Sustainability in practice: improving performance

I was recently reading some fascinating work by a leading management lecturer at Harvard University about why we measure performance.  He stressed that different purposes require different measures, but the process of review to inform improvement is present in nearly every sector of life. Why is this seen as such a critical process in so many walks of life? Within this work, Robert Behn highlights 8 managerial purposes for assessing business performance:

  1. Evaluate – how well am I/is my business doing?
  2. Control – how can I ensure that I (and my staff) are doing the right thing?
  3. Budget – am I spending money wisely and when can costs be saved?
  4. Motivate – how can I motivate myself and everyone I work with to improve on what we’re already doing?
  5. Promote – how can I demonstrate to everyone I do business with that I am doing a good job?
  6. Celebrate – when I and my team get things right – I want to celebrate success
  7. Learn – what’s working or not working?
  8. Improve- what exactly should we do differently to improve performance?

It seemed to me that these 8 key principles lie at the very heart of why LEAF first developed the LEAF Audit back in 1994.  To help farmers take stock of what they are doing, consider why and use this information to drive forward continual improvement in their businesses from economic, environment and social points of view.

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By a process of annual review through the LEAF Sustainable Farming Review, farmers can get overall picture of their business’ performance

Today, after 20 years of doing just this, the LEAF Audit has come to the end of its own journey.  It is to be replaced by the LEAF Sustainable Farming Review.  Although different in look, feel, ease of navigation and with fewer questions, the general ethos of the LEAF Audits big sister remains very much the same: an on-line, self-assessment management tool to review current farming practices and identify areas for future improvement.

Just like the LEAF Audit, the LEAF Sustainable Farming Review will be the bedrock to helping LEAF farmers implement Integrated Farm Management (IFM).  It covers the 9 sections of IFM from Crop Health and Protection, Water and Soil Management, Animal Husbandry through to Community Engagement and Organisation and Planning. Together these sections cover economic performance, environmental quality and social health. We have worked closely with farmers, heard what matters to them, listened to what they want and hope that the LEAF Sustainable Farming Review will make a real, practical difference to more sustainable farming.

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The LEAF Sustainable Farming Review will be the bedrock to helping LEAF farmers implement Integrated Farm Management (IFM)

There is no one magic performance measure that farmers can use for all of the Behn’s  eight managerial purposes, but by a process of annual review through the LEAF Sustainable Farming Review farmers can get overall picture of their business’ performance. As demand increases in order to feed a growing population sustainably, it is essential for all farms to be working to their optimum, and the LEAF Sustainable Farming Review encourages and enables farmers to continually improve to do just that.

The LEAF Sustainable Farming Review is available to LEAF members through MyLEAF from 1st December.   If you have any questions, please contact the LEAF office tel: +44 (0)2476 413911.

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