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1967 called. They want their Performance Management System back.

GEAR. The Performance Management Pilot you’ve never heard of.

In November 2011, the Employee Performance Management Workgroup put forth a set of recommendations to help catapult our federal government into the arena of 21st century performance strategy. The five key goals they’d like agencies to address are as follows:

  1. Articulate a High-Performance Culture
  2. Align Employee Performance Management with Organizational Performance Management
  3. Implement Accountability at All Level
  4. Create a Culture of Engagement
  5. Improve the Assessment, Selection, Development and Training of Supervisors
Goal #5, in particular, has received much discussion in HR circles over the past several years. We all know the horror story of the supervisor whose idea of management is “writing up” a teammate for arriving five minutes late or checking personal email during the workday (neither of which, by the way, carry a significant correlation to overall government performance).
Much lip service has been paid to the idea of developing management competencies and leadership behaviors across all levels of government.
It’s 2012. Are we ready to re-define performance management?
Which of these goals is your agency well-positioned to achieve? Which are an up-hill battle?

To read the full report, click here.

Andy Lowenthal is a public sector strategy consultant. Follow him on Twitter.

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Terrence (Terry) Hill

I want them to prove me wrong, but I don’t see anything new or innovative in GEAR. Same old cascading of goals, periodic feedback, etc. If any system is in need of a makeover, it’s the performance management system. I’ve heard this story before and I know that I won’t like the ending.

David Paschane

Andy – you hit is spot on. The paradigm that “performance management” is spoken of in these circles is almost funny, if not scary. It is as if we think that human development, information technology, and analytic accountability has not changes in 20 years. Come on folks! Let’s line up our plans with what we see in the real world everyday – notice the way we manage commerce, education, and entertainment – knowledge, discretion, and actions are distributed and recursive – not program documents.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Every time I hear about performance management, my first question is: “where are the bright spots in government?” Surely some agencies – or units within agencies – are getting it right. Let’s draw out the lessons, write up the road map and find managers / teams willing to attempt replication.

Candace Riddle

Wondering when some one will finally realize that overall performance management needs to begin to look at the overall 1) culture of the organization, and ; 2) culture of the individuals within the organization. There is plenty of research out there (especially private sector) that shows overall performance can be improved when management begins to account for various cultural differences amongst individuals (therefore offering cross-cultural training), and when the desired values, norms (i.e. mission) of the organization is communicated clearly to the individuals that make up the organization.

We talk about aligning performance management with the mission all of the time; but do we ever take into account that we have to communicate the key values and guiding principles to the individuals that actually do the work? Furthermore, do we ever consider that these values and guiding principles may conflict with the individual’s personal culture…or worse the individual’s cultural differences amongst themselves may cause conflict within one section of the organization and therefore hinder performance in that way?

I think change management and cross-cultural management is an overarching theme in performance management that has remained silent for far too long. It truly is systems thinking, and a leader has to have the ability to lead change, and assimilate culture from the individual level to the organization as a whole and vis a versa.

Andy Lowenthal

Thanks for your comments, all.

Robert – I think you make a good point that you can’t mandate a new way of thinking about performance. The obvious challenge here is that it takes communication — between exec and manager, manager and employee, and exec and employee. This is difficult because 1) the changes (e.g. articulate a high performance culture) need to be explained with authenticity and nuance; and 2) all of this talking, questioning, explaining takes time.

And when’s the last time you met a government executive with lots of time on their hands?

Joshua joseph

Nice post my friend. Every time I hear performance management I think, “couldn’t they have used two shorter, more meaningful words?” It’s probably a bad sign if even the concept isn’t intutive to people!

Here’s a short piece that I think is one of the clearest I’ve seen on how to get back to basics in performance management http://bit.ly/zN1iPa by focusing more on the manager employee relationships and less on details of the various accountability systems. Everybody says they know what to do, the challenge, I think, is figuring out how to minimize the resistance and remove the barriers to actually doing it.