Exploring Performance Management

Exploring Performance Management

GUEST POST from Geoffrey A. Moore

Performance management is a tool for managing Performance Zone commitments. These are the outcomes and deliverables that your organization, or for that matter you yourself, are being funded to deliver. In the Vision, Value, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures (V2MOM) framework, they will be represented by one or more of your Methods and will be tied directly to a corresponding set of Measures.

The primary goal of performance management is to ensure success in meeting such commitments. This includes early detection of things going off track—hence the need for frequent check-ins. It includes coaching and mentoring to help team members succeed—something we all need at one time or another. It asks us all to balance empathy for times when people don’t succeed with accountability for the need to succeed. People need help when they are down, but it is not fair to continue to accept funding for outcomes that do not get delivered.

When people under-deliver against their commitments, nobody wins. Most importantly, and this is something a lot of people miss, the person who is under-delivering is not winning. When coaching and mentoring are not getting them to success, the likelihood is that they are in the wrong role. Keeping them in that role, which we sometimes think of as protecting them, just prolongs the agony. A far better response is to step back and assess what would be the right role for this person, whether it be another one on the same team, or one on a different team, or one in another organization, or one in another company. The point is, rather than obsessing about what they are doing badly, we need to focus instead on what they could be really good at and get them into that role as swiftly as possible.

Let me be even more clear. It is obvious that when under-performing folks are kept in a role, everyone else on the team has to work harder. What is not so obvious is that when under-performing folks move on, even if their roles are not back-filled, the team discovers it has less work to do! The reason is that under-performing people absorb everyone else’s time. After all, they are trying to help, they just aren’t succeeding. And since helping teammates is baked into collaborative cultures, we give them extra time even though it is not productive to do so.

Again, nobody is winning here. We need an intervention. In this context, policies that call for managing out the bottom five percent are simply a heuristic that says, in any organization at any time, there are bound to be some number of round pegs in square holes, and leaving them in place doesn’t help anyone.

So, why then do we still bristle at the notion of performance management? There’s a ton of psychology behind this question, more than I am competent to address, but the net effect is that performance management puts enormous pressure on a set of social skills many of us lack. That’s not going to change anytime soon, so we should not be surprised at our reluctance to engage. But it is not OK to dodge our responsibilities either. Our best bet, in my view, is to bake into our protocol a discussion of positive next steps that includes concrete recommendations, and cope with our emotional challenges as best we can.

That’s what I think. What do you think?

Image Credit: Unsplash

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