Performance is an interesting word. You find in business and organisational life. You find it in the arts, for example, a theatre performance. An excellent performance on stage – how is that the same or different in essence from a leader in an organisation?
Performance management involves attempting to influence performance in a positive direction. It often involves the measurement of performance. Measures might be internal, through control of service or product quality. It might involve measurement against the organisation’s global and local objectives. It might also be measured against customer satisfaction – what the audience thought.
Performance can be managed by a “line” manager or supervisor who will review performance with a subordinate or colleague. It can also be self-managed. The combination of measurement and review (formally or informally) is often called Appraisal. By providing feedback on performance, a person becomes more conscious of it, and is more able to set goals and actions to change and improve it.
Groups, even whole organisations and economies can be performance appraised and managed. We can also appraise the performance of projects and change programmes against their intended aims and objectives.
In collusions of mediocrity, performance measures and conversations become distorted. Change programmes often fail or under-deliver because conversations about performance are based on dilution or exaggeration. Without honest and pen communication, we simply don’t know what’s possible. Potential becomes hidden from us.
Defining performance management
“Managing performance requires us to reconcile caring for and developing our people with ensuring that departmental and organisational aims are achieved. Managing performance requires us to strike a balance between compassion and accountability.”
“Good modern managers strive to balance these two areas according to the situations in which performance needs managing. This involves judging each different situation on merit and deciding a course of action and management style that is right for the situation.”
Some issues around performance management
When procedures dominate, initiative can be lost; performance can fall to the level of compliance rather than rise to the level of innovation.
Look for ways of creating other conditions for raising motivation other than financial reward and promotion: job enrichment, wider responsibility, creativity, challenge and social opportunity
It is important to manage disappointment well, when people receive feedback on less than hoped for performance, or when they fail to achieve promotion, resentment and non-commitment can easily result
Appraisal needs to be skilfully done. Best practice suggests appraisal should be an honest, authentic, two-way (or even many way) dialogue.
When managers intervene at levels below them in clumsy ways, attempting to stimulate performance increases, they usually end up looking stupid or engendering fear and defensive responses. Styles of coaching, group working and empowerment work better. A culture of self-management is often more effective
People are motivated very differently. A diversity-based approach to motivating staff is the more effective approach. Everyone is different.
Jargon ridden, buzz-word based, patronising motivational efforts usually lead to cynicism. Employees are much more word-wise than in the past, do not like to be talked down to, tend to laugh at superficial jargon and clumsy attempts to motivate them. Briefings can motivate but need to be genuine, open and practically focused.
– Empowerment is an effective way of motivating and managing performance. However, people’s “space to move freely” must be clearly defined and there must be no fudging or fakery
– Performance Measurement should be owned by those being measured, and managers should be seen as coaches and mentors, not policeman
– Feedback on performance is a skill that not all managers find easy. Management development in communication and feedback is vital right down to the level of eye contact, body language, tone of voice, clear thinking, self-awareness
– Collusions of mediocrity kill motivation and performance improvement efforts
– The level of motivation generally rises with the level and quality of interaction
Non-collusive performance management
It is vital to anchor real, ambitious action in time, place and person:
– Person – who is doing it – they are clear and have acknowledged the action and committed to it
– Place – the physical resources required are available
– Time – the action is anchored in time – a real realisation date
The first level of non-collusive performance management is to check for 100% compliance with an action – anchored in person, time and place
The second level of non-collusive performance management is to check for action life cycle – ensuring that reverting and fading doesn’t take place by putting monitoring on a clear, agreed timeline
The third level of non-collusive performance management is to seek for “compliance plus” – to motivate towards process and product innovation
The fourth level of non-collusive performance management is to seek for organisational learning, and personal and professional development
A couple of intriguing diagrams
The rate of learning should be greater than or equal to the rate of change. We learn over time and we also learn in physical space and we need resource for both to learn effectively.
There are different styles of control and management.
Learning Trajectories, Innovation and Identity for Professional Development
Series: Innovation and Change in Professional Education, Vol. 7
Mc Kee, Anne; Eraut, Michael (Eds.)
2012, 2012, XIX, 283 p. 11 illus.