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Performance Management for You and the New Administration

February 17, 2009

Several thoughts came to mind that might help you in the area of goal
and performance management, as I read through Shelley Metzenbaum’s (University of
Massachusetts) report and recommendation for the current administration on
Performance Management, entitled Performance Management
Recommendations for the New Administration

Let’s go through two quotes from her work, and talk about what you can
use from it:

#1 – “Two simple tools – goals and measurement – are among the most
powerful leadership mechanisms available to a President for influencing the
vast scope of federal agencies.  Goals and measurement are useless, however,
unless used.”

While I strongly say “Amen” to the comment if you don’t use it, it’s useless,
I’m not sure goals and measurement of the goals are the most powerful lever
for the president or your business.  This may surprise you, especially since
we invest a lot in our software, ManagePro, as a goal-based software.
Here’s why I have reservations.

1. First of all our findings suggest that goals are only used by 4% of the
population at most, consequently they can be a poor organizing focus for
the vast majority of people.  Things like controlling risk, securing funds, etc,
are often much more compelling drivers for the majority, then setting goals.
If goals aren’t used actively by 96% of the population, guess what will happen?

Bottom line there are more powerful mechanisms to start with
when improving performance for government and your organization then
goals.  Keep reading.

2. Many people struggle with identifying goals that would help them
fundamentally move down the improvement sequence.  Even more people,
if not most, struggle with how to measure achievement of goals based upon data.

Perhaps it’s partly because tracking and measuring outcomes is not something
they have expertise at or financially resource the collection of outcome data.

Bottom line, our experience is that the competency at measuring what’s
relevant, precedes the ability of goal setting,
in order for the goal-based
process improvement to have significant impact.

Goals and goal measurement only becomes  a powerful lever for Performance Management when you have in
place a process of data collection and data review for key operational and
growth processes.  Without good data, the validity of goal measurement
starts losing value rapidly.  Metrics is a more primary lever for ultimately
exerting change.

#2 – “Performance information should be used to improve performance
not just report performance for accountability purposes.”

She raises an excellent point.  Goals have no magic to suddenly drive
performance improvement.  In fact, as she points out, they can easily be
used to reduce risk and reinforce current practices, not improvement.

You can avoid this in your organization by adding a weight or
risk (of achieving) factor and a relative value-add to goal setting.  �
Without both additions, goal setting, again based upon the primacy of
managing risks and securing funds, can quickly move to support
the risk management features, not an improvement drive.

I think for most large (and small) organizations, of which the government
is one, you usually survive by being safe first, not innovative or assuming
risk stretch goals.  Our experience is that you need to take into account
the emotional drivers and the basis of security, before assuming
“improvement” goals will have much leverage.

Bottom Line: Here’s a couple of thoughts to chew on as they relate to the
business you work in and performance improvement.

1. Before you set and attempt to measure goals, confirm that you can get the
data to support the measurements.  Without good data and metics,
you’re in the fog.

2. Simplicity beats complex every time, including goal setting and
measurement.  Simplicity recognizes that everyone is already
overwhelmed with data and that goal setting threatens to add to
the data.  Simplicity, when incorporting brain chunk theory, says
we’re only going to be able to juggle 6 pieces of data at once.

With a simplicity model, goal packaging starts to look like the following:
a. Pick two metrics that best measure your operations efficiency, one internal,
the 2nd from your customer.  Set aside resources to gather that information
and track your results and what you’re doing about it, regularly.

b. Pick two improvement goals, one easy (low risk) to achieve, one hard to
achieve (high risk), define the value add for focusing on these two, vs. 99
other possible goals.  Eg. These need to be the biggest value add goals
at both ends of the risk scale.  Again, measure and track your results
and your plan.

c. Review your plan, your progress todates, your outstanding action items
in regular data focused meetings using technology that links the goals to
operational activities
(and plans).  BTW, we found when using ManagePro
in organizations, that pulling the software and the performance review
right into the meeting is often the tipping point for successfully making the
cultural change to a goal and performance emphasis.  Leaving it to a
quarterly or year end report is the kiss of death.


Goal and Performance Management Technology

Follow-up, Metrics and Performance

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