelly explains: “Mainly because of how the organisational structure had evolved over the years and because of the diversity of responsibilities, the seven divisions of the Directorate were essentially operating as different organizations under one umbrella,” she says. “Each division was quite different in how it planned and how it managed performance.”

Therefore, there was a need to drive consistency in performance management across the divisions. Alongside this Donnelly states that the senior team also wanted the organisation to focus on the outcomes of its work, rather than more narrowly onto outputs or processes.

Mapping the strategy

The first step was to create a one-page map of the strategy. This was achieved by first interviewing the key individuals in the organisation in order to develop a draft map, which was then discussed, amended and agreed in a workshop with the leadership team. You can see an early version of the one-page strategy map (which we called Plan-on-a-Page) in the figure below.

The Plan on a Page starts with the vision and the key organisational outcomes at the top. The next layer contains the 5 core competencies the organisation identified as the key internal operations it had to excel at. The layer at the base of the map contains the enablers of success.

Engaging stakeholders and seeking feedback

Once the management team had gone though several iterations of debating and refining the Plan-on-a-Page, the organisation started a wider consultation of employees as well as the Trades Unions.

To ensure buy-in and understanding a large number of its employees (up to 30%) from all levels and all divisions were involved in the Plan-on-a-Page consultation process. "This process took several months but was definitely worthwhile," comments Donnelly. "It was useful in getting staff to understand the process and what we were trying to achieve as an organisation and for their seeing how their day-to-day work contributed to the objectives on the strategy map."

The consolidated feedback let to some further refinements until the final map was signed off.

Aligning strategic initiatives with the Plan on a Page

The organisation also made sure that it had the right strategic initiatives in place to deliver the strategic goals. To achieve that we held a workshop with the management board and all of the heads of units where we assessed every programme that the organisation was running at that time and analysed how well they linked to the strategy map and therefore contributed to the delivery of our strategic goals. "If there was anything that we were currently doing that wasn't making a clear contribution then we should stop doing it", Donnelly explains.

Formulating the information needs with KPQs

With the strategy map and strategic initiative in place the next step was the formulation of the Key Performance Questions, or KPQs for short. A KPQ is a management question that captures exactly what managers want to know when it comes to reviewing each of their strategic objectives. The rationale for KPQs is that they focus attention on what actually needs to be discussed when an organisation reviews performance and most importantly, provides guidance for collecting meaningful and relevant performance indicators. By first designing KPQs organisational leaders are able to ask themselves: "What is the best data and management information we need to collect to help us answer our key performance questions?"

Donnelly is quick to stress the importance of KPQs. "KPQs are extremely valuable," she says. "They've made a huge impact on how we've thought about performance improvement and have really concentrated the minds of managers on what really makes a difference to performance and what our real information needs are, rather than just thinking about what we can actually measure."

As with the number of objectives that appear on the strategy map, the organisation has been careful to limit the number of KPQs. "We're really looking to ensure that we have as few as we need but enough to cover the whole map," explains Donnelly.

Consider these as sample KPQs. The Core Activity: 'Reputation: We manage our reputation as a world leading, independent nuclear regulator’ is supported by two KPQs:
• How confident are all of our stakeholders in our ability to effectively regulate the nuclear industry?
• How does our reputation compare to that of other regulators?

As a further example the performance enabler: 'Resource Management: We manage our resources effectively and efficiently enhancing value for money.' Is supported by three KPQs:
• To what extent are we putting our resources where the biggest hazards are?
• To what extent are we becoming more effective and in the use of our resources?
• How well is our spending justified for external scrutiny?

Selecting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Once the KPQs were developed and agreed, the organisation could start identifying the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) it needed to monitor performance and help answer their KPQs.

Ideas and insights you can steal

The ONR has successfully mapped their strategy into a simple one-page strategy map that now articulates the top strategic goals to everyone inside and outside their organisation. Particularly successful was the level of staff and stakeholder engagement during the strategy development. Having their Plan-on-a-Page in place allowed the organisation to align strategic initiatives and develop the right measures of performance. All of this has given the ONR a simple and clear plan, great indicators, and excellent performance monitoring processes.



Written by

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the field of business and technology. He is the author of 18 best-selling books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has 2 million social media followers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.

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