Purpose - The intended function of performance measurement is to support the effective management of an organisation and the improvement of organisational performance. However, how performance measurement should be used operationally to support the achievement of improved performance is not self-evident. The purpose of this paper is to examine the operational use of performance measurement in practice and to describe how different use practices contribute to improved performance.
Design/methodology/approach - The authors conducted an exploratory single case study in a maintenance process. Data were collected using a mixed methods approach that encompassed qualitative meetings and interviews (identification of usage practices) followed by a quantitative survey (elaboration of usage practices and their performance effects).
Findings - Three usage practices are relevant: Inspect and Improve, Motivate, and Decision Making. Improved performance is best achieved through motivational and supportive improvement use. Furthermore, performance measurement systems must be designed properly to establish their use.
Research limitations/implications - Being based on a single-case study, the identified usage practices may be limited to field service organisations or other organisations with similar organisational structures. The findings suggest opportunities for further research linking operational performance measurement system use and the body of knowledge on the design and purpose of performance measurement in maintenance processes.
Practical implications - A performance measurement system can be used as a motivational improvement tool in operational level leadership. Upper level management must support its use by designing an understandable and applicable system.
Originality/value - This paper identifies specific usage practices that contribute to improved performance, thereby providing a more detailed view than the usage categories found in the extant literature. The focus is on operational, rather than strategic, level management.