When it comes to performance measurement, you have probably heard the old adage, “What gets measured gets done.” It sounds simple enough. It makes logical sense. It is believable.
After all, measuring something does give us the information needed to confirm we accomplished what we set out to do. Right?
Unfortunately, when it comes to determining if performance standards are met, it’s not always true.
Many organizations pride themselves on their people development strategies. Yet, they limit their performance measures to traditional financial goals and broken employee evaluation procedures.
So, despite lots of “measurement” happening, nothing is truly getting accomplished. Traditional performance measures do not really reflect what organizations want “done;” they are just results.
The organization’s real goals are things like:
- Sustainable behaviors that drive long-range value creation
- Solid and growing relationships with customers
- Happy employees who want to make meaningful contributions
If we agree that talent development drives organizational development and, in turn, culture development, there has to be a new approach. One that takes a clear commitment and a sense of strategic focus.
Instead of setting ambitious, results-oriented goals and expecting employees to “hack it or pack it,” organizational leaders should be exploring performance measures that better reflect the behaviors of those doing the work — teams.
Teams are the engine of an organization’s success. When used well, measuring a team’s performance can supplement more traditional approaches.
In turn, this will create a mechanism that puts the drive and energy at the team level. The results will speak for themselves.
More importantly, the organization will start to move toward meaningful, sustainable change.
In most organizations, there is no shortage of business and HR metrics. All of this information can be measured, reported, analyzed, and considered at the cost of significant organizational resources.
For example, if you want sales, revenue, or cost data of any kind, your accounting team will be happy to compile it for you. If your company uses an individual employee appraisal process, HR will have drawers full of old individual evaluation forms.
Nevertheless, no matter how much data you have, it will not change human behavior.
I used to work with a company that believed in the idea of performance measurement but didn’t get it right. They conducted employee evaluations twice a year, but the system was not automated.
It required lots of manual labor and constant nagging to get people to complete forms. The process also required calibration across layers of evaluators and development leaders so that individual scores had some semblance of consistency.
In the end, managers were able to have somewhat meaningful conversations with their individual employees. Yet, there was a clear sense from folks on the ground that the process was ineffective.
The result was a lot of cultural attention to doing appropriate politicking and getting good grades instead of a commitment to achieve real team and cultural improvement. This, combined with much more prevalent attention to the “business” numbers, made for a hard-driving culture with questionable people development.
Some organizations try to innovate by using variations of basic business results measures, like team financial performance, hours worked, outputs, cycle times, and customer satisfaction on team outputs. However, results alone will not necessarily drive cultural change.
They might even cause bad behaviors and employee frustration. It could even promote a sense of anxiety resulting from an “ends justify the means” mindset.
In any case, business results measures that are centrally monitored and prodded usually just foster performance pressure and goals that are imposed upon or disconnected from the people doing the work.
Individual performance measures usually focus on an employee’s work against a company’s standard performance measures. While team-driven performance measures assess an individual’s contribution to a team.
Consequently, establishing team-driven measures can help an organization better understand the performance and progress of its teams. Let’s look at an example.
A global consulting firm I worked for wanted to develop a system for getting a quick snapshot to show how well its work teams were performing on an ongoing, real-time basis. The solution was to develop an automated survey mechanism.
The surveys let individuals working as part of a team rate their satisfaction and work against strategically and culturally important goals. These criteria include things like:
- A belief that their work was meaningful
- Appropriate involvement with clients
- The efficiency of a project
- Impact of a project’s results
- Work-life balance
All of these were indicators of how well the consulting firm matched its stated vision and mission against the actual work being done.
At first, there was reasonable hesitation about creating more surveys and taking more time away from doing client-facing work. These concerns were easily quelled because the developed tool only required a few minutes each week to complete.
Scores within each working team were compiled into a comprehensive health score for each team member. These scores were then further synthesized into an overall team health score for the entire team.
As those collective measures were gathered each week and matched up against the same exact measure of other teams, an overall snapshot of the health of every team was created.
This new consolidated view gave organizational leaders a truer sense of which teams were performing well—or not—in any given week. Over time, that meant they could see trends like which teams were consistently high-performers; who merited celebration and best practice sharing.
Conversely, it also became clear which teams needed interventions to help get their scores up. The bar was set high for what was considered acceptable, unacceptable, and distinctive.
Results were posted of all the top teams, individual performers, and managers, earning them precious visibility. These top performers quickly became the co-workers everyone wanted to associate with or emulate.
While low performers with sub-par scores were not shared publicly, the move was inconsequential. It didn’t take long for people to figure out the managers and teams they wanted to avoid, if possible.
Another lesson learned is that the high-performing teams posted running charts of the multiple performance measures within their team rooms. They also had frequent team huddles to continuously improve their own scores as a means to rank higher against the other top teams.
Implementing a team performance measurement system requires a commitment to cultural alignment and a strategic high-level perspective. This type of dedication and focused viewpoint are traits many talent development leaders might not recognize in their own organizations
In this example, what was measured — the effectiveness of teams as it relates to cultural aspirations — was done, and the positive cultural waters started to rise.
Talent development leaders that believe “what gets measured gets done” should be advocates for team behavioral performance measures. They should also look for ways to elevate the discussion to a strategic perspective that aligns a company’s aspirations with its internal behaviors.
As a result, their companies will get to celebrate watching their overall performance numbers improve meaningfully over time. They will also see the authentic excitement and enthusiasm of individuals truly motivated to improve their performance against strategic objectives.
What will be done well (or not so well) will be measured, and that which is measured will drive a true sense of what is important within your organization.
What performance standards does your organization currently measure? Do you employ team-focused performance measures? If so, what mechanisms do you employ to measure the results? Share your thoughts with me on LinkedIn!