ROCKBlue recently had the privilege of interviewing ROCKBlue Specialist Anton Olivier who is the CEO of Stratex Consulting. Dr. Olivier works mostly in public sector institutional development within various engineering sectors, including water and sanitation, roads and transport and electricity. ROCKBlue got his expert view on organisational, unit and individual performance management.
The following questions were discussed:
- What are the vital components needed by an organisation to improve corporate, unit and individual performance?
- Individual performance management is critical to unit and corporate performance. How does one ensure good individual performance, even in cases where staff are not well paid or are paid late and perhaps lack the resources that they need to do their jobs?
- What tips can you offer to better understand and promote individual and team performance?
- Can corporate or unit performance be evaluated based on certain criteria or metrics? And if so, what metrics do you recommend?
- Are there software tools that would help a manager with corporate or unit performance management?
When you mention corporate improvement, one immediately thinks in terms of strategy. Compared to operational management mostly maintaining the status quo, strategic management involves improvement and change. Value is not created in just having a strategic plan, but in successful strategy execution. In my research I found the following 9 vital components for successful strategy execution:
- Leadership. Good leadership remains most important for improved performance. This firstly comes from the top, the CEO, but also from the leadership team such as the Exco and heads of departments. A lot has been written on what is meant by “good leadership”.
- Strategic plan. The strategic plan should e.g. be focused, balanced and integrated, but importantly, it must also be cascaded to unit level (and possibly individual level) to clearly assign accountabilities for objectives and responsibilities for initiatives.
- Project management. As strategy is mostly executed through initiatives (mostly programmes and projects) competent project managers are required to manage these projects.
- Alignment. Often a strategic plan or project plan is good, but fails to align with the organization’s policies & procedures, technology, finances, culture or human resources.
- Performance management. A performance management cycle should be institutionalised and include the MERIL activities of Measure, Evaluate, Report, Improve & Learn. This will enable the organisation to understand performance at unit and corporate levels and regularly make improvements as required. Strategy remains a hypothesis to be tested on a regular basis.
- Drive: Individuals and teams need sustained energy, drive or motivation to continue with the strategy execution journey.
- Engagement: Only through continued engagement of your people (incl. good dialogue) can all the organisational “gears” keep running smoothly and enable the organisational “vehicle” to move forward.
- Risk management: The management of risk has to be integrated with strategy, projects and the other components.
- Stakeholder management: The management of stakeholders also has to be integrated with all other components, particularly in the public sector with its multitude of stakeholders.
Firstly, everything possible needs to be done in order to correct the payment issues. Frederick Herzberg, a behavioural scientist, proposed the motivator-hygiene theory and put forward that certain ‘hygiene factors’ are needed to remove dissatisfaction, e.g. pay and working conditions. Motivational factors, on the other hand, are inherent to work. These factors motivate the employees for a superior performance and are called satisfiers. A useful model is the PAAMAA model I developed (based on Frederick Herzberg, Daniel Pink and other authors) to promote high and sustainable drive/motivation of individuals and teams (Olivier, 2017):
P = Purpose: An individual must understand the importance and significance of their job and how they fit into their organisation. Work itself should be meaningful, interesting and challenging for the employee to perform and to get motivated.
A = Action plan: Staff must understand the plan to achieve their objectives and work every day towards it. Motivation comes from knowing the action plan and the tasks required each day in order to achieve that plan.
A = Autonomy: An organisation must provide appropriate autonomy to staff in order for individuals to feel that they have personal freedom to take initiative and to be creative. However, autonomy obviously has to be balanced with authority and accountability. Employees must hold themselves responsible for the work. Managers should give employees ownership of their work, minimize control, but retain accountability within their levels of authority.
M = Mastery: It is important to make sure that each individual is learning and growing every day. Through individual discussion, managers can determine whether a person is growing and what exactly they want to learn. There must be growth and advancement opportunities in an organisation to motivate the employees to perform well.
A = Acceptance: Sometimes individuals feel that they are not really part of the organization and recognition and acceptance go a long way to improve performance. Employees should e.g. be praised and recognized for their accomplishments by the managers.
A = Achievement: Small wins, whether financial or not, should be recognised. Employees must have a sense of achievement. This depends on the job. There must be a fruit of some sort in the job.
This model can be used to assess and build individual and team motivation. Leaders and supervisors should note that these aspects do not necessarily cost money and are sure to improve individual and team performance.
What tips can you offer to better understand and promote individual and team performance?
The key is to develop a scorecard and cascading the corporate strategy down to unit level, team level and to the individual level where appropriate. There should be consequences for both good and bad performance.
Consider my “I love THABO” Model (Olivier, 2017). It starts with “I love” in the centre and moves outwards towards individual and team performance. Identity and heart (including beliefs and values) is the core and determines Thinking. Thinking determines Attitude, which leads to Behaviour. The right behaviour is required in order to achieve the required Objectives (organisational, team and individual objectives). The challenge is to align the individual’s objectives with the organizational objectives. You want to align culture (incl. thinking, attitude and behaviour) in order to achieve great results together. To change behaviour, therefore often requires you to go deeper under the surface of attitudes, thinking and identity/heart.
Regular and institutionalised performance management is necessary. The MERIL-DE Model (Olivier, 2017) can be used to improve corporate, unit or individual performance. (MERIL: Measure, Evaluate, Report, Improve and Learn).
We agree that we have to measure to be able to manage, but to determine the right measures or performance indicators to make our objectives SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Aligned/Agreed-upon, Realistic and Time-bound) can be quite challenging. Normally a limited number of performance indicators (PIs) have to be selected, say one or two per objective. Each PI should have a baseline and annual targets (say for the following 5 years). However, baseline statistics are often unavailable and targets can be set unrealistically high or low. Initiatives (programmes, projects and activities) are selected to achieve these targets set for all PIs.
Objectives (in terms of their PIs and targets) should be regularly measured (at least quarterly) together with their related initiatives (in project management terms). The strategy / balanced scorecard is normally divided into two main components – on the left what to achieve (SMART Objective) and on the right what to do to achieve the objective (Initiative details). The two sides must correlate and should be regularly measured and evaluated to ensure the projects are optimally contributing to the achievement of all objectives in the strategic plan. This is part of the regular MERIL cycle, namely Measure, Evaluate, Report, Improve & Learn.
Performance assessments should not only include the hard measures of the output or outcome (whether a target has been met or not), but also the soft measures of how the work was done (the process and living the core values, e.g. integrity and teamwork). There should be agreement with teams / individuals on the proposed measures or PIs and a signed performance agreement.
Performance management should be included in monthly or quarterly agendas and this should be driven by leadership at all levels. It is best to keep in mind that annual reviews are too far apart as the individual could have diverted too far off course and it’s very difficult to get them back on track.
Are there software tools that would help a manager with corporate or unit performance management?
There are a number of tools on the market, but in my view, it is best to start low tech. Often templates in Microsoft Word or Excel are initially used before automation. It is recommended that one starts establishing and implementing a simple, but effective performance management process before bringing in supporting technology that can be costly. Examples of user-friendly, simple, low-cost software to help track objectives with their PIs and related initiatives, while holding people accountable, are “Clearpoint” and “QuickScore”. An example of a more advanced and expensive software is “Corporater”.
Finally, it is important to note that the public sector, including utilities, is quite unique and people often use the same methodologies as in the private sector and they do not always work.
Reference: Olivier, AJ, 2017, Closing the Strategy Execution Gap in the Public Sector, Lambert Academic Publishers