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Principled Performance Management: First Steps

Performance emerges from everyday actions of people working together. Many organizations seem to like cascading goals and objectives … cascading that is only possible because of the stones and ground that create the slope. Ideas for improving performance come from the slope; good leaders, managers and supervisors match performance ideas to their team’s current situation and create appropriate goals and measures from these ideas.

We are assigned work in teams tied to an organizational structure, but very few of us act only within our teams to get work done. So performance is best managed by observing and listening to what our team members say about the interactions that make up their daily tasks.

The first steps to improving performance then are: 1) make a map of the things your team does, and 2) involve someone from every part of an interaction to talk about the patterns of what is happening and how you might improve it. (The next two entries in this blog will look at these first two steps in more detail.)

At the atomic level, performance management is about your actions with people you lead, manage or supervise. The context of performance management lies within the relatively new term “talent management.” (The term originated with Softscape in 1998.)

According to a recent article in T+D magazine (May 2011, p. 46), there are six key components in talent management:
1. recruitment
2. compensation and rewards
3. performance management
4. succession management / planning
5. engagement and retention
6. leadership development.

The same article (p. 47) says, “Performance management systems reside at the heart of many talent management efforts; in fact, research shows that it is one of the most integrated functions.”

So, performance management is where the rubber meets the road with regard to people working in alignment with mission, vision and strategy to meet business goals and objectives.

Next, we’ll take a look at a couple of ways you can map interactions that make up your team’s daily tasks.

As a post script: companies should clarify what they mean by talent management in their organizations, since all six key areas are unlikely to be required in very many organizations. Additionally, no single person could successfully perform in all six key areas on an ongoing basis, so job postings should specify which key areas an organization focuses on. They should also note how many years of experience they desire in each key area (particularly when they seek more than 7 years, since almost no one will have had more experience with “talent management” as a single construct).


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