This month sees the release of SIA’s “Program Performance Indicators” report for our contributing CWS Council members. Its publication prompts me to share the difference between program performance and program maturity, together with the reason why it is so important for program managers to be able to understand — and explain — the difference between the two.

The best way of doing this is with an analogy.

Performance. Imagine two people meet at a local athletic stadium and decide to race against each other over 100 meters. Both are dressed for the part and appear to be very competitive. They eye each other up and down and try to psych each other out before taking their marks and crouching down, focused on nothing but the finish line in the distance.

“On your mark, get set … GO!”

The person in the inside lane has a great start, quickly moving three meters ahead, but after 40 meters they are neck and neck — and the person on the outside catches up and then takes the lead.

Huffing and puffing, the person on the inside gains ground as the other starts to fade. Both are running at their limits, and as the finish line approaches, they dip in unison in the hope they will be victorious and fall, exhausted, to the ground.

The crowd goes crazy, awaiting the photo-finish decision.

It’s a tie — not even one thousandth of a second can separate them. Both have crossed the line in 13.26 seconds. Wow!

The CW connection. Think of these two runners as two contingent workforce programs. While their journeys to the finish line take a different course, ultimately, their performance — when measured against the ultimate objective of crossing the finish line — is identical. In program terms, this journey starts with “raising the work order” and ends with ”filling the job.”

Now, we need to understand the difference between focusing on maturity versus purely performance.

If a program’s performance today is good, if an organization that does not have a structured program today is filling all of its jobs, then the response from the business is often, “Why do anything differently?”

This is one of the most fundamental headwinds we see when it comes to driving change. This is where we must focus on maturity to drive adoption — adoption to do something differently.

Maturity. Take these same two runners. When we examine them more closely, it’s incredible that they both managed to run 100 meters in 13.26 seconds. This is because the runner on the inside lane has a fried breakfast every day, smokes 20 cigarettes daily and doesn’t even know what a gym looks like, let alone what it’s like to work out in one. Many would argue they had a very lucky race today.

On the other hand, the runner in the outside lane doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, works out every day and has both a nutritionist and a personal trainer dedicated to their fitness.

Looking deeper into this analogy, it is the different lifestyles of these two athletes that is their maturity, which reflects which one is likely to get quicker in the future and which one is likely to get slower.

So it is, when we look at the lifestyle of a contingent workforce program, that it is important to focus on its maturity across the five maturity dimensions:

  • Comprehensive
  • Strategic
  • Governed
  • Measurable
  • Sustainable

This maturity is its lifestyle — its ability to invest in itself and its future so as to be better able to deal with whatever the world throws at it going forward. To ultimately contribute toward profitability, shareholder value and market competitiveness.

By creating your own version of this analogy, focusing on the importance of maturity versus performance, you will very likely drive that all-important adoption for your change of direction or, at minimum, start your stakeholders on that all important journey with you.

Good luck!