Performance Management is like driving. Before embarking on an unfamiliar long-distance journey, the driver needs a road map or a GPS system which will guide him from the onset till he reaches his final destination.
The road map or GPS system will show the places that the drive has to drive through. There is an option of taking the longest or shortest route.
The driver requires a fully functional vehicle with all the features and attributes necessary to see him through his entire journey. For example the brakes must be working properly, the view mirrors dependable, enough petrol must be filled in to last the entire journey, wipers must be working effectively just in case it rains, oil and water levels must be checked before the journey. On the way to his point of destination, the driver will also rely on road signs, traffic lights and traffic control officers to arrive safely.
Relating this to performance management, the road map or GPS is the organization’s mission and strategic execution plan which helps identify where the organization wants to be in one, three or five year’s time and the strategies necessary to achieve the desired outcomes. The water level, oil level, speedometer and petrol level are the KPIs that require regular monitoring and improvement. Once these reach a certain level, the driver is alerted and takes corrective action where necessary.
In a way we could also say that the external road signs act as the dashboard which provides performance visibility. For example, a road sign might depict a steep curve ahead. This implies danger ahead and that the driver needs to reduce speed and be cautious. Operational dashboards which are colour coded help organisations monitor their performance in terms of urgency required to make changes.
The driver represents the champions of performance management within the organization. It could be change agents or managers responsible for implementing the cause. They act as sponsors of the project and sell the idea across the organization. The other parts within the vehicle represent the personnel who might be working from the background but at the same time contributing towards the achievement of the business strategy despite the size of their tasks.
Using the Dolphins of Florida Bay as living organisms to best describe the term performance, we also learn that performance management is not an individual exercise but rather team work. It also involves implementing smart strategies to outperform your competitors and improve business performance.
These dolphins depend on fish for their food and survival. Because they need quick access to air in the surface, they have to stay in shallow waters and close to the surface where there is no fish. If they don’t get the fish they die.
Instead of focusing on their limitations, these dolphins have managed to identify their strengths or capabilities and use them for their benefit. Despite their mere physical powers to give them an edge over their prey, the dolphins have learned a unique hunting pattern. They send ultrasounds into the water and once food is identified, the ultrasounds bounce back to the body of the dolphins and the message transmitted to other dolphins.
The dolphins then approach their hunting ground and beat the seabeds with their tails stirring up rings of mud and forcing the fish to leap into the air as they struggle to swim in the mud and ultimately into the mouth of the dolphins.
Organizations that have implemented performance management techniques and successfully driven performance improvements have managed to so because they have clearly defined their goals and objectives using scorecards, mapped their strategies using strategy maps, identified their unique capabilities through capability analysis , created a performance-driven culture by fostering experiences, beliefs and actions that improve performance. This has made it difficult for their competitors to imitate them, operate in the same environment and become high performing organizations too.