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Reclaiming The Performance Planning Process

by David Brock on January 24th, 2014

I recently wrote a post:  Poor Performers Probably Don’t Know.  It kicked off a fascinating round of discussions on Performance Plans and Performance Management.

I believe the Performance Plan and the Performance Planning Process is one of the most powerful tools for managers and subordinates to align expectations, priorities, and goals; then subsequently monitor performance against those goals.  Unfortunately, the performance plan and the process seem to have fallen into disfavor.

Probably for some good reasons, but mostly for tragically bad reasons.  Today, mentioning a performance plan brings up all sorts of bad experiences for managers and subordinates alike.

They are viewed as that useless process that “HR makes us waste time on every year!” Usually, the performance review is that painful process where the manager pulls out some meaningless evaluation, going through the motions of an evaluation that has no meaning to anyone. Often, it’s these that determines whether we get an “increase” in the coming year–when everyone knows it’s been years since anyone has gotten an increase, or the increases have been determined by management, so linking the performance plan to the increase has become meaningless.

Too often, performance planning/reviews make everyone uncomfortable–both the manager and the subordinate.  When performance review time comes up, anxieties on everyone’s part rise.  People want to avoid the review process.  Somehow, it seems to create apprehension and conflict rather than collaborative learning and improvement.

Too often, no performance plans are in place.  There’s little common understanding between the manager and subordinates about expectations, priorities and goals.  There are few interim, “How are we doing” checkpoint/reviews.

Or worse, managers abrogate their responsibilities to maximize the performance of each individual  through coaching, semi-formal, and formal performance plan for many of the discussions.  Instead they rely on  incentive and compensation systems to drive behaviors and performance,  or worse.

Performance planning is one of the most powerful tools managers and subordinates have in aligning expectations and setting priorities.  Performance plans provide a scorecard, which both the manager and people use to keep on track.  The performance planning process is an important part of the overall development process.  Through performance and development planning, top performers can raise their level of performance and contribution to the organization over both the short and long terms.  Middle and low performers have clear understanding of expectations, where they stand, and how they can improve.

Properly done, performance planning is collaborative, with the manager and employee working together to establish goals and metrics, determining what each should do to maximize performance over the plan period.  What coaching and development managers must do, what the employee must do.

It’s tragic that Performance Plans and Performance Planning seem to have fallen into such disfavor or are terribly abused,  when they are so powerful.

Re look at your performance planning process.  Look at how you can leverage these to help align expectations, between the manager and employee.  Implement them as powerful collaborative goal setting tools, not punitive tools.  Reclaim performance plans and planning for the power they provide in helping clarify priorities, goals, development plans—and the progress we make in executing them.


From → Leadership

  1. Fred Swan permalink

    Dave, I completely agree the Performance plan used properly would benefit the manager and the team if used properly.

    Unfortunately, the reason for it gets diluted by the company changing the plan mid-stream and managers not completing the reviews on time and in a fair manner.

    Raises should never be linked to the Performance Plan, it should be a tool to recognize the top performers and to help elevate those not there yet.

  2. Performance reviews don’t count for much when you are just going through the motions. Following a checklist doesn’t help an employee get better at their given job, nor does it give managers any real insight into how their team feels about their daily work.

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