Organizational Excellence

People and Process Improvement

Archive for March 2011

More on Performance Management

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See prior post. Another performance management conversation is taking place now on the EEN, a few excerpts and my thoughts follow. You have to sign up and be a member of the specific group to join the discussion, but at least you can check it out here.  

David Marklew started the discussion with this:

What would the reaction in your organisation be if an announcement was published stating that they (performance appraisals) were being scrapped – happy faces or sad faces from both sides? I’m smiling just at the thought of the reaction.  

Is perf mgmt just a seasonally hot topic? Maybe, considering that PM is typically only thought about “seasonally”. One of my issues with it, or more accurately with the way it is misused.

First need, I think, is to re-think what it is: an alignment and planning process, then a project management / status reporting tool. As such, it cannot be a semi-annual check-box ritual to comply with HR policy. If a project management tool, and the business plan drives the projects, how frequent should the touches be? Re-positioning elevates the relevance and importance.

(John) SMART objectives tend to be outdated very quickly – far more quickly than the time to the next appraisal…Per the comment above, when projects and priorities change plans need to change too. No way can they be carved in stone at the start of the period and left alone.

(John again) some managers will avoid feeding back on performance and development progress if there is nothing in place. This is one of my biggest concerns. Hate to say it but sometimes we need to be nudged into talking to one another!

Alison nailed it for me: It isn’t the tool which needs to be abolished, what about the skill of the user, how it’s used and how it’s positioned, these are surely key to how engaging the action is, like with most tools….Perhaps tailor made appraisals with a central core of organisational requirements might engage

If core competencies, or guiding principles etc etc exist, how well do they get driven into reality? To me, using a perf mgmt process is one ideal way. An issue, however, is how to objectively assess a person’s performance on the softer attributes.

At issue also is what Alison notes as the skill of the user. Like most anything else clarity, fairness and consistency are essential. Without these perf mgmt is a dangerous loaded weapon.

(David B) they have become so bureaucratic that many managers dread that “time of the year” when they have to be done…think about it, a time of the year, not ongoing!  I’m in the camp of de-formalizing them, but making sure at the same time that that kind of communication doesn’t fall through the cracks, and that people get feedback along the way.  So yes, scrap the “system”…

Need: ongoing, regular touches. Give people the skills they need to effectively use the process, including giving and receiving feedback (TALKING to each other??!). Use the process to manage execution of the business plan, as well as to drive the softer attributes into reality.

Balance the process by adding the individual development element.

David B said expect managers to do their job…. a well designed perf mgmt system should simply be a value-adding tool to help them do their job!


Written by Craig

March 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Performance Management-A Three Legged Stool

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It’s that time of year again…buckets of frantic activity to beat performance management compliance deadlines set by HR.

We’re having a good exchange of ideas on performance management initiated by Les Allan on the Employee Engagement Network: CIPD Members Say Performance Management Systems Fail to Engage.

Just a couple of highlights here, and an invitation to join in the discussion, either here or via the link above.

When org strategy and operational goals is the singular focus, I totally agree with a point Les makes-big problem. If I am to take ownership of my plan, there had better be something in it for me. Smart PM systems strike a balance by including personal / career development and growth.

“Good” systems include behavioral attributes like the collaboration and cooperation that Les mentions in his post, and these are absolutely critical. Much more difficult to objectively assess than “did you / didn’t you get your projects done”. But essential reminders at the least.

Putting a number on people is one of the big objections Les raises…a tough one. There is the necessity of objectivity beyond “Joe sure does good work”. The issue becomes inconsistency in interpretation and application of even the clearest rating criteria. The goal is simple: each associate has clear criteria on what must be done to “exceed expectations” and those expectations are measurable. But how do you ensure that three is three among all managers and associates?

That sounds strangely like alignment, planning and measuring goal attainment. Hmmm…pretty important stuff.

Good system=three-legged stool:

  1. Operational goals, effectively cascaded to manage execution of the business plan;
  2. Behavioral attributes to define cultural elements: this is how we behave as we are attaining our goals;
  3. Personal / career growth and development, not only to satisfy the individual’s craving to be all they can and want to be, but to build bench strength and support succession needs. 

All of the above is built on a solid foundation of collaboration between manager and associate. If it’s top-down directive forget about it. I may comply because I’m a good soldier but I won’t commit. Big difference.

Head, hands, heart.