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Nov 6, 2013

Sustainable high performance doesn’t happen by accident. It requires intentionality and adequate (or better) strategy, organization design, capabilities and execution.

And, like it or not, it takes solid performance management.

In fact, the need for effective performance management has never been greater because work is predominantly knowledge-based and done autonomously, even remotely. Sadly, in many organizations, performance management consists of little more than arbitrary performance ratings and (hopefully) face-to-face discussion between managers and employees.

Defining bad performance

Innovative approaches like crowdsourcing performance reviews provide an exciting path forward away from traditional form-driven, compliance-centric processes.

Consider the following differences between bad and great performance management.

B.A.D. performance management is:

  • Broken – It doesn’t work as intended. It fails to meet stated objectives such as promotion consideration, development, recognition, pay for performance etc. Even if the process results in a fair and reflective representation (rating) of an employee’s performance and contribution success, it hinges on the managers’ ability to give meaningful and timely feedback.
  • Avoidable – Great managers do what they’re supposed to do without being reminded, coerced or begged. And when it comes to performance management, they do it continuously every day. They understand that it is not only important, but that it’s also a responsibility that comes with the privilege of being a manager. Scrutinize managers who shun managing performance. Maybe they’re better suited to be individual contributors. Don’t make it easy for managers to avoid it, or just go through the motions – talk to them to find out what’s the problem. It could be they need skill development to better assess, give feedback or coach. Or maybe it’s a time management issue. Or it could be that they just aren’t prioritizing it as they should.
  • Detached – Seen as a standalone process removed from strategy, organization design and overall talent management. Tied only to individual performance without regard to organization performance. Not part of a comprehensive integrated talent management system.


G.R.E.A.T performance management is:

  • Goal-driven – Cascaded goals align everyone and help them see how what they do on a daily basis drives the strategy. Setting goals increases clarity, agreement and intentionality. Using different goal categories such as performance, development and financial emphasizes short-term and long-term results (what) and behaviors (how).
  • Rigorous – Agreed upon standards and robust calibration processes protect against rating homogeneity and inflation that bring about Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”
  • Engaging – Employees and managers need to see what’s in it for them (WIIFT) so they participate in good faith. For employees it’s a clear-cut relationship between their performance and opportunities for advancement and other recognition and rewards. Managers have to believe that employees’ efforts will support their own goals, and that top talent will stay and are therefore worth the investment of time and other resources.
  • Aligned – Performance management has to be in synch with values, strategy and organization design which includes goals, structure, processes, systems and controls. This is fundamental to high performance but can easily be overlooked.
  • Trusted – Few things destroy employee engagement more than a manager who says one thing then does another. Managers are employees’ main portal into the organization so “employee experience” is tied to how effectively managers implement the process, make decisions, and communicate.

So, where on the bad to great scale does your organization fit?

This originally appeared on the iTM System Group blog.