I was fortunate to listen to Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General and Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations speak at the UN University in Tokyo earlier this year. He was gracious as he answered an array of serious questions from the audience questions on Boko Haram, Dafur and Afghanistan. The host asked him what his one goal for 2015 was, what he said next I was not expecting.
What ever your views of the UN’s efficacy, here was a guy who was dealing with genocide, wars, political situations and atrocities that we can’t begin to imagine, yet his goal for 2015 was ‘performance management’.
It drove home for me the fact that no matter how big your vision, how true your objectives, if you’re not managing the effectiveness of your people, programs or organisation against these objectives you’re walking around in the dark spending money and wasting time.
Employee Performance Management is defined by process for establishing a shared workforce understanding about what is to be achieved at an organisation level. It is about aligning the organisational objectives with the employees' agreed measures, skills, competency requirements, development plans and the delivery of results. The emphasis is on improvement, learning and development in order to achieve the overall business strategy and to create a high performance workforce.
Whilst I agree with the above, for me personally when speaking about ‘performance management’ I view it as a broader term that extends to looking at the gamut of people, programs and organisational management we undertake each day to drive success. Whilst not an exhaustive list, I've outlined some ways that may help you manage for sustained success.
Remember to count the ‘whys’: Organisations who place significance on counting the ‘whats’ and forget the ‘whys’ cannot only obtain a warped sense of achievement, they can veer off their intended course. Ensure you understand the difference between measuring outcomes over purely outputs. Whilst both are useful, being critical of what these measurements are helping you understand is important. For example counting how many reports you’ve delivered for your client if the recommendations aren’t delivering the change intended is not productive. Secondly, spending vast resources complying with your own imposed data collection regulations for information that you have no use or time to analyse is time that could be spent elsewhere.
Do you and all your staff know ‘why’ you are here and have you asked them in return? What value does your organisation create? Consider your metrics for this, are you measuring outputs or outcomes? Do your metrics help you understand your performance, learn and make adjustments or are they creating a false sense of success?
Clean and clear data systems: Poorly executed, non-transparent, inconsistent or convoluted data collection systems do not allow for learning, growth and insights to make informed decisions.
Consider streamlining your approach, get out the markers and start to map how these systems for data collection work at every touch point. Interview people, role play, analyse the gaps and ensure these processes are embedded into the way your people work and the organisational culture. Lastly, make sure this data is useful!
Start small and prototype: We’re too busy, small, understaffed, underfunded, overworked. Sound familiar? Smaller organisations struggling to start up or working to finite resources often find structured performance management time consuming to set up, when it is at this very time that these practices are required. Whilst larger organisations can have individuals so far removed from seeing or understanding the benefits they become disillusioned with expectations to drive performance or complying to the business requirements.
Often starting simply can be best. Prototype your approaches and co-design with those who will use them each to ensure they work for your people and the organisation.
Get aligned: No that’s not something to do with corporate Yoga but it does have to do with aligning to your goals. I’ve met within the creative industry, leaders whose employees are all great friends, work hard, play hard and are churning out work time after time only to find six months later that they had let go of half their staff.
Managing the happiest team in the world doesn’t necessarily mean you are aligned to the organisations objectives - if you don’t have that clarity ask for it! It may allow you to manage and inspire your team and their outputs in different ways to achieve greater outcomes for all.
Re-frame and re-strategise: One aspect of what I believe Under-Secretary Herve may have been alluding to is to know when you need to re-think your approach. Whether we’re talking about managing a project, systems that have been in place longer than anyone can remember or your individual approach to problem solving; doing things simply because ‘it’s the way it’s always done’ is a sure fire way to disaster. If a project or team is continually not meeting it's objectives or not serving your vision then either you need to look at your problem from a different perspective or devise a new way forward.
Use the collective intelligence within your organisation and networks across all levels; listen to many perspectives and create a diversity of voice. Having an agile, collaborative and iterative approach to how you solve problems or manage outcomes can ensure better results and uncover new ways of working
Think beyond ‘your’ budget: It’s a common phenomenon that around the end of the tax year (June in Australia) there comes a flood of new briefs and deals done. One can’t help but wonder is this money simply being spent in order to keep their budget for the following year and could it have been saved or funnelled to another department for better use another time? Whilst my friends deep in the business world enlighten said ‘designer type’ that this is simply how business works, I ask them to stop and consider why?
At the top end of the scale I recently heard of story of a small rural town in NSW, Australia where $100 million dollars per annum is funnelled from across multiple government organisations and NGOs. This has continued without any significant improvement of the plethora of issues and despair these people face each day. It is only now some years later, these organisations are aligning their goals to achieve genuine impact for and with these people, re-distributing funding, sharing knowledge, skills and manpower in new ways to try to achieve long-term change.
Challenging the status quo however big or small can be tough. Thinking beyond your backyard or saving your ‘backside’ is also difficult when you have your head down or backed into a corner. Try to think beyond you’re team or organisation and take a broader look at what impact is trying to be achieved. Be bold and consider a collective approach! Whilst each team or organisation may have differing needs, getting some perspective, creating partnerships, sharing knowledge and skills can help all parties achieve not only their internal goals but achieve greater impact overall in the challenges they face.
Take a moment to consider what you define as performance management and what are the successful elements. How will you achieve your goals and can you manage this performance in a better way?
We need to continue to open our minds to not only what we’re doing but also why we’re doing it. To embed processes that enable outputs and outcomes that speak to your objectives and iterative approaches to the way we do things to deliver success.
* The author openly admits she is guilty of all of the above at some time or another and has reconciled with speaking in third person about herself.