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Performance Management for any Application: Performance Planning Phase

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Adapted from Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development

Strongly Suggested Pre-Reading

Performance Management: Traditional and Progressive Approaches
Overview of Performance Management Process for any Application

Approaches to Developing a Performance Plan

NOTE: The term "domain" in the following refers to the focus of the performance management process, for example, an entire organization, a recurring internal process, a team or an individual.

Most of us are used to thinking of performance management focused on the employee, rather than the organization or a team. Therefore, when first reviewing the activities to develop a performance plan, it may be best to use the example of employee performance management as done below. The reader should keep in mind that the activities could also be focused on the entire organization or a team.

In the example below, the focus -- or domain -- of the performance management process is an employee. The employee is a machine operator. Consequently, the application of performance management in this example is rather straightforward for clarity in the example.

1. Review the organization's preferred goals for the next year and associate preferred organizational results in terms of units of performance, that is, quantity, quality, cost or timeliness
Organizational goals
are often established during strategic planning. Performance management translates these goals to results, which typically are described in terms of quantity, quality, timeliness or cost. Results are the primary products or services desired from the focus of the performance process. Examples are a percentage increase in sales, extent of impact on a certain community, etc.

Goals should be "SMART" (an acronym), that is, specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic to achieve and time-bound with a deadline. For example, an overall goal may be to increase the organization's profit by 30% by the end of the next fiscal year. An associated strategy (or sub-goal), among others, may be to increase profit of the Catalog Department by 50% over the next fiscal year. This initial focus on overall organizational results would still occur in a more traditional to performance management.

2. Specify desired results for the domain -- the overall organization, a team or an employee.
In our example, the operator's desired results might be a certain number of high-quality, printed images for the internal customer, the Catalog Department. This aspect of performance management is sometimes called "goal setting". Particularly in the traditional approach to performance management, the goals should be "SMART" and challenging.

  • In a progressive approach, the goals would be established in highly collaborative manner. In our example, that would be with the machine operator.

3. Ensure the domain's desired results directly contribute to the organization's results
Aligning results with organizational results
is another unique aspect of performance management process. In our example, does the employee's results directly contribute to the results of the organization? What organizational goals? How? For example, do the prints directly contribute to the desired profit increase of 50% of the Catalog Department? How? Is there anything else the operator could be doing that would be more productive for this goal? Should a job analysis be done to verify efficiency?

  • In a progressive approach, it still would be very important that the machine operator's desired results, or goals, contribute directly to achieving the overall organization's desired results.

4. Weight, or prioritize, the domain's desired results
A weight, or prioritization, is often in the form of percentage-time-spent, or a numeric ranking with "1" as the highest. For example, the employee's results might be weighted as follows:
a) 80% of his time over an 8-hour period, Monday through Friday over the next fiscal year, to be spent running the machine
b)10% of this time in training
c)10% of this time in a Quality Circle.

  • In a progressive approach, the goals for the machine operator would likely not be associated with a specific weight because the goals might change in real time as the needs of the organization and the machine operator's internal customers change. The change in the goals would be done in a collaborative conversation with his or her supervisor.

5. Identify first-level measures (or indicators) to evaluate if and how well the domain's desired results were achieved
provide information to evaluate accomplishment of results. Measures are usually specified in terms of quantity, quality, timeliness or cost. For example, measures for the operator might be the number of prints over some time interval, a certain grade on a test during his training and attendance recorded on attendance sheets to his Quality Circle. Identifying which measures to take is often the toughest part of the performance management process. You have to look at the appropriate level or domain in the organization, its desired results, and consider what are the most valid, reliable and practical measurements to use. With complex and rapidly changing domains, it often helps to identify outcome and driver measures, and patterns of effects. More about these terms in Performance Measurement, which is also referenced back in Basic Overview of Performance Management.)

  • In a progressive approach, any indicators toward the operator's achievement of goals might be changing as the goals change, as well.

6. Identify more specific measures for each first-level measure if necessary
For example, regarding the operator's measure for operating his machine, he may have to produce at least 500 high-quality prints an hour for eight hours, Monday through Friday during the fiscal year. High-quality means no smears or tears. The Director of the Catalog Department evaluates whether the operator made this goal or not.

  • In a progressive approach, similar to indicators toward the goals, first-level measures might be changing as the goals change, as well.
  • 7. Identify standards for evaluating how well the domain's desired results were achieved
    Standards specify how well a result should be achieved. For example, the operator "meets expectations" if the Director of the Catalog Department agrees that the operator produced 500 high-quality prints an hour for eight hours, Monday through Friday during the fiscal year. If he produces 600, he "exceeds expectations", 700 is "superior performance", 400 is "does not meet expectation", etc.

  • In a progressive approach, standards for performance might be agreed upon by the supervisor and machine operator, and any concerns about current standards of performance would be addressed as soon as the supervisor noticed them, rather than in an annual performance appraisal.
  • Discussions about the current performance would be focused on improvement, but also on new learning and career development for the operator.

    8. Document a performance plan -- including desired results, measures and standards
    The performance plan describes the domain's preferred results, how results tie back to the organization's results, weighting of results, how results will be measured and what standards are used to evaluate results. Developing the plan is often the responsibility of the head of the domain (in this example, the employee's supervisor). However, the plan should be developed as much as possible with participants in the domain. (Note that a performance plan is not the same as a performance development plan.)

    • In a progressive approach, a performance plan might still exist, but it would be focused especially on how the operator's mutually agreed-upon goals are aligned with the organization's goals, and would include guidelines for how the operator's goals are changed if necessary.

    NOTE: Now is the best time to take stock of overall performance plans. Does the domain have the necessary resources to achieve preferred results, e.g., necessary funding, training, input from other subsystems, etc? Are the standards realistic? Can the domain realistically achieve the results within the preferred time frame? Does everyone involved in the measures really understand how to recognize the measures? Do they know their role in the performance management process?

    Next, see
    Performance Appraisal Phase

    Learn More in the Library's Blogs Related to Performance Management

    In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which have posts related to Performance Management. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog.

    Library's Human Resources Blog
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    Library's Supervision Blog

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