Continuing with a recent theme here are some further thoughts regarding Performance Management systems and processes in companies and organisations, after I read this article today;
To my mind, the frequency of such articles about ‘fixing’ performance management are a measure of the problems and challenges that exist, as I’ve highlighted in my earlier articles. When i was in Delhi, initially there was no performance management system. The HR and senior team did considerable research in to what was done by other organisations. We polled our teachers and other staff and had endless hours of meetings and discussions looking at different models that we could adopt.
Ultimately, though, we came to a point where there was a crunch question we had to answer – will introduction of this system raise engagement, employee motivation and delivery of the vision, mission and values to a higher level than being achieved with no PM system? Every time we asked the question, we failed to have an answer about which we could be really confident. And so, for over two years we went around and around the issues. We genuinely feared that we could finish up with something that was worse than nothing – and we couldn’t accept that.
One of the other questions that had us all stumped was – could we arrive at a scenario where every individual in the organisation was being told that their performance was at least satisfactory, if not better, and yet be failing to achieve the organisation’s overall objectives. To my knowledge, there is no process by which you can add up all the sum total of implications of all employees’ performance management objectives to determine whether they add up to the collective goals of the organisation.
A further issue raised by a number of teachers was – you say that you want us to work with a team focus, to function in teams and work for each other – yet you talk of a performance system that will judge and rate us individually. I have to say, I think they had a very valid point.
I have also sometimes worried that if performance management discussions are focused on the negative and weaknesses, this is potentially demoralizing, but if they focus on the positive staff will extrapolate that this justifies bigger raises etc. Ultimately, we want to be stimulating dialogue and discussion that ensures all team members understand where the organisation is going, their role in that progress and the standards/ metrics for individual performance within that collective performance.
The four mistakes highlighted by the article for correction are; Ignoring signs, Setting vague goals, Using subjective scoring and Delays/ Putting Off PM meetings.
The first is a fundamental of leadership and management – one needs to determine what measurables enable you to guage the health and direction of effort, track them relentlessly and be ready to take corrective action when things are not happening the way they need to. In fact, rigidly timed PM systems can get in the way of the timely intervention. If an individual needs to be redirected, that needs to happen sooner, not when their PM meeting next comes around. For the third point, the article advocates rubrics. However, I really wonder just how many different sets of these rubrics would need to exist and what this would amount to in time commitment. In addition, to be good a rubric has to be very carefully drafted and educators consider this a specialised skill. Any rubric is only as good as the common shared understanding of the words used in it. Differing understanding will lead to differing interpretations of expectations.
The article doesn’t address what I consider (see yesterday’s article) to be the biggest weakness of PM systems – that they are inherently backward looking. I feel the way forward does lie through structures of dialogue that are formative, forward focused and strongly aligned to the goals and aspirations of both the individual and the organisation.