What is a great performance management system, what does it comprise, how do you approach developing one?
Is it about?
The organisational or service level performance standards?
The conformance and norm(ance) of people to these standards? 100% = the goals of the organisation?
Or is it about?
Tapping into an individual’s boundless capacity? Harnessing this ‘unknown’ into an organisation?
There are many, but a couple of distinct, ways of approaching this:
Approach 1: Technically
A ‘technical study’ of a system would yield its performance features – e.g. you could unpack any large IT software house’s product and its components. These systems are essentially capturing, recording, regulating, balancing, averaging performance against objectives and are excellent ‘control systems’ for an enterprise.
It starts with the ‘locus of control’ as the WORK /JOB of the business Function, and what needs to be done. It measures against that work/job’s outputs and the moment the performance of the task is achieved it stops, because by it’s nature performance = 100% job done, and not “How much more is this person capable of?”
Thus these systems have ‘add-ons’ to cater for the individual e.g. Talent Management; Accelerated Career Development etc… all designed to cope with the ‘highly capable and the non-performers’. But the core of these systems is to measure against the job/work requirement.
They are generally historical, cold, emotionless, impersonal, and driven by providing data to the enterprise on the performance of the average human on a normal distribution curve. They are inherently inflexible, unfair and unloved. Some of the worse features emerge when the ‘bonus’ pot is fixed and the people are stuffed into a ‘forced distribution curve’ to share the pot. This is when the imperfections of management who haven’t kept good records, emerges and people feel aggrieved at “How I am scored”.
Approach 2: Empathically
A ‘human study’ of the management of performance starts and ends with the ‘individual’. It is a journey of connecting every individual through their values, to both their own mission and purpose and sufficiently to the organisation’s mission and purpose to ensure everyone benefits – the customers, people and the organisation itself (sufficiency being a measure of complete satisfaction).
The fascinating aspect is the empathic system is limitless because you are exploring the limits of an individual’s vision, dreams and ideas which, woken up by a great performance management system, can create organisations and cultures as brilliant and ever-lasting as: Southwest Airlines in the USA (https://www.southwest.com/html/about-southwest/index.html?clk=GFOOTER-ABOUT-ABOUT ), or cultures as enduring a Bhutan, where the national measure of performance is Gross National Happiness, – (see http://www.grossnationalhappiness.com/articles/ ).
Equally, there are sports teams that win and win and win because every individual is performing to ‘their’ maximum and the team leader has the skill to harness enough of this and point it in the same direction for long enough to pass a point called a goal …and here comes the kicker: a great leader sees the end-of-season goal as just another milestone – she/he knows that this team can achieve many crazy things – but mostly she/he knows it’s about the journey… …not one season, one-year p&l account, one quarter etc…. all those belong to the technical system, which they use as just that: a supporting technical system.
The Journey above all…
This subject (a great performance management system) is endless and with any journey one does not necessarily have to focus on the goal or outcome, as long as one has begun on the right path.
To pick the path isn’t complicated as long as it resonates with the owner’s (that’s you) values, vision and purpose. Values mostly…. for this releases abundant energy, enthusiasm and passion for exploring the subject deeply, inquisitively and with an open heart and mind. Which is itself a feature of a great performance management system, and so on…
Pick your path and let your journey begin…
We are not dragons, yet within each of us is a fire and a passion, sometimes left completely untapped, yet if harnessed and directed to individual and common good can yield incredible performance. The courage is for organisations not to fear this fire, or dampen it down through authority and management, but to skill leaders to coach each of us to tap into this fire constructively and then to help us direct and focus it.
The success of a journey through ‘work’ comes from the joining of values and limitless energies and on this path, together, passing all the technical milestones that signal our success, and witnessing the wonder of what each and all of us can ‘be’.