Jim's Blog

A More Productive Approach To Performance Management

Most Of The Time, People Aren’t The Problem
August 2016

Something Employees And Managers Can Agree On

Most of us have witnessed how nearly any employee performance management system centers on what individuals do or don’t do. Accomplishments are rarely discussed, save for an annual bonus conversation. The “didn’t do’s” lead to training, coaching, or other person-focused development exercises that rarely have a sustained impact.

In my view, this is typical, and it’s a very costly mistake.

The practical reality is that the accomplishments of line-level individual contributors do not substantially alter the macro performance of their organizations.

So, focusing on individual performance — continuous or periodic — is, more often than not, a distraction.

Most Performance Shortfalls Are Due To Systems Failures

A more effective approach for leaders truly interested in advancing organizational performance involves concentrating on shortfalls stemming from defects in the operating environment. There’s a massive body of research supporting this assertion, including the recognition that 70 to 94% of performance shortfalls are due to inefficiencies in the organizational system and not attributable to workforce failures.

Practically, most supervisors — and others that have studied the basics leadership — know this. Yet, the typical performance management process requires leaders to suspend disbelief in the science that they otherwise subscribe to.

Awareness Is Key To Continuous Performance Improvement

One thing is pretty much certain: If people hate periodic performance reviews, they’ll really hate the continuous version.

A much healthier approach for the enterprise and its workers is one that focuses on the organization and how people fit into the operating system. This helps leaders understand the boundaries of what people can actually control and what they can’t.

Expected Results

What I love about an organizationally focused approach is that every individual can see more clearly how they fit and why. They also feel an increased sense of fairness and it’s likely that they’ll be more engaged.

Organizationally, managers and individual contributors will focus on the true root causes of the most significant performance shortfalls and jointly look for systemic improvements.

The bottom line of this simple transformation is clear: A performance culture that is more productive, more effective, and more profitable.

OPS helps you focus on continuous improvement from the perspective of the organizational system. If you already have a people-centric performance management system, OPS is a great way to augment your current process. Proofpoint.net has been used to solve major performance issues with published ROIs that exceed 30:1.


About Jim Hill

Jim is the founder and CEO of Organizational Performance Systems.

Previously, Jim was a Marine Corps officer and an executive with Sun Microsystems. He is a past president of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI).

He holds degrees from The Ohio State University, Webster University, and Averett College, and he received his doctorate in human and organizational performance from the University of Southern California.

His book, Giving Away Power, was published in 2013.

He is the 2016 recipient of ISPI’s Distinguished Service Award.

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