‘Believing’ in Performance: Measuring and Managing What Matters in Chaplaincy


Defending the United Kingdom's airspace against intruders is the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) primary role. Its higher profile role, however, is to support overseas operations in Afghanistan, the Gulf region, and Kosovo as well as maintaining an RAF presence in Cyprus, Gibraltar, Ascension Island, and the Falkland Islands. To achieve the RAF's ability to operate as an expeditionary air force its key peacetime task is to maintain the required readiness levels of its forces (e.g. the Harrier, Globemaster, and Sentinel aircraft and their crews), made up mainly of more than 500 aircraft, flown and supported by some 50,000 service and civilian personnel. The Service recognises the importance of the moral component of fighting power; it is equal in priority to the physical and conceptual components. As part of this recognition, the RAF places emphasis on meeting the spiritual needs of its personnel by the provision of a dedicated team of chaplains, who serve alongside their other Service colleagues wherever that may be in the world. The RAF Chaplains' Branch is therefore an integral but discrete element of the RAF's organizational structure. Its mission is 'promoting and nurturing the spirituality, moral integrity and wellbeing of the RAF Community'. It undertakes this task by providing church services, conducting training sessions and providing pastoral support. The Branch contains chaplains of many, but not all, Christian denominations. Hitherto, the Chaplains' Branch's involvement in the performance management of the RAF has been by providing a quarterly view on the status of the Force's morale, fighting spirit and operational agility. This input is always considered as an important one for the Air Force Board's deliberations. To compile this view, the Chaplain-in-Chief trawls the chaplains on the various RAF stations for their views. From these the Chaplain-in-Chief identifies any key trends and common factors before compiling his report to the Commander-in-Chief. While the command chain's view on morale etc will be well sighted on operational factors, the Chaplain-in-Chief's assessment has the strength of being independent of the command chain, thus providing a view uncoloured by any particular axes which may be being ground. Aside from compiling a view on the Service's morale, fighting spirit and operational agility, the Chaplain-in-Chief had no other input to the Service's performance management process. 

The Need for Better Performance Management 

Over several years, the Chaplains' Branch had made a number of attempts to improve its internal performance management process. A Management Plan had been developed, based around the Balanced Scorecard concept; however, this had not led successfully into a regular process of the Board reviewing progress against targets set, largely because the utility of the information being presented was not fully appreciated in terms of managing the Branch - so the system soon fell into disuse. A later development was the creation of a Strategic Mission Plan, which sought to enable chaplains to prioritise their work against centrally determined priorities. Due to the paper-based nature of this work and the wide variance in priorities identified by individual chaplaincy teams, it proved difficult to use the 'product' of the work successfully. Nonetheless, both exercises demonstrated a willingness within the Chaplains' Branch to improve how the Branch was managed, albeit the solutions to-date had not delivered the expected benefits. One driver for improvement was an acute awareness within the Chaplaincy Board of the need to demonstrate relevancy to senior commanders of the chaplaincy role. The emphasis, across MOD, on value for money and the constant need to find efficiencies places a continuing pressure on the Chaplains' Branch given the difficulties of demonstrating tangible output. While this feature will not change, it was recognised, nonetheless, that the Chaplains' Branch need to talk in the same language as the senior RAF commanders - and that meant adopting the same performance management regime. A challenge remained - that of measuring the achievement of the chaplains. It was not seen as helpful to count say the number of religious services held, the numbers in congregations, and the number of pastoral visits. These, it was considered, were not true measures of the core outputs of the Branch. It also did not place any focus on the key enablers, which were where management could have some traction. Against that background, the Chaplains' Branch learnt of the initial successes of the implementation of Strategic Performance Management on some RAF stations. The method's emphasis on identifying Key Performance Questions was seen as offering a potential improvement for the Branch's management. With the encouragement and active support of the internal consultancy team, the Chaplain-in-Chief agreed that some early work should be done to explore the potential of Strategic Performance Management. In particular, he was keen to identify whether his cadre of senior chaplains would be willing to play their part in such a management process. 

The Process and Its Challenges 

From work undertaken at RAF operational stations, the internal consultancy branch had developed the 10-step model shown on the next page. This model proved applicable to the Chaplains' Branch, with some changes to recognise the geographically dispersed nature of the Branch, with station chaplains based on most operational stations and the unique organizational hierarchy as shown in the figure below.

Gaining top brass support was recognised as a critical success factor. The Chaplain-in-Chief, with advice from one of his Directors, gave permission for his Chaplaincy Board to be introduced to Strategic Performance Management to assess its potential value to the Chaplains' Branch. The Board met in the appropriate surroundings of Beckett House, in the impressive grounds of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom at Shrivenham in Wiltshire. Bernard Marr of the Advanced Performance Institute gave a presentation on the methodology and reported on the impact the methodology had had elsewhere. This engendered some debate and, after time allowed for 'mature reflection', the Chaplain-in-Chief directed that the CiCAG should be sounded out as they would be heavily involved in the process. The Chaplain-in- Chief wanted to know whether they could be persuaded that the effort would be worthwhile. One of the significant challenges for the team was the recognition that chaplains tend to be individuals noted for their independence of thought. Their approach to performance management did not conform to the norm. Military officers use a range of management styles and no one approach is seen as better than another. The styles lie within two extremes either the highly artistic ('round shaped') or the radically scientific ('square-shaped') approach to their management. The artistic approach would be highly adaptable, focus on the short term and be heavily personal relationship driven. The scientific approach, by contrast, would want to both identify longer-term goals and identify progress towards them in a measurable way, it could be rigid and less flexible. Strategic Performance Management approach's initial appeal is to those whose management style tends towards the scientific approach. Chaplains, whose pastoral role is heavily relationship-based and which requires little leadership, often identified more heavily with the round shape rather than the square. Notwithstanding this pre-disposition, the CiCAG, formed from senior and experienced chaplains, also recognised that their role as a group was to advise the Chaplain-in-Chief on how their Branch should be managed. Thus, they accepted, for the most part, that they had to take a broader view than that required by their day-to-day role. Based on a full day session with the CiCAG, the internal team, supported by Bernard Marr, succeeded in developing a Strategic Map of the work of their Branch, which was accepted by the CiCAG. The map is shown on the next page. During a second full day session, the Map was introduced to the CiCAG and the role of the map in helping to define the Key Performance Questions (KPQs) was explained. The day concluded with work on formulating the KPQs for the Chaplaincy Branch. With a recognised Strategic Map and an agreed set of KPQs, see Annex A, the members of the CiCAG were asked whether they considered that the work would be an appropriate foundation for a performance management regime for the Branch. It would be encouraging to be able to report a

resounding vote of approval, but this was not the case! There was a concern, which had been raised from the start, that the work of the Branch was not amenable to measurement. The introduction of a measurement regime could, some felt, be a distraction from the ministry of the Branch. This view, however, was outweighed by the recognition that in an era of tight budgets, where 'value for money' are the watchwords, the Chaplains' Branch had to speak in the language of management - and that meant adopting a more scientific approach to management. Against that requirement, the Strategic Performance Management approach showed promise against the previous efforts of the Branch. Thus, overall, with some noted dissension, it was agreed that the work could be commended to the Chaplain-in-Chief. The challenging work of identifying Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the KPQs was undertaken by one of the Directors, supported by a member of the internal team. This was a change in approach to that used on RAF stations where the range of KPQs required access to the subject matter experts across a wide range of specialisations. By contrast, the chaplaincy work was well understood by the Director, who had served as a station chaplain and senior chaplain for many years. The role of the supporting team member was to challenge and encourage.

This role was proven essential from the work done on stations. As a result, and in contrast to the anticipated position that all KPIs would have to be subjective, it was possible to identify 11 out of 38 (29%) of KPQs which could be measured objectively. For illustrative purposes, a selection of the KPIs is at Annex B. On the basis that the CiCAG was willing to support the initiative, the Chaplain-in-Chief agreed that the Strategic Map should be used as the basis for managing the Branch - on a 12 month trial basis. The KPQs and KPIs were thus translated into a Balanced Scorecard held on the RAF's Management Information System (code-named SAPPHIRE). 

The Benefits Sought 

A number of benefits are foreseen from the Branch's adoption of Strategic Performance Management. • The Branch has achieved, at least, between the CiCAG and the Board, a common understanding of the Branch's Mission and how this was to be achieved. In the past, this understanding has been patchy and poorly aligned; the investment of time and effort with the Board and CiCAG members and in their foundational thinking has brought about a significant improvement. • The regular use of the Map/KPQs and KPIs in the management of the Branch offers the opportunity to make decisions that more optimally achieve the Branch's objectives. • Branch level decisions can be better informed from objective as well as subjective data sources. • Station Chaplains will be better informed about the priorities of the Branch and will be able to use these in deciding their own priorities, helping to optimise in the use of the Branch's limited resources. • Use of previous work in the same area within the Branch to build the Map, KPQs and KPIs has redeemed what would otherwise have been seen as wasted effort. 


The system was introduced initially on a trial basis, which concluded in Mar 2010. During the trial period there was a change of Chaplain-in-Chief. He introduced a change of emphasis for the Branch by issuing his personal direction to the Branch (known in military jargon as the 'Commander's Intent'). This was based on the vision for the Branch being 'Serving the Royal Air Force Community through Prayer, Presence and Proclamation'. The implementation team were gratified to find that the new vision mapped well onto the Strategic Map which had been developed. Following the 12-month trial the Chaplain-in-Chief's view was that the system had demonstrated sufficient merit to continue, particularly as it was proving an effective vehicle for communicating his intent and monitoring how well that intent was being achieved. Therefore, the method was put into regular service and has become the standard method of reporting from station level to the Chaplaincy Board.

Using the system has tested the efficacy of the range of KPQs that were identified initially. Experience has shown that some KPQs were redundant, some overlapped with others and that others demanded too much data capture for the benefit gained. Nonetheless, outweighing this was the recognition that KPQs influenced behaviour and that this was a positive method of guiding station chaplains in their prioritisation of the task. Effort was therefore focused on refining the KPQs to ensure that they were the most effective. The revised set of KPQs is included at Annex D. Experience has also highlighted the influence that the spectrum of management styles has had on the implementation and bedding in process. Scepticism about the benefits was expressed by a number of those who were required to provide the data. This was magnified by the technical difficulties experienced by station padres; initially, these prevented many from being able to enter their reports direct onto the SAPPHIRE system. Over time some of these technical issues have dissipated, although there is still considerable room for improvement. Early recognition of these issues dictated the pace of implementation, which was slower than usual for such initiatives. The implementation team also placed high priority on communicating regularly to station padres about the process, accepting the drain on their resources that this commitment made. However, the benefit was that over the long trial period padres had the opportunity to adjust to the new requirements, to communicate their feelings, to identify workaround solutions where appropriate and to be trained through feedback in the appropriate level of reporting. One other lesson from the process has been to identify the importance of the role of the person who collates the results of the reporting round, applies military judgement to the consolidated views and presents the overall balance scorecard to the Chaplaincy Board. In essence this person is acting in what is the role of the Office for Strategic Management in a large company. Now that the system is fully bedded in, the Board spends some 30 minutes each quarter reviewing the outcome of the reporting round. Station padres can also access the system at Board level to see the overview for their Branch and the context within which they are operating. The next stage in development will be to move the focus from historic reporting to forecasting how more traffic light colours can be changed to green. 


In summary, Strategic Performance Management is fully embedded in the RAF's Chaplaincy Branch has been successfully proven by delivering three key benefits to them: • Station padres are now routinely kept on course by the Commander's Intent embedded within the Key Performance Questions. • The Chaplaincy Board now has more evidence about the activities on padres on stations to support its decisions. • The Strategic Map has proved a useful tool during the recent Defence Review to illustrate the importance of the Chaplains' Branch and what it delivers. Arguably, the RAF was better able to do this in comparison with its sister branches in the other two Armed Services, who had not been through the same Strategic Performance Management process.

Bernard Marr is a globally regognized big data and analytics expert. He is a best-selling business author, keynote speaker and consultant in strategy, performance management, analytics, KPIs and big data. He helps companies to better manage, measure, report and analyse performance.
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