Managing Performance

Managing staff performance is the core duty of all managers.  But how do you do this?  The process often has a bad name and is heavily focussed on appraisals and the processes.  This is not managing performance.  Performance is all about jointly managing success so that the organizational aims and goals are achieved.  It is highly reliant on good relationships and a proactive approach between the manager and the individual.

Performance management is often seen as a formal process consisting off:

Planning for the year: Reviewing the past year and setting new goals and objectives. (Often the past is not reviewed, but this is a great source of lessons learned for the manager the individual and the team).

Mid-year reviews: An opportunity for the manager and the employee  to review progress, identify road-blocks and ensure that objectives are achieved.

End of year review and appraisal: If as an employee, at the appraisal stage, you are told something that you were not aware of (in terms of your performance), ask yourself why? Regardless of the feedback, why are you being told this at this point?  Imagine it is praise and appreciation, why receive it at the end of the year and not when it occurred?  The appraisal is an opportunity to reflect back on what happened and identify the gaps between the planning and its delivery.  It also becomes the input for future goal setting.

The key for managing performance, from my perspective, is not these three stages, but actually the continuous feedback, coaching, review and mentoring, that occurs between the employee and the manager throughout the year.  This can occur formally and informally, and informally and should occur as and when it occurs. 

If performance is managed well, it acts as a motivator to all.  It is at the heart of good managerial practices. 

Considering Goals And Their Impact Over Time

My definition of what the aim of an organization is to “maximize returns for its stakeholders”.  But over what term?  When we say short or long-term what does this mean and what are the implications for sustainability?

I started thinking about this when reading a HBR article “Capitalism for the Long Term: by Dominic Barton:

If you take a typical business, what does long-term mean?  Three to five years?  This defines the strategic planning activities, allocation of resources, finance initiatives etc.  What about a ten or twenty-year timeframe?   This is typically unheard off in the West, but pretty much par for the course in the East, for the larger organization.

So how do these fundamental views of outlook impact sustainability?  If we use the definition of sustainability as being the capacity to endure (, then having a short-term outlook (you decide what short-term means for you) will shape your view on all activities including the purchase and utilization of resources including materials, people, machines etc.  It shapes your finance initiates.  Is the organization seeking suitable short-returns that may increase its exposure to risk, in the pursuit of these returns.  This will shape an organizations approach to sustainability and all activities associated with sustainable practices.  

By its implicit nature, sustainability has a long-term outlook.  If we take the Bruntland Commission of the United Nations, March 20th, 1987, view of sustainable development as being the “the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, then a long-term approach is certainly viewed here.  So what happens when you are driven by the short-term?  The very nature of the markets in which you operate may dictate this and take this out of your control.  If the outlook is short-term, then what impact does this have on the sustainable considerations, your organization may be considering?  Are the organization goals at odds with each other (short-term metrics such as profit and growth versus long-term goals as sustainability)

Barton’s article focuses on the West near obsession on a short-term outlook and if we were able to adopt and consider a longer-term outlook, perhaps this would create better foundation for creating and sustaining growth, profits, allocation and utilization of resources, financing activities, use of personnel.  

If you are driven by short-term goals and measurement indicators, yet want to have a long-term sustainable outlook, what are you doing to maintain balance?