Performance Measurement
May 7, 2012

Managing for performance

“Performance management” leads to either disdain or glee in public sector organizations. Both reactions rely on a faulty understanding on how to make it work.

Achieving organizational excellence through management of performance occurs in three simple steps.

Step one: identify, discuss and agree on a vision of what to accomplish and its importance. Process maps and job descriptions are suitable starting points. The office holder normally has a clearer understanding of the process involved and the required outcomes.

Excellent organizations are founded on discussion. Managers need to hear employee perceptions and the challenges associated with the key activities. Two classes of activities exist in every job. The first are the ongoing daily monotonous tasks and activities that produce a steady stream of deliverables. The second are the “new” initiatives that emerge and the improvements to be made. Both need to be addressed.

Managers and staff must be clear about what is to be achieved and how they will determine success. In many cases, a count of deliverables is a good rough measure. In higher-level situations, outcome measures are more difficult to determine: the more complex the job the greater the need to invest time in developing the criteria for achievement and success.

Once objectives are established, the measures identified and the success criteria agreed upon, write everything down. Many performance appraisal systems flounder because managers and staff perceive key points differently. Forget the messages and spin; just stick to the facts: a simple chart with tasks/activities, measures and success criteria provides the basic information.

There are a couple of caveats for step one. Workers know more about their jobs than managers and many will set higher standards and expectations than their bosses. They also know the ways to improve the key processes and will do so if given the chance.

Step two is the action step that differentiates the good organizations from the also-rans. It is an on-going discussion of how things are going. These discussions are fact-based, which means looking at due dates, successes and failures (sorry, these do happen). Actual data needs to be the focus of the scheduled discussions. If you have “stretch targets,” expect that some will not be doing well, which provides the opportunity to adjust expectations.

For managers, a key part of the discussions is identifying how to help the employee. Effective managers create opportunities for employees to succeed and address the barriers that exist to achieving goals; this is as important as providing direct feedback to staff.

Caveats for step two address the behaviour of the parties involved. Both staff and managers need to separate dreaming from factual reality. Come to discussions prepared to address the list of key activities. Be open and honest about what is being achieved or not, and the reasons for the current state of affairs. State the obvious and use common sense, but remember that common sense is not always common practice and what is obvious to you might be a rude awakening to someone else.

Step two is long-term and allows for recognition of the good things happening, the successes being achieved, and the outcomes delivered. Research shows that a simple pat on the back from the manager or senior staff is the most effective recognition available. To achieve an organization dedicated to superior performance, everyone, especially the leaders, must clearly communicate and recognize a task well done. The ongoing discussion provides this opportunity. Do it thoroughly, do it often, and be positive.

Step three checks the progress made, the outcomes and outputs produced and the contributions made. The initial preparation for this is a straightforward check of the original list of key outcomes and deliverables with a simple yes or no evaluation for each item. Fact-based observations and conclusions using specifics provides a fairly straight forward starting point

A key element of this last step is an evaluation of what was achieved and identification of opportunities for the future. Effective organizations build on achievements and seize opportunities. This step summarizes the on-going discussions for step two and may be the most critical and problematic step. Managers and staff need to be aware of the outcomes achieved and the failures that occurred. When outcomes are not in line with expectations, options need to be identified that make use of the skills and abilities of the staff members more effectively. Perhaps an alternative position or enhanced training is an intervention to be considered.

Step three is the starting point for the next cycle of performance discussions. It provides the genesis for moving forward and the opportunity to build on success and create a real culture of performance.

 

Larry Taylor has over 30 years of public sector experience with Natural Resources Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat, Transport Canada and Alberta Solicitor General (larryjtaylor@sympatico.ca).

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Performance Measurement
 
Leadership, service delivery, change management, performance measurement, big data, transparency, digital...
 
Recently, there has been considerable interest in what is being referred...
 
Over the years, governments have been adopting Lean management principles to...
 
As the resettlement of Syrian Refugees exemplifies, government programs, currently running...
 
With businesses and government agencies increasingly operating in a highly information-based...
 
Risk is always present in any undertaking, no matter the size...
 
The Government of Canada’s newly announced Policy on Results replaces the...
 
In this episode, J. Richard Jones share information about the Canadian...
 
Rules and accountability are helpful in developing and standardizing processes but...
 
For several months now, the Liberal government ministers have been using...
 
Global market trends are accelerating to increase the pressure on commercial...
 
As a consultant, I work primarily with private sector organizations including...
 
Here’s some bad news for organizations contemplating projects that have something...
 
If the purpose of the Government of Canada’s performance measurement system...
 
Performance auditing can lead to more efficient, effective, and economical program...
 
The latest Auditor General’s report on Shared Services Canada (SSC) and...
 
Public sector innovation, once dismissed as a contradiction in terms, is...
 
The necessity for government executives to manage change, and achieve results,...
 
Every organization does it, but often with ambivalence: the performance measurement...
 
There is an apparent disconnect in performance measurement. Today, agencies measure...
 
The government of Canada’s transformation agenda continues to drive change across...
 
Cost savings in government programs and services used to be achieved...
 
As we move into 2015 – with a looming federal election...
 
Over the last four decades, public sector organizations have institutionalized program...
 
When you purchase clothes, do you like off-the-rack, or do you...
 
All governments, including Canada’s, strive to manage taxpayers’ dollars more efficiently....
 
Getting a clear definition of policy processes and functions can be...
 
While government agencies do not have “bottom lines” in the way...
 
Most of you already know that project management is a means...
 
The taxpayers are wary. Politicians worry about retaining their jobs. Everyone...
 
There has never been a time since the introduction of program...
 
The management of resources has always been taken for granted in...
 
In the last two decades, managing for results has gained momentum...
 
For the first time, the Consortium of Universities for Evaluation Education...
 
The government of New Zealand, and the State Services Commission in...
 
While it has been around for over 130 years, the concept...
 
Performance measurement and public reporting are intended to achieve two complementary...
 
Canada has over 400 administrative tribunals that are probably the least...
 
Last summer, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS) signed...
 
The core mandate of the Consortium of Universities for Evaluation Education...
 
the author fails to provide a complete picture (the good and...
 
Why talk about ethics at all right now? After all, Canada’s...
 
we now have what one federal ADM described to me as...
 
The reduction or mitigation of risks or harms is a major...
 
What are Canadian universities doing to maintain their relevance and innovative...
 
Managing for results has gained significant momentum in the public sector...
 
“Is performance management still relevant?” was the thought-provoking question posed by...
 
Within the last year, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS)...
 
Results matter in the public sector, particularly in these challenging times...
 
Today’s public sector environment is one in which many managers and...
 
Just as with public financial reporting, performance reporting is here to...
 
Being a high-performing organization is like being a high-performing individual: it...
 
With the current reality of deficit reduction, cost cutting and overall...
 
This article is New and Improved! After an exhaustive review cycle...
 
Canada was at the table when the “Commonwealth of Nations” was...
 
If you believe that performance measurement is a vital part of...
 
The last great international effort to refashion the public sector took...
 
Beginning on April 1, 2013, and over a five-year cycle, the...
 
Governments are increasingly using benchmarking to improve organizational performance; to determine...
 
Senior public sector managers, deputy heads of departments and parliamentarians need...
 
Canada is a hockey-loving nation and now is the time of...
 
Too few public sector organizations have truly embedded performance thinking into...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.1 January 2007 The proposed Federal Accountability Act is...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.2 February 2008 The passage of the Federal Accountability...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.3 March 2007 Governing is never easy. And in...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.2 February 2007 Improving organizational health and employee engagement...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.4 April 2008 The Tellier-Mazankowski advisory committee on...
 
L’administration publique s’efforce d’obtenir des résultats tangibles en mettant en œuvre...
 
Une étude récente commandée par l’OCDE conclut que, malgré le fait...
 
A recent study commissioned by the OECD concludes that while the...
 
The principle is unassailable: Canadians have the right to know whether...
 
La reconception de l’administration de l’imposition des sociétés en Ontario est...
 
Dans son budget de lutte contre la récession (et d’économies dans...
 
The Harper government’s recession fighting (and government saving) budget heralded an...
 
Many governments have bought into the notion of the Balanced Scorecard,...
 
Bon nombre d’administrations publiques ont adopté le tableau de bord prospectif,...
 
David P. Norton est le cocréateur, avec Robert Kaplan, du Tableau...
 
Together with Robert Kaplan, David P. Norton is the creator of...
 
Performance management leads to either disdain or glee in public sector...
 
Il y a dix ans, la Société canadienne du sang (SCS)...
 
Les administrations publiques utilisent de plus en plus l’analyse comparative pour...
 
Début septembre, la fonction publique de l’Ontario (FPO) célébrait le 10e...
 
The redesign of corporate tax administration for Ontario is a major...
 
Coincidental with the push for more attention to be paid to...
 
The BC Public Service has had an intense focus on improving...
 
Today’s public sector managers encounter increasingly complex corporate issues that call...
 
Performance management seems to be everywhere these days, with much of...
 
The two key tools used by the Canadian government to measure...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
Leadership, service delivery, change management, performance measurement, big data, transparency, digital...