It’s that time again for most organizations. Close to the year-end, when we sit down and go through the motions: ticking boxes, slightly rephrasing last year’s appraisals, and generally feeling awkward about where we stand and what we’ve been doing.
At TTGG, we’ve long believed that most performance management systems are outdated. At a time where everything is digitally tracked with sales analytic software, project management platforms, and more – do we really need to sit down to keep track of KPIs?
Why Performance Management Is a Waste of Time
Accountability matters, and so does transparency, but the PM conversation as we know it is well overdue for a revamp. When we meet to sit down and discuss our track record for the year, there are a few things that we’re doing wrong.
Every company does it differently, but conventional performance appraisals are typically one-on-one sit-downs. They’re a time for leaders to ‘judge’ others’ actions and offer a few thoughts on the quality of their efforts. This is when they decide whether or not, if you like, a colleague’s efforts have come up to scratch.
This kind of PM is a one-way street. As a team member, you receive information passively and as a human, you feel judged. If you’re the leader doing the ‘judging,’ it probably doesn’t feel right to you either.
That’s one point for hierarchy and zero for a healthy, collaborative culture.
In organizations with a strong vision, people are aligned to strategy. They share a mutual interest in succeeding, and they are intrinsically motivated to give their best to enjoy the rewards.
KPIs lose a lot of meaning in these companies – the adaptive, collaborative kind of firm. Here, people share a sense of purpose, and performance management becomes an arduous tick-list item for the sake of transparency. The whole PM ritual becomes an essential admin task, but one that is far too time-intensive for the purpose it serves.
So it’s another piece of red tape that doesn’t truly enhance performance.
What To Do Instead
PM as we know it has very few upsides, but should we do away with it entirely?
No, in short, because if we don’t measure, we can’t build and learn.
What we can do is start having the right conversations. In our eyes, there are two main reasons for those performance sit-downs. To find out:
- How people plan to grow – their goals, ideas, and ambitions, and
- What people need to get there – or in other words, how we as an organization can enable their performance.
By finding out how we can help our teammates, we stop over-analyzing the past and empower them for the future instead. When we explore their plans for development, we co-create a future where people can play to their strengths.
It’s when performance management becomes a two-way, rather than a one-way street, that we start to see real improvements and ROI.
If your performance management reviews are coming up, I challenge you to approach things a little differently this year. Before you go in, ask yourself why it’s relevant; ask yourself why you care.
If you and your teammates don’t come away from your appraisal with a few genuine next steps for their growth – then it’s time to change your approach. If you cannot honestly answer those two questions, then don’t be afraid to admit that you’re simply going through the motions.
That knowledge should empower you, so take charge and start having the right conversations.
Govert is Time To Grow Global’s Managing Partner, specializing in Strategy Facilitation, Leadership development and Organisational performance. Reach him on our Time To Grow Global LinkedIn.