NUGGET : Performance management? Start over with these strategies!


It’s time to stop patching legacy performance management* practices. (See “Performance Management: It’s Time for Something New,” “Why it is So Hard to Make Changes,” and “More About Why It is So Hard To Make Changes,” for reasons.) It’s time to move in a new direction with a designer’s mind and a lot of tenacity. Here are the first four of eight recommendations that can launch a new era in how we align people and work (manage performance). In the new scenario leaders and team members take primary responsibility for the management processes and HR helps to prepare the culture, processes, and people for their roles.

1. Manage for both stability and change.The balance of routine and change work is shifting. While it still makes sense for some work to follow specific routines or to be put into a production line, change and innovation require new management approaches. So, while it may continue to make sense to have defined roles and responsibilities – and goals related to these — people need different tools for managing innovations and cross-boundary work. Methods range from crowdsourcing to innovative workflow maps, to gaming, to communities of practice, to agile techniques, to creative use of social networks. More will emerge. I think the best change management will happen where everyone is fluent in many methods and uses what will work for them and the situation at hand.

* “Management” means “the boss” to many people today. But management is more broadly the process of getting things done. Formal leaders, technology, individuals themselves “manage.” We need to revitalize and modernize this important concept. The main point is that one management process cannot support both routine and change work – and several processes will operate in parallel.

2. Change the drawing of the organization! Stuck in the back of people’s minds is a pyramid and cascading boxes view of the organization. But as a metaphor for how things actually get done, a value stream or network visual is the more accurate mental image. If you want change to happen, change this mental model. Redraw the organization as a living, not static ecosystem that includes the customer and suppliers – the entire value network. Everyone will probably be part of several performance networks, so the ultimate mental model for each individual will be unique: his/her personal network diagram will be different depending on the multiple work streams and organization structures he/she is part of. But start by providing a picture of the larger work streams and networks so that people can locate themselves within them. The pyramid, functional, P&L, or other views of the organization may be in the background describing how you organize resources, and providing individuals with a home base. But, but don’t mistake this view of the firm for how work actually gets done.

3. Embrace open system values. The values of a smart-everywhere organization or network are pretty clear and increasingly well researched for they are the values of an open, complex human system. They include respect, transparency, continuous learning, pervasive accountability, and roles that specialize but also align and contribute for the whole. The challenge is for EVERYBODY to live — and hold each other accountable for living — these values. This requires a new level of consciousness and awareness from everyone.

4. Bring Self-Management to the fore. Every day, everyone at work — from the sweeper to the top executive — makes tradeoffs and decides what to focus on, what to challenge, and what to avoid. In other words, they self-manage. But are the tradeoffs the best or do they focus primarily on self-interest and self-protection? How often do people defer to and act to please the boss? Authoritarianism and dependency are everyone’s inheritance. It’s time to break the pattern. Expect everybody to develop as self-managers. But don’t expect them to continually fight traditional managers for the right to think and act. Rather, expect formal leaders to act NOW to help everyone develop and apply the mindset and skills for full participation. There is no alternative. Fortunately, the natural progression of every person’s development is toward more self-reliance and interdependence. The authoritarian and paternalistic heritage may have retarded this progression, but the evolutionary drive is there in everyone.

I’ll take a breath here, ask you to think about these first four recommendations, and invite you to stay tuned to the next article, Part 5 in this Performance Management series. It will offer four more ways to redesign how performance is aligned for the changing world of work.

NUGGET : Performance management? Start over with these strategies!

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