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Getting Performance without Performance Management: Week 1 Hackathon update

By Bjarte Bogsnes on September 26, 2012

Dear MIX friends, I am simply overwhelmed! Thanks to you, we have already received 40 contributions during the first week of our grassroots hackathon: Performance without Performance Management.

Dear MIX friends, I am simply overwhelmed! Thanks to you, we have already received 40 contributions during the first week of our grassroots hackathon: Performance without Performance Management.

The number of contributions, the engagement, the creativity, the breadth and quality of ideas is very, very impressive. I knew I was not alone in my frustration with both the label and the practices of Performance Management, but it is very comforting to see that there are so many of us!

Not surprisingly, we all have our own definitions of Performance Management, probably driven by the jobs we are in and the experiences we have had, good or bad. When I ask my Finance colleagues, many of them say Performance Management is about translating strategies into measurable KPIs and targets, allocating resources, making forecasts, measuring progress, and achieving final results—all with a “business unit” focus.

When I ask my Human Resources colleagues, I get very different answers. They would say that there is something between business targets set and results achieved that Finance seems to regard as a “black box,” but where the most important work takes place. Inside that black box are things like translation of business goals into individual goals, and motivation, commitment, coaching, review and reward, learning and development.

My Information Technology colleagues would add the need for agility, iterations, continuous delivery, and all of the other great ideas bubbling up from the IT project development world.

They are all right.

But from a broader viewpoint, all of these perspectives must hang together. It doesn’t help that Human Resources is preaching leadership if Finance is shouting management and the two are pointing in opposite directions. Whatever Performance Management principles and practices we promote, they must represent a coherent and consistent leadership philosophy.

This word cloud shows words from the title of every entry in the hackathon so far. It clearly shows some of the key themes that are emerging.

I mention this because so far I see relatively few contributions addressing the things Finance (and many managers) would regard as important from a “business management” point of view. So here is a call to action for those of you in the MIX community who have not responded yet and come more from that side of the Performance Management world. We would love to hear your proposals for a new label and your ideas for what a Performance Management replacement would look like.

There were only a few entries (see this example by Peter Bunce) of contributions that explored the role of incentives and individual bonuses and the impact this might have on behavior and performance, but I expected to see more. This is a quite hot topic in Europe but maybe less so in other parts of the world? If you have ideas for what the role of incentives and rewards should be, I’d love to see them.

I also think it is worth noting that on the suggestions for a new label for Performance Management, almost two thirds of you not only dropped “management”, which I fully understand, but also “performance”. It makes me wonder: is the Performance Mangement label so contaminated that both words need to go? I’d love to have people share their views on this as well.

I’d like to highlight a few themes that really resonated with me and share some examples of entries that particularly caught my eye.

Many of you highlighted the importance of purpose (see Charles Prabakar’s Performance Engagement and Fiona Gifford’s Human Spaces for two great examples).

In Performance Dialogue, Mike Caracalas made an important observation about the role of fear in traditional Peformance Management—not just management’s fear of losing control, but also the employee’s fear of punishment—and how this hurts performance.

Talking about managers and employees, Katharina Schmidt’s Inspiring Conversation questions if we need new labels for these as well. A subject for the next Hackathon, perhaps?

I liked the simplicity of the “questions to ask” approach for setting and aligning goals proposed by Anthonie Lombard in Alignment for Performance.

In Performance Coaching, Bard C. Paapegaij highlights the importance of creating conditions for great performance to take place.

A few of you touched on the issue of metrics. In Community Performance Development, John Roger Grimshaw put it like this: “The only worthwhile metric is a happy client.”

I was also happy to see many interesting ideas on possible first steps. Let me close with something that David Physick  said in The Art of Conversation Regarding the Science of Performance: “Anywhere in any organization, a team leader can change how they talk about performance with their team members”. Our possibility to change things is often much bigger than we think!

So, are we there? Have we found a new label? Maybe, maybe not. But we are definitely closer. And “it ain’t over till it’s over”, as the baseball player Yogi Berra put it.

We still have a week to go before the end of Sprint 1. If you haven’t yet added your contribution, please go here to get started.

I look forward to even more contributions, especially on the “business management” side of Performance Management.

Let’s get hacking!


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