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Archive for the ‘performance’ Category

Be careful of Social Cargo Cults!

Posted by Mark Bennett on August 16, 2011

“When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer.”

Superstition, by Stevie Wonder

We’re seeing rapidly increasing adoption of social business technologies by more and more companies. Not just Social CRM, which has been out for a while, but now the internal adoption of these technologies as well, to help with collaboration, information sharing, innovation, and so on.

The temptation is to rush in so that you don’t fall behind your competition that is already using these technologies. But before you do that, take some time to think about what you’re really trying to achieve.

Field of Dreams?

A too-common approach for internal social business roll-out is “Build it and they will come.” That is, no real specific purpose is outlined, other than, “These tools will help you collaborate, so go forth and collaborate!” The company then hopes that employees will join in, productivity will increase, innovations will grow, etc. The trouble with this is that it will very likely result in disappointment, both for the company as well as the employees.

Why? It’s because this is the “Social Cargo Cult” approach.* Companies hear about their competition using social technologies internally, they see their competition doing well or better than they are, they hear success stories around social business, and they conclude, “We must use social as well!” But they don’t understand why.

So what to do to avoid this problem? First, come up with a specific purpose or objective you think can be achieved through the usage of social technologies within your company. This purpose becomes your testable hypothesis upon which you will build a better understanding going forward of what social technologies can do to help your business and how to best use them. You need to determine if you are getting a positive result from using social technologies (i.e. “moving the needle.”)

For example, you could target faster project completion times as the benefit. You may only be able to estimate what the improvement in completion times were, but it can be done and it will give you at least some understanding of whether there was a benefit and how much. You might target an improvement in product quality, problem turnaround time, design revisions, etc. The point is identify something where a result can be measured and compared with some degree of confidence.

Now that you have a targeted measure you’ve identified, you’ll want to communicate that to everyone involved as well. Why? Because you want the people you are trying to get to participate to understand the expected benefit. If they don’t respond or they drop out, then you can take that fact as a hint that either the benefit doesn’t motivate them to participate or that the technologies are not delivering on the anticipated benefit. Either way, you are getting information that you can operate on, so rethink what the benefit is, your use of the technology, or both.

Is this Heaven?

To sum up, defining the purpose that drives your use of social technologies both provides you with a measure of whether it’s working as well as a reason for people to participate. And if either of these things aren’t happening, you can try something different and test it out. Without it, you are left with just hoping that good things will happen, as if by magic.

* “Cargo Cult” refers to a social science phenomenon where isolated cultures have been exposed suddenly to advanced technologies that provide some kind of benefit to them (usually as a side-effect.) The culture cannot grasp all the complexities involved and they end up doing what most humans do – they conclude that the attributes they observe are the key factors that drive resulting benefits. They then attempt to recreate those observable attributes themselves to obtain the same benefits, but to no avail; they did not fulfill all the right requirements sufficiently to get the desired results.

Posted in collaboration, performance, social network, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Love yourself: love your self-assessment

Posted by Justin Field on June 27, 2011

Hey, it’s performance review time, and your manager has asked you to complete your self-assessment.  Are you filled with dread?  Don’t know where tostart?  Don’t know what to write?  Well, here are my personal tips to help you out.

As HR practitioners, we often assume that employees simply know how to do a performance review and how to go about completing their self-assessment.  But, my informal research tells me that people don’t really know what to do, unless they’ve seen a good model performance review, or, they’ve had the benefit of coaching in the art of performance reviews.

Step 1:  Start the hunt
Review your performance dimensions so you know what you need to hunt for.  What are your job competencies embedded in your performance review?  What were your performance objectives?  Are there any other elements that you would like to highlight?

Step 2:  Hunt for the good, the bad and the ugly
There are three elements that I find personally useful here.

  1. Scan your sent email from the last year and see if you can remind yourself of the big projects that you worked on over the past 12 months.  The cognitive bias of recency means that you’ll only remember recent achievements (in the past three to six months) so take some time to remind yourself of the good stuff you did right at the beginning of the performance year.  Pay particular attention to congratulatory emails from others — they have high value in the performance review cycle.
  2. Your performance system may have a journal or notes feature, or, you may have been super-organised and collected little nuggets of achievements and accomplishments in a Word document or a paper file.  Open up your performance notes and remind yourself of all the good (and sometimes the stupid or bad) things that you did.
  3. Use your workplace systems to get good numeric or quantitative evidence that will support your achievements.  For example, I often teach webcasts, and I send out an online evaluation survey after each event.  So I can easily review all the events that I produced, and work out the average satisfaction score for each event.  Another example:  one of my roles is to answer questions from the HR group about the performance cycle and our performance management system.  I centralised all these questions into an online forum, so I can count how many questions were posted, and how long it took me to reply to questions.

Step 3:  Write up your results
If you managed to find plenty of evidence during your hunt, then you’ll find it easy to write up your comments for each performance dimension.  For your competencies, you’ll need to use evidence to call out the behaviours that demonstrate proficiency in that competency.  For example, for a competency such as Presentation Skills, you may write something like:

I presented twice at our staff meeting on the use of social networking tools for learning within our division.  I also posted several blog posts on this topic on our internal team blog.  Four comments on the blog showed that my peers in China and Hong Kong valued this information.  For the last presentation I did, I scored 86% satisfaction from participants.

For your performance objectives, you need to include a blend of qualitative and quantitative evidence.  For example, for a performance objective around building relationships with customers, you may write something like:

For the Carlton Company, I arranged a visit to the CVC in California.  I clarified the purpose and target outcomes with the customer’s Vice President, and shaped the agenda in California to address this, collaborating with Product Development and Marketing.  Later, I arranged four visits to existing customers in Australia and New Zealand (Westpac, Qantas, Air New Zealand, NBN Company).  As an outcome, Carlton signed a new deal worth $1.2 million.

In essence, you need to be as specific as you can, and give good evidence to support your achievements.  Sometimes employees tell me that they feel that they are running out of achievements, so they end up repeating themselves.  A little bit of repetition is okay, but don’t use the same example for every single competency and performance objective — you’ll end up sounding one-dimensional, and one achievement does not illustrate a trend, which is what we are trying to illustrate in our performance reviews.

So, best wishes for your self-assessment.  Do leave me a comment if you find these tips useful (or, useless!).

Posted in cognitive bias, communication, development, engagement, performance, productivity | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s performance time again!

Posted by Justin Field on June 20, 2011

Folks, we’re in the midst of performance appraisals again. Yes, I used the dreaded ‘appraisal’ word because it heavily embedded in our culture.  But I wish that it wasn’t about appraisal in the sense of judgement.  It makes employees nervous and fretful, and gives managers headaches about what to say, how to say it, and how to deliver bad feedback.  What I really wish for is a world where:

  • employees look forward to the performance review cycle as a meaningful way of having a chat about how they are doing in their role
  • managers feel comfortable with reviewing an employee’s performance, giving good concrete examples of desirable and undesirable behaviours
  • employees have a crystal clear picture of the year ahead, and the expectations that the manager has

Sometimes we focus too much on having a good computer system to help with the performance review.  But in truth, the computer system is just a way of supporting the process.  For employees and managers to derive value from the process, they have to engage with open minds and with a willingness to learn.

Posted in performance, productivity, technology | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Where are you going?

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on June 17, 2011

It is performance review time, and you are asked to write a self evaluation. What a complete waste of time, you think. Your manager knows what you have done, or should know, anyway. In any case, nothing you write is going to change the fact that there is probably no bonus this year. You are pretty sure she’s already made up her mind about your rating too – not that it matters, given the bonus situation. You tell yourself that she just wants you to write stuff that she can cut and paste into her evaluation.

I have heard a hundred variations of the above.  There are hints of truth in there, but it entirely misses out the point of a self evaluation. It misses the point that we OWN our career, and our successes. We depend on others in many ways, but ultimately we own it.

Think of how a grade school home work assignment is different from an assignment at work. At work, we own, but we do not control every aspect of our assignment. So, we learn “soft skills” like communication, collaboration, conflict resolution, prioritization, alignment, and such, to navigate the dependencies, and be successful.

Similarly, we own our careers. However, we don’t control opportunities, openings, job markets, etc. Periodic self evaluation, 1:1s, goal setting, are some of the tools that we can use to be successful in charting the course of our careers.

Next time, try approaching your self evaluation, not as a chore, but as a means to measure how far you have come, where you are heading, and where the winds have been taking you. Next time, do your self evaluation, not as a favor to your manager, but as something you would do just for yourself, like a spa treatment.  See  if it makes you feel differently – not about the process of self evaluation – but about where you are going, and where you want to go.

[Photo by: passlotte]

Posted in Career Development, performance | 7 Comments »

Social Media Policy: Only Just the Start

Posted by Mark Bennett on June 4, 2011

I wrote a while ago that if you don’t already have a social media policy, then make one. Build it off of existing policies around communication, acceptable behavior, etc. but don’t just rely on those. There are enough issues around social media to warrant having a short and to the point policy.

Necessary but not sufficient condition

But while a social media policy is a necessary condition for minimizing the risks involved, it’s not sufficient for getting the most value out of social media. If policies are the only thing out there, people will either not participate or if they do, constrain themselves to only what’s “permitted.”

You need to move into how to effectively engage social media to improve the business.  That will improve over time, which means you need a way to learn from your social media efforts how to better engage with them. But you first have to start.

Where to begin?

Simply put, it comes down to answering “Why?” To be more precise, “why” in the context of improving the business. Why should employees, customers, and partners participate in your business’ social media? The more it aligns with the participants’ own interests, the better it acts to motivate them, but you really need to get your own objectives straight and communicate those.

To do that, figure out what ways to improve the business you think social media will help. There are a lot of business performance measures, some very specific and some very broad. The more you can determine a specific business performance measure that you can connect to the purported benefits of social media, the better. Remember that since you may need to make adjustments along the way, you need to measure results to get an idea if you are on the right track.

We’ll keep going on this thread in future posts. Stay tuned.

Photo by Magic Madzik

Posted in measurement, performance, social network, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Safe at Home

Posted by Mark Bennett on March 28, 2011

Like the saying goes, “What is measured is what gets managed.” And while you may rationalize that you are measuring things that really ought to be managed, what about the things that aren’t getting measured or aren’t being measured the best way?

Let’s take costs as an example. Businesses often focus on costs because they are a more “tangible” item on the books. You “see” costs all around you; people, supplies, capital equipment, etc. Their impact on the bottom line seems very clear as well. So, you measure costs, then you imagine lower costs, and you think, “There is where we will get our profit!”

Yes, profit can come from lower costs. But if those lower costs result in lower revenues by more than your costs were lowered, what happens to your profit? You get one guess.

Measuring revenue is not difficult, but understanding the connection between what you did by lowering costs with what happens to revenues is a little tricky.

Lessons from Baseball

What’s the connection to “Safe at Home” and baseball? Think of Profit as scoring a run – i.e. “Safe at Home.” How did that happen? What contributed to scoring a run?

For a long time, the most common measurement of a player’s contribution to their team’s score was based on the “Triple Crown” of offense: Home Runs (pretty obvious), Runs Batted In (almost as obvious), and Batting Average (not so obvious). What is common about these measures is they are tangible and/or easy to measure.

The problem is that by focusing on these measures, teams can end up encouraging or pay too much for behaviors that don’t really help them. That’s because these measures don’t give a very good picture of how individual performance affects team performance.

It turns out that there are two (instead of three), better measures: Slugging Percentage and On Base Average. These measures step back and think about scoring runs more in terms of “production” (hey, a business term!). These measures aren’t as tangible, but together they were found to better relate individual performance to team performance.

Back to Business

It’s the same for Profit. A big component of cost is often labor, but do lower labor costs always mean higher profit if there’s also a connection between labor and revenue as well? Since cutting a cost can mean reducing revenue (and likewise, increasing a cost can create revenue), it’s vital that your measurements take into account the real relationship between the two.

That seems obvious. What’s not so obvious is what measurements to use to make the best decisions. Conventional wisdom and best practices might point out what not to do, but they really won’t give you the insight to beat your competition. You must think in terms of your company’s production.

Is there a magic answer? No. But if you’re only measuring things in a way that doesn’t really show the connection (think “Time to Hire”, “Total Payroll”, etc.) you run a high risk of pulling the wrong levers and losing profit unnecessarily. At the very least, step back and think about how all the pieces relate and fit together to bring in Profits “Safe at Home” and then make the call.

Photo by SD Dirk

Posted in carnival, measurement, performance, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

The Doctor and The Portability of Talent

Posted by Steve Hughes on March 15, 2011

This weekend the 2011 MotoGP season begins in Qatar and the most fascinating aspect of the racing year for me will be how well Valentino Rossi performs with his new team Ducati. Rossi,  nicknamed “The Doctor” as a mark of respect, is arguably the greatest of all time. He has won nine grand prix world championships, a record seven in the premier class. Rossi won the 500cc World Championship in 2001 and the MotoGP Championships in 2002 and 2003 with Honda. Some commentators suggested that the Honda motorcycle’s superior technology, rather than his talent, was the key factor in his success. Rossi switched to Yamaha, won the opening race of the 2004 season and the championship. Another back to back championship followed in 2005 and he repeated the feat in 2008 and 2009. No one doubts his genius when it comes to riding a motorcycle.

Given his success at Honda and Yamaha, does Valentino Rossi stand in contradiction to the central finding in Boris Groysberg’s fascinating book  “Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance” (summarized in an excellent article by Chip & Dan Heath )? Groysberg’s study of the portability of the talents of Wall Street research analysts  argues that outstanding individual performance is far more context-dependent than it appears to star performers themselves. In short, the talents of stars are less portable than they think they are, and when they move their performance declines. The reason this happens is that there are crucial “in firm” networks and resources that contribute to the analysts success, but that they don’t necessarily appreciate.

Does The Doctor have perfectly portable talent? Not quite. Whilst Rossi has moved from Honda to Yamaha to Ducati, so has his supremely talented and experienced team. Crew chief Jeremy Burgess has worked with Rossi since he joined Honda, as has mechanic Alex Briggs. Mechanics Bernard Ansiau, Brenth Stephens and Track Engineer Matteo Flamigni also moved to Ducati. Why would the team move? Groysberg gives a comprehensive explanation but Alex Briggs has put it quite succinctly – “… the reason I enjoy my job and laugh every day is because of the close group of people I work with. JB, Gaz, Bernie, Brent & Matteo. I left Honda with most of the guys for Yamaha & will head to Ducati with them to finish the story Valentino started with us in 2000.”

Confirmation that a further observation Groysberg makes regarding star analysts probably holds true for MotoGP stars  – those who change firms along with teammates experience no decline in either short or long term performance. The team clearly has a powerful cohesiveness and loyalty to The Doctor that enables them to all achieve great job satisfaction and success. Something that if he had moved alone Rossi would need to replicate, and would adversely affect his performance.

For their part Ducati provide the third key “in firm” resource for winning – a competitive motorcycle. Or, to put it another way, the technology for winning. Technology is crucial for modern racing motorcycles and this year’s Desmosedici GP11 is brimming with it – carbon fibre chassis, slipper clutch, fly by wire throttle, sophisticated traction control. And it is red. Rossi will be relying on Ducati to outpace the season long technological innovations that will be made to the Honda RC212V and Yamaha YZR-M1 machines.

Perhaps, then, The Doctor’s real genius was the early recognition that his talents alone are not enough to sustain consistent, career long  high performance. Outstanding teamwork and technology are also required in the right blend. Can he, his team and Ducati achieve the synergy that will enable him to win in 2011?

Time will tell.

Photo – MotoGP.com

Posted in performance, talentedapps | Leave a Comment »

How do you deal with a star performer that is a loose cannon?

Posted by Ravi Banda on August 28, 2010

We all would have worked with or come across people in our organizations that are star performers – and these folks can be in a variety of roles, all contributing tremendously towards the achievement of critical organizational goals.

We all appreciate their contributions and most of these star performers are great team players but in this post I want to talk about the star performers who leave a trail of damage behind them, usually this will be in the form of hurt feelings and humiliation in their fellow team members. In the extreme case, these “stars” can cause their teammates  to move to different teams or even leave the company.

Even in an organization that puts strong focus on mutual respect and sharing between its workforce the situation can result in

–          The star performer’s liability/damage being disregarded by the management as they don’t want to upset the star performer and this worsens the situation (or)

–          Coaching is provided for the star performer to help them work better in a team environment

What if the coaching doesn’t work and the star performer doesn’t change his ways?

The star performer should be let go.  Simple – an organization’s values cannot be compromised for the sake of an individual how much ever good the person is.

It will be good to hear your experiences on dealing with star performers that are not team players and if / how anything made them change their behavior?

Posted in performance | 3 Comments »

Have you done your performance review yet?

Posted by Justin Field on June 21, 2010

Well, folks, we are in the midst of our annual performance review season.  You won’t guess the Number 1 question I get asked (well, maybe you’re smart and you will guess it):  why should I do a performance appraisal?  What’s in it for me?

Sadly, most people take a selfish and purely financial view of the corporate world.  If the performance review doesn’t result an any salary increment, then why do it?  What’s the point?  And that is one possible view of the world.  To those people, I ask:  aren’t you interested in getting any feedback about how well you’ve done over the past year?  Don’t you want to know if you’ve done anything badly?  Or something that you could learn to do better in the year ahead? 

Don’t you want to grow your own skills and competencies?  Or would you rather just sit, like a lump of coal, and do nothing with your career and with your life. 

Since you’re spending at least 40 hours a week at work, and perhaps significantly more, wouldn’t you want to be happy and motivated and fulfilled and flooded with energy every morning as you wake up?  Or would you rather sit around and moan about your manager and your co-workers and let the world wash over you? 

Now, some folks might like to let the world wash over them.  They’re not interested in feedback.  They’re not interested in developing themselves and their careers.  And I say:  good luck to them.  Because it’s pure luck that they have managed to keep their jobs during the GFC and it’s pure luck that their manager still thinks that the employee should stay on.  In fact, what do those employees know anyway?  They’ve never bothered to wonder; they’ve never bothered to ask.

So, look around you, take stock of your world, and get stuck into your performance review.  Don’t make it tedious and boring — make it your chance to shine and your chance to get some realistic feedback about where you are and where you want to go.  Put lots of detailed, specific evidence in about your achievements during the year (you’ve saved all those laudatory emails, remember?).  And ask your manager about how you can go further and take it to the next level.  I bet they’ll be happy that you’ve shown the interest, that you want to be successful and that you want the best for yourself and your career.

Posted in Career Development, development, engagement, performance | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Secrets of a successful talent review – part 2

Posted by Justin Field on January 14, 2010

In my last post, I wrote about performance calibration as being one of the secrets of success for talent reviews.  But performance isn’t the only dimension of top talent.  The other dimension we look at is potential.  Now with performance, it’s well understood by most managers and executives, and we can place some measures around performance, to make it easier to pick the appropriate performance rating for an employee.

With potential, it’s so much harder.  We often get asked, what is this thing called potential?  And what does it mean?  Potential for what?  So we’ve tried to invest more time in educating managers and executives about our definition of potential and what it means.

In the talent review, we quickly found that some managers really get the idea of potential and how it can be applied to their business.  They understand that they have to build and grow the next generation of leaders.  They understand that most of the time it’s better to build and grow internally; and that only some of the time it’s better to buy talent externally — and really great leaders have the ability to distinguish between these two situations.

On the other hand, some managers were less solid in their understanding of potential and how to apply it to their organisations.  A high performer is not necessarily top talent, unless they also have high potential.  We saw a few cases where the employee’s performance was being rewarded, rather than focusing on the high performance and high potential employees, who have the potential to go one level up or even two levels up.

Now we’re thinking about what to do.  We don’t think quotas of top talent are the right way to go:  the “right” number of top talent depends solely on the requirements of the business.  In growth economies you need a solid bench of front-line and middle managers, with a good portion that have potential to grow to higher levels and lead the business into the future.  In mature economies, you need less of the accelerated pool, but you still need enough top talent to sustain the business.

We are tossing around ideas about getting much more specific and detailed in our measurement of talent.  At present we use questionnaire that is applied equally to individual contributors, front-line managers, directors, vice presidents and above.  It gives us a really good first cut of the population, but we need to take it to the next level.  We call this next level “second filter.”

What might this second filter be?  What would be involved?  Well it comes down to two parts:  defining what is necessary for success at the next levels (I like to call this “plus one” and “plus two”); and then putting in place measurement instruments that uncover a high potential employee’s individual fit with the success definition.

Our ideas fall into a number of different initiatives.  Some areas of the business use assessment centres successfully.  Here a group of high potential employees is brought together for a day or two.  They are intensively tested and assessed.  The results are analysed and fed back to the employees, to help them craft their personal development plan.

We’ve also looked at detailed behavioural interviews (similar to that proposed by Bradford Smart in Topgrading.)  Here, we’d have two consultants interview high potential employees, to gather information about their personal capability and motivation, compared to the success model.  The interview process also involves detailed one-hour reference check interviews, with two or more referees, to get independent validation of the high potential employee’s skills, capability and potential to grow.  The output of the interview processed is viewed from an organisation level, but also fed back to the employee, with development recommendations, so they can craft their personal development plan.

Another option is to use psychometric instruments like Hogan HPI.  This tends to give some view of the employee’s true potential, but we need to match this information with the employee’s motivation to achieve and their motivation to gain power and influence, to get the full picture.

So really, an ideal approach would be a blend of these initiatives.  It would give us concrete reliable information that is predictive of success:  we would know that certain characteristics lead to promotions and sustained high performance over time.

If you have other ideas about potential and how to measure true potential, leave a comment for me.

Posted in leadership, performance, succession planning, talent review, top talent | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »