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Evaluating performance at executive level is more than just a tick box exercise

Evaluating Executive Performance is More Than Just a Tick Box Exercise

This short paper addresses the common problems organisations face when their leaders have to deal with change, continuous improvement and performance management. It adds to the debate on how performance management needs to evolve if organisations are to effectively address productivity and performance concerns which directly affect performance and the bottom line.

Recent received wisdom is that the appraisal process is dead.  Instead, performance management is considered to be a more effective way of understanding capability and performance.

The CIPD defines performance management as, “Performance management is the activity and set of processes that aim to maintain and improve employee performance in line with an organisation’s objectives. It’s strategic as well as operational, as its aim is to ensure that employees contribute positively to business objectives. Ideally, performance should be managed holistically, throughout the range of HR activities and processes.

We argue that this definition does not go far enough given the leadership and change readiness issues many organisations face today. Also, the concepts of “a range of HR practices” are accepted necessities for high performance working.

The OPG has worked with clients extensively to understand capability issues from strategic, team and individual perspectives.  Too often it seems short term thinking and a reluctance to invest in capability development is crippling organisational performance in key areas such as operational excellence, cost reduction and innovation.

First, we look at how leadership can make a real difference to the bottom line or can be a barrier to financial performance if their skills and competencies are not aligned with corporate and operational strategies.

Leadership is top down
Leadership is top down.  Poor leadership behaviours, bad leadership practices and a culture of blame and inaction around performance issues are corrosive and costly for organisations.  For example, The OPG assessed leaders in a major food manufacturing business because of waste problems at plant level.  The assessment was commissioned to understand why change programmes around continuous improvement and lean had been ineffective. On another occasion a major FTSE engineering business hired The OPG to understand why an operational excellence programme was not as effective as it should be.

In both cases we discovered that the route of the issues lay in 4 key areas:

  1. Poor staff motivation due to a lack of employee engagement and also in some cases poor cognitive ability, learning agility and underdeveloped business as well as poor technical skills
  2. A lack of change readiness amongst key individuals.  This included not only senior leaders but also some middle managers
  3.  A culture based on a lack of trust, of cross functional collaboration, of empowerment and of accountability
  4.  An age old over reliance on ‘craft skills’ for leadership positions.  The doctrine that time served or highly regarded technical skills mean that an individual is necessarily ideal for leadership roles is patently nonsense.

Our easy to follow 5 step process is proven to address leadership and change issues through a structured process designed to identify and address capability and performance concerns at individual, team and enterprise levels.

Culture is inexorably linked to leadership
Edgar Schein, the eminent expert on performance, is right to link culture with leadership.  Too many organisations ignore the fundamental questions around leadership and middle management capability and are being left behind in today’s global economy.

Our approach to working with clients addresses these concerns using these 5 simple steps:

  1. Step away from the appraisal mindset and start again when it comes to capability assessment and performance management
  2. Spend time understanding the drivers of performance and identify the current ‘state’ and the ‘desired’ state.   For example, The OPG will assess leaders against either a client’s competencies and/ or other criteria using psychometrics and/or 360-degree feedback in addition to depth interview with feedback to understand capability, change readiness and motivation.  Once the current ‘state’ is identified step 3 can be implemented
  3. Use the data to design a gap analysis which identifies the strengths and the capability gaps as well as the steps needed to achieve the desired state
  4. This gap analysis and the data from individual assessment can then be used to prepare the overall learning & development plan either at enterprise, site, department or team level, or a combination of these. Moreover, the data can also identify organisational issues around continuous improvement capability, change readiness and culture. Individual personal development plans can then be prepared and used in step 5 below
  5. Individual Personal Development Plans need to be fed back to participants, and their opinions and ‘buy in’ sought. Self-awareness is often described as the most powerful driver of self-development.  Moreover, The OPG often provides performance or executive coaching to compliment this feedback.

High impact people practices do achieve a rapid return on investment
Many organisations invest heavily in people.  They see the difference great leaders can make to a business but sadly, many firms are frightened or unenlightened when it comes to people capability development.  They always suffer and in an ever-competitive world with acute skills shortages, will ultimately fail.

The OPG has been a trusted advisor to organisations on all matters relating to talent, performance and capability since 1991. The practice includes a multidiscipline team of business psychologists, performance experts and HR Strategists. See our recent case studies by clicking here.

To discuss how The OPG can help your organisation make change happen and to identify the levers and barriers to change why not call the Practice Director, Matthew Davis on 02380 236944 or email him at medavis@ramseyhall.com

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