Workhuman Book Club: "How Performance Management Is Killing Performance – and What to Do About It,” by M. Tamra Chandler

July 8, 2019 Lynne Levy

4-minute read

How Performance Management Is Killing Performance - And What To Do About It

The Workhuman® Book Club was created to inspire you with thought leadership from our speakers all year long, help you connect with other people who love to read, and provide exclusive opportunities to interact with authors. To participate in book discussions, follow Workhuman on Facebook and Twitter.

Do you want to learn new ideas about how to modernize performance management? M. Tamra Chandler’s book, “How Performance Management Is Killing Performance – and What to Do About It,” brings together science, psychology, and the realities of business to embrace the nuances and complexities of managing performance.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Tamra makes it clear that it’s not only possible to custom-design a performance management solution to fit your organization, but that tailoring a solution to your culture and strategy is the only way it’s going to be effective. Taking a cookie-cutter approach will not accelerate performance.

Tamra walks readers through eight fatal flaws with traditional performance management. Although most leaders and organizations would agree performance management is broken, the book outlines a fatal flaw that few in the market discuss:

No man (or woman) is an island.

Redesigned performance management solutions still put a significant focus on the individual. And yet, individual performance is difficult to grow and measure without understanding how individuals fit in the context of teams. How can a manager determine the impact one person had on a project when there may be many team members involved? The success of one individual is rarely the result of raw talent, but their ability to collaborate with the people around them.

In addition to focusing on team performance, Tamra outlines eight “shake-the-kaleidoscope” mindset changes that leaders must embrace to create high performance:

  • Transparency. If you want employees to trust you, be connected to the mission, and be agile as the business environment changes. Get rid of secrets. You need to share information around goals, the vision of the organization, and how performance is measured.
  • Give the steering wheel to your employee. Performance development needs to be centered on the employee and driven by the employee. Don’t assume you know their personal goals. Work with your employees to build goals that help the organization and the individual.
  • Change focus. Instead of focusing on past performance, focus on future development and the employee’s capabilities.
  • Abandon uniformity. Provide the design principles and guidelines, then empower each department to build a solution that works for their team.
  • Welcome more voices to the conversation. Crowdsource performance feedback instead of relying on the manager alone. Humans are inherently biased, and every decision and assessment is influenced by each person’s experiences and perspectives. The best mitigation strategy is to invite a greater number of people into the conversation around performance and feedback.
  • Stop policing, start empowering. Don’t build burdensome process-oriented solutions to meet the needs of a few exceptions. Build a process that will work for the majority and then handle the rest through an exception process. Keep it simple.
  • Incent collaboration. A challenge with traditional performance management is the focus on the individual. The reality is that most of the work we do is based on work with others in teams and groups. Tamra encourages the movement to a team-based performance model.
  • Get real with rewards. Pay individuals for capabilities and reward them for contributions.

With these mindset changes in place, Tamra shares her systematic approach to redesigning performance management. The process is realistic, based on her consulting work:

  • Mobilize. Plan, invite the right people to the table, and get off the starting block. Tamra emphasizes the need to gain leadership support on new initiatives. Stakeholders need to be courageous and walk the C-suite through the “why” behind the change.
  • Converge on three common goals. Everyone should agree on how you’re going to drive organizational performance, reward equitably, and develop people.
  • Sketch. Here, make choices about what is essential to include in the new performance redesign. The team needs to be clear on the starting point and be aligned on the destination. Tamra emphasizes the need for design principles, which are “guiding lights” for the new performance solution and provide an anchor to keep the design team on track.
  • Configure/build. This phase is focused on selecting and implementing the practices, options, and features that match the design principles and bring the solution to life.

Tamra’s approach to performance management is practical, clear, flexible, and realistic. Her book is actionable for anyone looking to clear the fog on how to move from the “management” of performance to the “development” of performance.

Workhuman Book Club discussion questions

  1. Within your organization, what mindset changes are needed for employees and leadership to fully embrace the new paradigm of performance management?
  2. What approach would you take: a complete overhaul or something more iterative? What benefits and challenges do you foresee with each approach?
  3. Have you experienced employee resistance in response to performance management redesign? How did you manage it?
  4. How will you customize your redesign to support different departments or locations?
  5. What benefits has your organization started to see?

(Tamra Chandler will join Jason Lauritsen, who authored our other Workhuman Book Club July selection, for a Twitter chat on Friday, July 26, 2019, at 2 p.m. ET. Tag her @mtchandler with the hashtag #workhuman to ask a question about performance management.)

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About the Author

Lynne Levy

Lynne Levy is a Workhuman evangelist who lives and breathes helping organizations build cultures that bring out the best in the employees. Her mantra is “do what you love, love what you do.”

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