Archive for August, 2014

The Way Forward: Transforming Performance Management, Part 4


NUGGET : Performance management? Start over with these strategies!

21_ready

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!

I’d love your thoughts – in the comment section below, or to me personally at pat@patmclagan.com
Also, I invite you to please share this article with others in your network.

More About Why It Is So Hard to Make REAL Changes: Transforming Performance Management, Part 3


NUGGET : Power traps, defaulting to HR, and some inherent useful qualities in traditional performance management keep us from moving to a better way of aligning people and work.

20_ready


In my first article in this series about Performance Management, I started to build a case for changing the way work performance is “managed.” In the last article, I suggested three big reasons why it is so difficult to make real breakthroughs. I put some of the failure to change at the feet of 1) boss-subordinate mindsets, 2) the tenacious top-down view of workflows, and 3) faulty views of control. I’d like to add three more reasons to the list and then, in the next blog, to suggest where to from here.


So, three more reasons why it is difficult to change how we manage and work today:

Power traps
Defaulting to HR
Traditional performance management does add some value


Reason 4: People fall into power traps.There are power differences in organizations and across networks. No matter how much we try to gloss over this fact or to imagine a world where everyone has equal say over everything, power and role differences will likely always be true – and are actually nature’s way of getting big things done. Sadly, though, human beings do odd things with power differences. People with more institutional power sometimes abuse it or are uncomfortable using it, and people with less power manipulate for position or play games (e.g., set low goals so they can exceed them, fail to take risks out of fear, pander to the boss). These behaviors – many of them driven by unconscious psychological forces — are worse in low trust environments where there is little two-way communication, limited transparency, people who are ill-prepared for leadership roles, etc.

The performance management system is especially vulnerable to these distortions because it contains the KEY ACTIVITIES that are very important for people’s social and organizational positioning (goal setting, feedback, role decisions, etc.) Linking individual performance goals and feedback directly to promotion, pay, and recognition makes “clean” interactions even more difficult. We make matters even worse by calling the performance management process “the appraisal system.” YIKES! This tells people that the reason we set goals and talk about performance is to justify pay, reward and other personnel decisions. This relates to the next barrier to change.

Reason 5: Defaulting to HR. It’s happened subtly over decades, but in many organizations performance management has been delegated to the HR/Personnel function. Everyone benefits in some way that leads to a kind of collusion to let HR own it. Line management – uncomfortable in the “god” role of determining roles and direction, and giving feedback – can abdicate saying, “HR made me do it.” Individuals, rather than having to deal with all the messiness of real accountability can focus instead on making annual goal setting and 1,2,3-times-a-year feedback sessions work in their favor. In the meantime, the HR staff gets information to support compensation and personnel decisions and is in a better position to minimize the legal liabilities related to how people are treated. This is collusion by all parties. HR, with the best of intentions, is left holding the bag.

Reason 6: Traditional performance management does add some value. We often wonder, why things are the way they are? Evolution’s answer is “because they developed that way and solved or delayed a problem.” So what are the useful features and lessons from today’s common performance management practices that we can take into the future? I think there are several:

• Important alignment activities of the organization must not be left to chance. This is especially true as organizations get larger. Goals and feedback – fraught as they are with potential human distortions – require a process discipline of some kind. We search and search for the right blend of unleashing change and getting efficiencies from ongoing routines.

• Performance and reward must be linked in some way. This is a lesson from evolution. We know that when people are treated the same regardless of their contributions and hard work, bad things happen: good people leave, morale and results suffer. We search for ways to stimulate risk and diversity and tolerate failure while also targeting success and results.

• Reliable and effective management processes can be a competitive advantage for any organization. Good management (including self-management) process ensures that everyone works in a high quality performance environment. A structure of some kind for performance management helps ensure that basic leadership and self-management practices occur across the board.



In this and the previous blog, I have offered 6 reasons why it is difficult to move to a new performance management paradigm. The next two articles I will suggest how to move forward in this important area.

NUGGET : Power traps, defaulting to HR, and some inherent useful qualities in traditional performance management keep us from moving to a better way of aligning people and work.

I’d love your thoughts – in the comment section below, or to me personally at pat@patmclagan.com
Also, I invite you to please share this article with others in your network.

Why It Is So Hard to Make REAL Changes: Transforming Performance Management, Part 2


NUGGET : Boss-Subordinate thinking, a top down view of work flows, and faulty assumptions about control are three big barriers to breakthroughs in performance management.

My last post argued that it’s time to stop patching the old performance management forms and systems. It’s time to design something new — something far more powerful for business and energizing for everyone. Yet, we keep cycling through the same approach with different forms and terminology. In this and the next article, I want to focus on WHY it is hard to change. Then, in the 4th article, I’ll suggest some alternatives.

Boss-subordinate thinking. It’s the job of people in formal leadership roles to be sure that there are effective strategies, organization designs, and resourcing decisions. But too often people in these roles act – and are expected by others to act – more like parents than people with different work portfolios and roles. This affects how goals evolve, how problems are solved, how feedback happens and who is expected to give it. The “boss” is often in the drivers seat, doing most of the thinking and talking about the work that will be done and has been done.

The boss-subordinate relationship as THE key relationship for getting work done is less relevant today. People are doing more work on cross-functional teams and projects that are not part of their organization silo. Increasingly they are working with customers and others in supply networks that are not part of the organization whose name is on their paychecks. The “boss” is often not involved in this increasingly more networked work.

Top-down view of how work flows. This relates to the first point. Think about the language and practices associated with performance management. We talk about “cascading goals” and MBO’s (management by objectives) that move down, layer by layer and in smaller bits through the chain of command. Of course, some work can be broken apart and cascade. But important strategic and networked work doesn’t easily fit into boxes and flows that were designed for functional efficiencies rather than messy and innovative multi-functional solutions.

Even when strategic initiatives are managed as intact programs, they have a hard time competing for attention because the rewards also flow vertically. Given a choice between what someone up the chain wants and what the supply chain/customer wants, the tilt frequently goes to the vertical: that’s where the people who make pay, career, and other recognition decisions live. This helps explain why there is such a low success rate for strategic and horizontally flowing initiatives. Performance management practices – with their strong vertical orientation — are partly to blame.

Faulty view of control. Think of who controls things, and how control occurs. Who decides the strategy that guides work? The quick answer is, “the executives.” But, at the end of the day, it’s what gets done – and that is the product of everybody’s many, many little decisions and tradeoffs that happen under the strategic radar and for reasons that may not look like what executives envision.

How to control? Traditional methods rely a lot on technology, forms, procedures, job boundaries, supervision, ratings, and rankings. But overemphasizing these trains people to be risk averse and approval oriented – to play to the system. It allows people to avoid accountability and tough conversations. A client once told me that his first “performance review” sailed into his cubicle in the form of a paper airplane: his manager just didn’t want to talk. Today’s fast moving and interconnected performance environment requires conversations and collaboration. This, in turn, requires good communication and self-management skills – more than many have or are willing to use.

Next, I’ll look at three more reasons why traditional ways of managing/leading, while fraught with problems, are so resilient, even though we desperately need something new.


Power traps
Defaulting to HR
Traditional performance management does add some value


Then in Part 4 I’ll suggest some ways forward.

NUGGET : Boss-Subordinate thinking, a top down view of work flows, and faulty assumptions about control are three big barriers to breakthroughs in performance management.

I’d love your thoughts – in the comment section below, or to me personally at pat@patmclagan.com
Also, I invite you to please share this article with others in your network.