performance management

Staying Focused on What’s Important

Photo by  Elena Taranenko  on  Unsplash

Photo by Elena Taranenko on Unsplash

So you’ve figured out the three most important areas to your business this year, but now how do you stay focused on them? Ideally those themes are incorporated in your business planning for the year, but if you don’t have a written business plan, there are some simple ways you can keep these concepts front and center.

First, you can incorporate them into your regular, on-going communication with your team. As an example, your weekly or monthly ‘state of the company’ can include an update on progress made relative to the top three priorities.

Second, your management team meetings can include time for a monthly ‘gut check’ where the group challenges your commitment to those areas. As an example, if you’ve stated that improving employee morale is a priority, but you’re not allocating additional resources in this area, how is that going to happen?

And third, you can use those top three priorities to guide individual performance management plans. If the areas of focus are important to the company, everyone should be focused on them and looking at what role they can play in advancing them.

The Goal of Business Planning is Behavior Change

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Many people think of business planning as a high level exercise that sets the direction for your business—which it does. But the real goal of business planning is to change behavior in your organization. 

Not all business planning changes behavior—but business planning with on-going plan review, scorecards, and progress reports ties personal performance to business outcomes.  Consistent communication and discussion of expectations is the primary method for changing behaviors in an organization. Ironically, employees frequently don’t know what is expected of them in their roles.  The entire process starts with the planning process which identifies desired outcomes and defines expectations.  

The Best Performance Management is Done in Real Time

Photo by  Aron Visuals  on  Unsplash

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

The ‘best performance management’ often doesn’t get done because it requires the discipline of honoring an on-going commitment.  It’s akin to exercise—everyone knows it’s good for you and you need to do it on a regular basis to get the full benefit, yet many people don’t do it.

Often companies do a good job of evaluating employee’s on a yearly basis in the form of a performance review which usually include goals for the coming year.  These might include revenue goals, new initiatives or projects to launch, or developmental areas to focus on.  All worthwhile topics for discussion and review, but often those documents are only revisited again at the end of the year.

Effective performance management needs to be an on-going process so that individuals can make adjustments to their activity in real-time, rather than reflecting back over an outcome, good or bad, months later.  Ideally the performance management discussion is held monthly and reporting out is done in advance of the meeting, so face time is not wasted on reviewing of spreadsheets and reports.  Once the habit is established within an organization, it feels odd to not be reviewing performance in real-time—it leaves people with the vague feeling that they’re missing something important.

End of Third Quarter Provides Opportunity for Evaluation of Metrics

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This time of year tends to ‘strike’ most of us like the blasts of cold Canadian air that will be coming our way soon.   How did we get to the fourth quarter of the year already?  Wasn’t it just the Fourth of July?

This is the perfect time of year to evaluate the measures we’ve been using throughout the year, both to monitor our year to date performance, and to begin to evaluate whether or not the measures have been helpful in directing our strategic decision making.

The key question to ask yourself relative to what you’ve been tracking this year is whether or not the results have been part of any ‘meaty’ discussions you’ve had as a management team.  Have your scorecard results been reviewed with exceptions discussed and options evaluated?  Have metrics not met been the catalyst for robust discussions on allocation of resources?

If your metrics are helping your management team to talk about the “why” of business results instead of just reporting out, then they’re probably worthwhile measures to continue evaluating into the next fiscal year.

Effective Communication is Key to Performance Management

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When we hear the term ‘performance management’, many of us think of performance reviews which include numeric ranking scales or scorecards measuring various business measurements.  

While it’s true that effective Performance Management must include metrics in order to provide substance and accountability, the real key to performance management is communication.  Everyone including the business owner needs to have someone; a trusted advisor, board member or manager, to help them process the data that supports performance management.

Having performance data is just the first step.  Communication is needed to interpret the results, talk about successes, identify barriers, and determine next steps.  Because employees sometimes feel threatened when discussing their performance, it’s especially important to pay extra attention to how the message is being delivered and received.  Keeping an on-going and consistent dialogue going related to performance, will also make the conversations easier to have and less threatening to the individual.