fundamental shift of great performance management #4: abandon uniformity

As I’ve written in a previous post, there are eight “shake-the-kaleidoscope” changes in perspective that you’re going to have to embrace in order to create a high-performing organization in this day and age. They are the givens that should be baked into every aspect of your new performance management cake. I’m sharing a few of them over the next couple of weeks; for the full eight, check out the book!

Fundamental Shift #4: Abandon uniformity.
Shift from: One size fits all
Shift to: Customized and nuanced

We need to stop expecting our people to comply with performance management programs that don’t work for them. Think about it: your software developers in California have very different motivators and PM needs than your shop-floor workers in Vermont. I realize this is a big stretch for many of us, but we need to move away from cut-and-paste bureaucracy with standard rules spread across all employee groups, and instead try implementing a program that shows your employees that their individual needs and styles actually do matter — by the simple fact that the program can be customized.

OK, I get how this might send a chill through your bones. How on earth are you supposed to manage a large organization in which each entity has its own custom PM approach? How can you control all that? Well, what if you tried not controlling all that?

Instead, try offering a menu of options from which groups or individuals within the enterprise can choose. Those options should be rooted in what performance means to your organization and some common principles for how you want to manage to that goal. For this nuanced approach to work, you’ll need to be absolutely sure that you’re starting with a solid foundation that makes absolutely clear what you are trying to accomplish (vision and strategy), and how you expect to accomplish those outcomes together (culture).

Think about it as a menu that provides meal options for defined segments of your organization. First, you might establish some common rules, such as asking that each of the segments include the main course and one or more of the three vegetables listed on your menu. But beyond that, it’s up to them; let them decide if there will be an appetizer, a salad, extra sides, or a dessert.

In the real world, it might look like this: You ask the leaders of your key business units and central support functions to take the lead in designing performance solutions that best fit their teams’ needs. You inform these design leads that all employees should complete quarterly goals in support of the company’s articulated strategy (the main course). Your three vegetable options, from which they can pick one or more, include a social media goal and a feedback process, a project-based expectations and shared-planning template, and a monthly key metrics scorecard (targeted more to your manufacturing- or metrics-driven teams). The other add-on options (the appetizers and desserts) might include a mentoring program, planned talent review discussions, a peer recognition program, a role-based competency assessment tool that requires their support to build out, and team goal setting.

Create these menu items only after thinking about what your talent mix looks like and how that mix creates different needs across your employee groups. With the menu in place, you’ll just play waiter or waitress, offering guidance but letting them make their own choices. Not only does this approach allow your teams to consider what works best for them, but I’m betting you’ll also find that the menu grows over time as your various teams create new methods and tools that work for their groups. If managed well, these ideas can be captured, shared, and adopted by others across the organization.

At this point, you are probably beginning to recognize that this approach turns the role played by traditional HR teams on its head. Today, HR typically designs and pushes standards, then spends months managing compliance with those standards. This shift lets the HR team have a lot more fun than they would merely policing policy, and, importantly, it opens up the opportunity for them to create choices, tools, and content that focuses on helping people improve their performance, connect to the company vision, and grow their careers.

Happy rebooting,

This was an abridged excerpt from my book, How Performance Management is Killing Performance – and What To Do About It. I’ve condensed the content quite a lot in order to keep this post shortish here – check out the book (you can order it from Barnes and or Amazon) for the “full meal deal” – MTC

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