Tag Archives: performance management

Are your performance measures driving the right behaviours?


By Elisabeth Goodman, 25th September 2019

We are entering that time of year when many companies carry out their performance reviews and appraisals. It can be quite a stressful exercise for individual team members, and for line managers.

This article from the latest issue of Harvard Business Review provides some interesting insights that could be relevant at the level of individual objectives, as well as at the level of team and organisational objectives.


Michael Harris and Bill Tayler. Don’t let metrics undermine your business. Harvard Business Review, September- October 2019, pp. 62-69

Performance measures operate on at least three levels in any organisation

We encourage delegates on RiverRhee’s management and Performance Review and Development courses to consider this three-tier cascade when setting their own and their direct reports’ objectives.

Illustration from RiverRhee’s training on performance management / reviews

Ideally, the cascade works both downwards and upwards.

The process begins with clarity on the organisation’s current goals or objectives, and also with the individual’s ideas for work-related and personal- or career- development objectives.

The team or middle management objectives sit in the middle: they translate the organisation’s objectives into what the team and its members will do to make these happen. They also act as a reality check on if and how individual team members’ objectives will help to deliver the company goals.

All three levels of objectives should ideally have performance measures to match. And the purpose of such measures should be at least three-fold:

  • To monitor and encourage any adjustments to behaviours and activities throughout the year
  • To provide feedback on performance to internal and external stakeholders at agreed times
  • To enable reflection, capture and sharing of learnings and inform forward plans for the next year.

“Surrogation” can drive the wrong behaviours

Surrogation, as defined by Harris and Tayler, is “the tendency to confuse what’s being measured with the metric being used”.

To give an example: a service company has an objective to improve customer satisfaction by 20%. They use a customer satisfaction survey in which they ask customers to score how satisfied they are with the service provided on a scale where 1 is low and 10 is high. Last year their average result was 8 out of 10, so they are looking for straight 10 ratings this year!

In a surrogation scenario, the staff responsible for the collecting the feedback can be so focused on only receiving scores of 10 that they will ask customers to provide this rating, and even email or call them to ask them to reassess if they have not done so. I know this is true as I have experienced this after putting my car in for a service!

Surrogation can drive the wrong behaviours, and also cause unnecessary stress for the individuals involved.

So how can performance measures be used to drive the right behaviours?

The correct behaviour in the example above would be for the service staff to get feedback on the quality of the customer’s experience: what they were happy with, what could have been done even better, and to reflect that back into a continuous improvement scenario. This way, the quantitative metrics are really just a snapshot to summarise the feedback.

Harris and Tayler suggest three ways in which surrogation could be avoided at the organisational levels. This also translates at the team and individual level:

  1. Involve managers (or team members) in shaping the goals or objectives. This way they understand and are engaged with what the goals are seeking to achieve, rather than just being focused on the metrics.
  2. Keep a clear separation between metrics and financial rewards. Tying the two together makes the metric more visible than the underlying objective, thereby risking the kind of behaviour described in the example. People get frightened or anxious, rather than being open to learning and exploring positive alternatives to their actions and behaviours. We know that many companies have decided against using individual performance ratings for this reason.
  3. Use multiple metrics for measuring performance. The authors suggest that if people have to bear multiple metrics in mind, they are less likely to surrogate on each one.

How could you translate this approach into the approach for objectives and performance metrics in your organisation?

Here are a couple of suggestions based on what we see happening in Life Science organisations.

If the company objectives are very broad or vague e.g. make X amount of sales this year, think about what individual teams might do to deliver that outcome. It might involve innovation or continuous improvement around products, services, processes, customer relations, employee development.

If individuals or their managers are overly focused on whether or not people have met or exceeded the numeric targets in their objectives, reflect instead on what new knowledge has been gained, what tangible outcomes have been achieved, and the resultant impact on the business.

NOTES

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Competency frameworks – a management tool for recruitment, development and knowledge sharing


By Elisabeth Goodman, 15th November 2017

Competency frameworks have been very much in my mind at the moment as they are core to the recruitment and interview skills course that my RiverRhee Associate, Alison Proffitt and I recently delivered for a client as an in-house course.

They are also an excellent foundation for discussions about development and career progression that might be taking place at this time as part of annual performance reviews and appraisals.

Leadership competencies - HBR Nov-Dec 2017

Levels of [leadership] competence.  Harvard Business Review November-December 2017, p. 89

The November-December issue of Harvard Business Review also carries an excellent article on using competency frameworks as a basis for leadership development (see note 1.)

Last but not least, competency frameworks can be a useful tool to underpin the sharing of knowledge and expertise across an organisation.

Using competency frameworks for recruitment and interviewing

When recruiting candidates, we’re looking for as good a predictor of what their performance will be on the job as possible.  So it’s a good idea to have a clear idea of what we are looking for in the first place, and to make sure that everyone involved in the interview process has the same understanding.

Defining the competencies – both the technical and softer or behavioural skills – that we want is a way to do this. Examples of the softer skills include problem solving, communication, decision making. Technical skills will include scientific, legal, regulatory – depending on the nature of the job.

Job advertisements can then be framed to reflect essential or desirable competencies.

Interview questions can be structured so that the interviewees are asked to share examples of how they have demonstrated the competencies in their previous work.  Questions could use a ‘STAR” approach for example:

  • “Give me an example of when…” (Situation or Task)
  • “What action did you take?” (Action)
  • “What was the outcome?” (Result)

Competency frameworks for development and career progression

Organisations usually have some form of career ladder, through which individuals can progress as a result of their technical and/or behavioural or leadership skills.

Ideally, they will have different job titles, and accompanying job descriptions, the contents of which could form the basis of a competency framework along the lines shown in the illustration from the HBR article above.   There is also an excellent example of competency levels for the analysis and use of information in this UK government document: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/214008/competency-framework.pdf

A competency framework provides individuals and their managers with a concrete foundation for discussions about what the individual needs to do, and to demonstrate, in order to support their role and progress in their career.

Identifying and developing the leaders within your organisation

Claudio Fernández-Aráoz et al, in the HBR November-December 2017 article, share some excellent insights from Egon Zehnder’s collection of 30 years’ worth of data as global executive leadership recruiters.  They state that 72% of the managers within their database demonstrate the potential to grow into executive leadership roles, and 9% of these into CEO roles.

There is tremendous potential to develop managers within organisations to fulfil leadership roles.  Yet the authors’ findings suggest that internal leadership development programmes are typically weak at doing this, and that organisations either fail to use, or lose their best talent as a result.

The authors have identified 7 to 8 core competencies that can be used to evaluate senior managers on their leadership capability, and a further 4 to 5 predictors of their potential as leaders.  With the right match, and effective internal development activities such as stretch assignments, secondments, coaching and mentoring, can then shape the individuals for a leadership role.

Using competency frameworks to support knowledge sharing

There is another potentially powerful way to use competency frameworks to encourage and support sharing knowledge and expertise across an organisation.  I have seen this done in a workshop setting at a NetIKX seminar led by Chris Collison.

Although Chris uses different terminology, participants in a workshop identify different competencies present within the group.  They then use this as a starting point to agree areas to focus on for sharing their expertise.

This kind of approach could be used within an organisation, to foster a climate of sharing and collaboration.  Teams or departments could create a map of the type of competencies, and different levels of proficiency present within or across groups.

Individuals with greater proficiency in a particular area could then act as mentors to others wanting to develop their knowledge or skills in that area.  Mentors would thus develop their own management skills, as well as the knowledge and skills of their ‘mentee’.

Notes

  1. Claudio Fernández-Aráoz et al.  Turning potential to success.  The missing link in leadership development.  Harvard Business Review, November – December 2017, pp.86-93
  2. About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.