Three Reasons Performance will Change

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Based upon changes in employee expectations, advancements in technology and the revolution in people’s relationships with technology, Forbes contributor Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith cites three reasons why performance management systems need to be revamped to better fit today’s organizational environment to achieve their intended outcome: performance improvement. As technology evolves and data becomes more streamlined through composite dashboards, graphic displays and easy to access reports, it is helping to redirect our attention to what actually matters in the performance evaluation and development process. Managers now have the tools to shift their focus from the process to outcomes that drive the performance development and organizational improvement. More:


Is there any organizational practice more broken than performance management? Not if you concur with Marc Effron & Miriam Ort who state “perhaps no talent management process is more important or more reviled than performance management.” In fact, it draws universal agreement on several fronts:

  • everyone hates it – employees and managers alike
  • nobody does it well – it’s a skill that seemingly fails to be acquired despite exhaustive training efforts, and
  • it fails the test of construct validity – it doesn’t do what it was designed to do, i.e. increase performance

Traditional performance management programs have become organization wallpaper. They exist in the background with little or no expectations for impact. Yet despite its poor popularity, the concept of performance (at an individual and organizational level) is critical to business success. It can’t just be ignored.

Why is it so broken?

In a large survey conducted by WorldatWork, 58% of organizations rated their performance management systems as “C Grade or below.” That gets a giggle. The performance management process itself gets subjected to its own methods of setting criteria and rating performance against them – and fails.

I believe there are three reasons almost all current performance management systems are broken:

1 People have changed

2 Technology has changed

3 People’s relationship with their technology has changed

Repairing the damage? In order to compete in today’s market, companies must move to adopt a much more agile performance management approach.


Employee expectations have changed. It’s not just Gen Y – employees everywhere and of every generation expect more. More involvement, more accountability, and more transparency. When it comes to managing their performance, employees have shifted from being passive recipients to active agents. Not satisfied with a one-way download of performance feedback, employees want to participate in the performance data collection process. And they liken the ‘annual event’ of a performance review to arriving at the pearly gates on Judgment Day.

Managers have changed too. Command and control is no longer cutting it – managers are expected to guide and coach, provide balanced constructive feedback and inspire, rather than enforce, performance.

Add to that what science is now telling us about what really drives human motivation. Like, goal pursuit motivates performance much more than goal achievement, peak performance is best achieved in states of flow, and multi-tasking only dilutes performance on all tasks undertaken concurrently.

Key Changes for High Performance?

Paradigm shift. What used to work no longer does. Managers need to:

1) be realcommunicate openly and often.

2) set stretch goals and inspire individuals to work to their potential.

3) get out of the way – trust their teams and empower employees with accountability.

Technology HAS CHANGED

We’re reaching a tipping point for technology in the talent management arena. It began with simple automation: take the paper processes and put them on a computer. Fine, but that left us with so many spreadsheets, Word templates, proprietary systems and disconnected point solutions that we were drowning in complexity and data overload. It also highlighted that many of the processes we were automating actually needed to be revised, simplified or eliminated altogether.

Baffled by the complexity we created, focus in recent years has been on process simplification, user-friendliness and redirecting attention to what actually matters. A good step forward, but we still suffer from too much data, too little meaningful information.

The “big data & analytics movement” has now really raised the bar – not just in terms of what data can be gathered, aggregated and analyzed but also how it is filtered and presented to audiences to provide immediate management insights. Activity lists are being replaced by composite dashboards, lengthy reports by simple performance heat maps – yes, pictures, literally replacing thousands of words.

Key Change for High Performance?

A shift in focus from process to outcomes. Burn the forms. With technology finally up to the task of producing meaningful information, managers can turn their attention to driving performance outcomes rather than being bogged down in laborious processes.

The relationship between people and their technology

On demand.


Better, faster, cheaper.

It’s really not so long ago that your only likely encounter with a computer was when you went to work, laptops were expensive and rare, and mobile devices were pagers and Walkmans. Today, can you even imagine getting past 10:00 a.m. without having accessed a myriad of your online applications? We work online, shop online, socialize online, we are connected 24/7 – online.

Enterprise technologies are not far behind. Perhaps you are still in a workplace that restricts or bans social media, but they are in decline. Perhaps your organization refuses cloud-based applications for privacy or security reasons, but they are in decline. The fact is: organizations that try to block out the world simply ostracize themselves. And they are in decline.

Key Change for High Performance?

An agile, social and mobile work environment. You will set dynamic goals and adjust them in response to change; your manager will provide just-in-time coaching wherever you are; skills and knowledge you need will be recommended and streamed to you; your performance journal will continuously capture and cluster feedback, ideas and suggestions from your peers and customers; your formal annual performance review will be permanently deleted from your calendar…and you will finally be in a position to manage your own career.

Is the School Principalship a Doable Job? It Depends

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By Learning Forward on July 2, 2015 9:38 AM

A few years ago, Learning Forward deputy executive director Frederick Brown attended a State Consortium on Educator Effectiveness meeting in Baltimore, co-hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Learning Forward. At the meeting, principals from across the country were asked, “Is your job doable?” Their answers were both passionate and poignant.

A few years ago, I attended a State Consortium on Educator Effectiveness meeting in Baltimore co-hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Learning Forward. At the meeting, principals from across the country were asked, “Is your job doable?” Their answers were both passionate and poignant.

Although no principal said his or her job was impossible, many described circumstances that left the audience wondering how long they would be able to sustain their pace. They described being required to complete formal evaluations of dozens of teachers each year. They highlighted their districts’ responses to their state student assessments and their roles in supporting the testing processes. They described workweeks that typically lasted 80-plus hours and weekends that were all but nonexistent. It was a sobering moment that left many in the audience wondering if we are asking our principals to do too much.

The Wallace Foundation Principal Pipeline Initiative works with six urban districts to create large corps of instructional leaders — principals whose main task is to improve teaching and learning. The districts are Hillsborough County, Florida; New York City, New York; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina; Prince George’s County, Maryland; and Denver, Colorado. The chosen districts survived a vetting process by Wallace before receiving funding. They are among the top districts in the country focusing their attention and resources on the principalship.

During a recent meeting of the Principal Pipeline Initiative professional learning community in New York, superintendents from these districts addressed the same question. Several were quick to acknowledge that the job of school principal is incredibly demanding and not for everyone. However, each superintendent who spoke emphasized that, while principals need the appropriate supports to do their jobs effectively, the job is doable.

As I reflect on these experiences, I’m drawn back to the word “supports.” What is it that districts — and perhaps provinces and states — can do to help support school leaders? Built into Wallace’s Principal Pipeline Initiative are the foundation’s beliefs about some of those supports, including:

  • Very clear leadership standards that outline what leaders are expected to know and be able to do;
  • Strong leadership preparation that ensures leaders can move into a principal position with the skills needed to do the job;
  • An induction process that provides job-embedded learning during the first few years on the job; and
  • Ongoing mentoring and support to help principals navigate the changing educational landscape.

The six Principal Pipeline Initiative districts had to prove these supports were either partially or completely in place before receiving the grant. After hearing from some of the overwhelmed principals from the State Consortium on Educator Effectiveness meeting, my guess is their districts may have lacked some of those basic supports. So what other supports do principals need? Here are a few I would offer:

  • As part of their training, induction, and ongoing professional learning, principals need help understanding how to more effectively distribute leadership, particularly the management aspects of their work.
  • Principals need central offices and regional service centers that are viewed by principals not as “mandate generators” but as “centers of support” and “providers of resources.”
  • Principals need opportunities to network with their colleagues in learning communities where they can take ownership of their own learning.

Is the principals’ job doable? In many places, the answer is NO. However, we know what it takes to change that. It’s my hope that those principals who find themselves in “undoable” positions will find a way to advocate for a new reality