Getting Performance Without Performance Management

carl-hamilton's picture

Engagement

By Carl Hamilton on October 5, 2012

Performance management is much like traditional management. The manager is both the coach and the referee and the focus is the entity of one (person).

Many of the rewards that we put in place to drive performance focus on increasing influence over others and on financial compensation.  But we know that these alone cannot drive step increase in performance. We need to introduce inspiration, challenge, fun and other ingredients into the mix, topics that are more challenging from a management point of view. Furthermore, high performance, just like innovation, requires collaborative effort where team members build on each-others capabilities and competence to accomplish yet unattainable targets. Thus collective achievement defines success.

How does a manager measure an individual’s performance in such an environment?  I suggest that managers should not employ performance management in terms of setting individual goals and measuring personal deliverables.

Instead;

The idea of Engagement build on similar principles as we use to foster innovation; Set aspirational targets for what future we want to create; Employ by rolling back the aspiration to what can be done today, starting us off on the path to the future; Translate ambition into tactical activity that is turned into experimentation and action.

Translate corporate or business-unit purpose into specific actions that will require and inspire a team to engage and deliver. Let teams convert this into tactical activity and translate it to defined individual achievements and let the team monitor and correct progress. If we can leave investment and research decisions to individuals and teams we should also be able to trust them to self-regulate, given the right conditions, environment and tools. The manager is not the judge – the team is. Management then becomes a continuous effort to support the teams by mobilizing resources, building networks and coaching on objectives and direction, not a monthly or bi-yearly event or control point.

When the challenge to our teams is not about planning but actual tactics, we need to train team members on 1) How to influence through diversity and collaboration; 2) How to drive dialogue in the team to explore and choose solutions and attack strategies; 3) How to experiment, both virtually and in practice, to evaluate different means to reach a solution.

Leading in this way will put additional pressure on hiring the right people from the start, people that are motivated by what we do and why we do it and to a lesser extent by traditional motivators like salary or bonus. The leaders’ role changes form a need to manage an individual’s past and present performance to coach their future decisions on what to work on and where and how to work - inspire them to seek out what engages them!

First Steps (extra credit) 

If you are in a middle or senior management position, you probably cannot completely abandon the corporate performance management system. Instead you might decide to run 2 parallel systems to develop proof in your organization that Engagement will deliver higher performance. To test out engagement; 1) Together with your leadership cadre, translate strategic goals that are relevant for your business of function into well-defined activities that need to happen; 2) Ask your team to apply for an opportunity to work on a major activity, which you describe in enough detail to inspire engagement.; 3) Let the team form and inform them of the new way that they will have work and be measured. Let anyone who wishes to leave do so. 4) Follow the teams’ efforts closely and always be available to coach and support.

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bjarte-bogsnes's picture

Carl,

Thank you for a great post and for this key word in our search for a new label. Not much happens without engagement, even if there is full clarity about which mountain to climb, and the capability to get there.

Anything else that must be in place or removed to make great performance happen?

Thanks,
Bjarte

carl-hamilton's picture

Bjarne,
One major obstacle to engagement is immobility of people inside and between companies. This is more pronounced in Europe than in the US. At least in Sweden, several recent surveys have shown that many employees at all levels in the organization are unhappy with the job they are in. Some take action to change their situation but many remain due to e.g. regulations and financial obligations. As an example, in Sweden the law stipulates that the last person coming in to an organization should be the first to leave in a situation of termination.
If we manage according to principles that foster engagement we could support, both mentally and financially, the active search for engaging jobs, inside and outside of the corporation. We then need to put into place systems that capture or allows employees to signal how engaged they feel as well as markets that allows employees to seek out potentially engaging opportunities. I am not today in a position to answer how to do implement this but it would certainly be an exiting venture to develop.
Best
Carl