Boise State on Business

Gundars Kaupins: Follow up on promises to 'close the loop'

Professor of management, College of Business and Economics at Boise State UniversityApril 16, 2014 

Gundars Kaupins.JPG

Gundars Kaupins


Dominic got those 10 performance appraisals out of the way at the end of the year. He reported that four employees had problems making accurate inventory records. These employees would receive inventory training by March. Their accuracy would by checked by the inventory-monitoring department every two weeks starting in January.

April and May passed. Dominic's manager checked to see whether Dominic had updated the records of the four employees. Nothing had been done.

Was there any training? No.

Was inventory accuracy checked? Yes, by the inventory control department. But inventory errors continue, because Dominic does not collect those records.

Dominic failed to close the loop.

Closing the loop means understanding performance and training deficiencies, doing something about them, and seeing whether the correction efforts succeeded. Closing the loop doesn't just happen.

Dominic could be reminded via automatic, computerized notifications and personal encouragement to meet the promised deadlines. Management could provide Dominic with rewards for closing the loop. Pay raises for improvements should not be out of the question.

A relatively new idea is to appraise the appraisers. Performance appraisal is often a thankless job. Appraising appraisals in both content and follow-up can boost their quality, especially if linked with recognition and rewards. At the least, a manager could thank the appraiser for doing the job well and on time.

Management often has little time to close the loop, much less to do performance appraisals. One way to make time is to set an afternoon to at least collect the data needed to start closing the loop.

Another way to encourage closing the loop is to commit the organization to try for quality awards and certifications. ISO 9000, Malcolm Baldrige, Alfred P. Sloan, and the American Society for Quality are among several organizations known for requiring companies to prove they are closing the loop. For example, employers apply for the Alfred P. Sloan Award by completing an online questionnaire about their flexibility programs and practices at their work sites. Then employees complete a questionnaire about their experiences with flexibility and supportiveness of the workplace culture. One-third of the final points come from the employer's responses and two-thirds from the employees' responses. In Idaho, the Northwest Lineman College, Hawley Troxell, KPMG and Treasure Valley Hospice received awards last year.

The Boise State University College of Business and Economics requires closing the loop as a part of its accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. With the help of a computer data-collection program, faculty members record their research, teaching and service achievements. Standards are established based on college and university objectives.

Computerized data collection helps, but there still needs to be a commitment to follow through on changing any deficiencies found and to provide appropriate reports that deficiencies have been corrected.

When closing a loop, make a commitment to do it as promised and on schedule. That commitment must come from the top.

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