Many of us work in roles where our performance cannot be represented by an objective measure that neatly sums us up, and yet many of our performance management systems demand we do just that.
A lot of what we do has a fuzzy impact, with ambiguous barely-detectable results; results that ripple over longer timelines than the yearly appraisal cycle. In some cases our impact might be negative in the short-term because we want to make a lasting change in the long-term: change curves go down before they go up.
This is especially true when learning new skills, because there are phases of incompetence you have to struggle through if you want to gain competence at something new.
Even without these complications it is difficult to judge the full range and quality of what our colleagues do. We might see them dealing with a difficult customer so skillfully that they make it look easy, so we under-value how much legwork they put in to achieve this level of performance and so we mentally tot it up as routine. Then we move on, only catching glimpses of other people because we’re busy with so much else, those glimpses being more memorable if they ping a bias (or heuristic) such as “confirmation” (it confirms what we thought anyway) or “effect” (we have an emotional response to it) – but these superficial glimpses don’t stop us jumping to subjective judgements and thinking we’re seeing the objective truth about someone’s performance.
If that so-called “performance truth” is decided by people “thinking fast” (Daniel Kahneman), and confirmed by hierarchy rather than expertise, then we’re in trouble.
To quote Ryan Holiday (from The Daily Stoic):
because our senses are often wrong, our emotions overly alarmed, our projections overly optimistic, we’re better off not rushing into conclusions about anything
And this doesn’t change when you get promoted.
Continue reading “How is performance-truth decided in your organisation?”
How many people and organisations suffer through the process of objective setting, insisting they be SMART, and yet feel like they’re an unnecessary evil that gets in the way of the day job?
SMART is one of those cases where the acronym is so good, it takes over the whole process.
Of course objectives must be Specific and Measurable, although being measurable means that they have to be specific anyway. Objectives should ideally be Agreed, always Realistic, and adding Time-bound at the end is absolutely crucial – there has to be a deadline (I’m using the definition of SMART from MindTools).
In other words, being specific about what you want and when you want it.
The problem is that it doesn’t often work out that way.
Continue reading “SMART objectives can be really DUMB”
Probably the single biggest challenge in setting performance objectives is making them measurable.
This is important because …
Human beings adjust behavior based on the metrics they’re held against. Anything you measure will impel a person to optimize his score on that metric. What you measure is what you’ll get
Dan Ariely article “You are what you measure” in Harvard Business Review
And if we get it wrong, it can be dangerous and lead to the measure having an ineffective, or damaging, impact …
It[‘]s really easy to decide to measure something … and screw up a team beyond belief. For example, if I measure how productive individual programmers are, then it[‘]s to the advantage of individuals to focus on their own work and spend less (or no!) time helping others. Completely kills teamwork
Brian Button (Agile programmer and blogger) in “‘You get what you measure’ versus ‘what you measure you can manage'” – article no longer accessible)
So it’s worth getting it right … but it’s not so simple …
The most important things cannot be measured
W Edwards Deming
This is even more true as most things sit within complex systems and have an impact over the long-term and so can’t be easily isolated or measured within a single twelve-month performance appraisal period.
Continue reading “Making performance objectives measurable”
One of the worst things about being alive is having to write performance objectives.
As soul-destroying chores go, it’s right up there with ironing and DIY, but without the benefit of getting an ironed shirt or a wonky shelf at the end of it. All you get for your efforts is an “objective” which is usually just something measurable that no one else wants to do.
Indeed, most people’s objectives are about as demotivating to deliver as they were to write.
It needn’t be like this.
One problem (among many) is trying to find good content for objectives – this is especially true in repetitive jobs and after many years of trying to think of new things to do. It’s hard to keep coming up with anything remotely interesting or relevant, year after year, and Objectives Fatigue is likely to set in.
Objectives Fatigue (n) – having no ideas left for content to include in performance objectives
If this happens, objectives are then seen as a pointless nuisance, failing to add value to either the organization, the individual or the customer.
This post sets out six different ideas for getting good content for performance objectives.
Continue reading “Six ways to find great content for performance objectives”
This post is about three things:
- The 1 most important thing about feedback
- The 2 types of feedback we can give
- The 3 steps in the BIF feedback model I made up the other day
And, as a special bonus feature, 2 particular situations where we can use a variation of the model.
I wrote this post because when delivering management training, the topic of feedback often comes up. To give a quick answer with some valuable advice, I cobbled together some feedback models and developed BIF. I hope you find it useful.
What is feedback?
Feedback is information about past performance.
It is not necessarily actionable, it may be negative or positive, could be subjective or objective, accurate or a load of old nonsense … but it’s all feedback.
Continue reading “BIF: a simple feedback model”