19 Mar /18


Performance – Word of the day – EVS Translations
Performance – Word of the day – EVS Translations

Whether it’s dealing with your work, your investments, or even the device you are using to read this, today’s word is practically essential. In the business world, companies can be made or broken by any of a number of aspects of today’s word. As Joseph Pulitzer (of Pulitzer Prize fame) once noted: “Performance is better than promise. Exuberant assurances are cheap.” So, while we may know if we are doing good or if we aren’t, what about the word itself?

Structurally, performance is the verb perform, which comes from the Old French parfornir and means ‘to do, accomplish, or carry out’, and the suffix -ance, which comes from the Latin -antia and, when attached to verbs, forms abstract nouns – meaning that performance is the noun form of a thing being accomplished.

Initially, the word was first used comply to denote the accomplishment of something commanded or undertaken, as can be seen in John Skelton’s translation of Diodorus Siculus’ Bibliotheca Historica circa 1487, translating that: “Darius the Great, King of Persia, addressing himself unto the performance of the same [sc. a canal], left it er it were made an end of.” Just over a century later, the word had changed to represent not just the accomplishment of an action, but the quality or effectiveness in which the action was completed: this can be seen in Henry Roberts’ 1598 work, Honours Conquest, writing that, “Every man speaking his opinion of the honourable fight, and commending the manner of the same, and good performance of the leaders.”

Assessing performance is always important; however, it is just as important to assess how we assess performance. For example, if you invest EUR 100 and receive EUR 125 a year later, it seems like a good deal, until you discover that another investment would have paid EUR 150 in a year. And the first mention of the term performance in its business sense to define the extent to which an investment is profitable in relation to other alternatives well explains the concept behind, Forbes, June 1926: “Until we have had an example of deviation from past performances it is safe to follow precedent”.”

When it comes to assessing performance in a business setting, one of the most well-known tools is the Deming Cycle – involving Planning, Doing, Studying results, and Acting on those results – in order to continually improve. Moreover, in the realm of attempting to assess the performance of an individual, paraphrasing Dr. W. Edwards Deming himself, it’s important to remember the impact of system and personal interaction.