Agency culture and employee/customer satisfaction is correlated with the organization’s recruitment practices, training efforts, and evaluation resources. As a result, the organization’s performance management framework also determines its opportunities for innovation. When the goals, resources, and tools are unaligned low employee morale, performance, and customer satisfaction can result. It is crucial that organizations have a plan set in place for recruiting employees with the right knowledge, skills, and abilities to match the job description and the customer’s needs.
This may be considered a luxury in some industries where wages and resources limit recruitment efforts to candidates with no experience or entry level skill sets. The challenge in these cases is that once the unqualified candidate ‘gets past the screening process’ and is hired their ‘input’ and ‘performance’ will influence the rest of the system. Subsequent recruitment efforts, some emphasizing internal recruitment in order to avoid repeating past mistakes, perpetuate these challenges as the same candidates are promoted to higher internal levels.
Change management principles will face almost insurmountable challenges as stakeholders of the status-quo have more influence. I’ve heard stories of managers and directors sabotaging their direct reports from being able to implement training and suggestions offered by external consultants meeting with the organization’s leadership team (including the executive members). The ideal solution for culture change, and performance management, is to start from the beginning.
What is needed is a recruitment, retention, and development framework that insures performance requirements are matched from the beginning. Without this framework the likelihood of a suboptimal organizational & performance culture is likely to be reinforced. Organizations will subsequently experience homeostatic mechanisms that inadvertently maintain this suboptimal status quo and resist iterative improvements, accountability, and systemic alignment. Customers begin to demand less as they expect less in return. It thus becomes the organization’s responsibility to understand the customer’s yet to be identified product/service needs as it attempts to re-establish its relevancy in the industry.
The following image depicts a performance management framework beginning with its foundations: the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Upon this foundation is the deliberate co-creation of the organization’s culture and artifacts that seeks to establish standards, expectations, and reinforce performance.
The next level includes the organizational chart which identifies the roles, responsibilities, and relationships for implementing the policies, tools, teams, and evaluation processes that follow. Each of these levels must be developed with the inter-dependencies in mind. This means that the job description is written with consideration of the relevant organizational policies & procedures, structure, and values, etc. Without this alignment the organization’s ability to meet customer expectations, support qualified staff, and reach contract specifications will be strained.
- Internal recruitment is limited to the ‘best candidate,’ but not necessarily the ‘ideal candidate’
- Contract specifications are not reached
- Service hours fall behind
- Error rates increase
- Customer expectations are eroded, along with product & service relevance
- Transparency, accountability, and opportunity for course correction (system alignment) is decreased
- Open communication (and having difficult conversations) occurs less often (and in fact may be resisted)
- Performance evaluation & measurement is either superficial or emphasizes the status-quo
As the organization’s performance pursues a ‘regression to the mean’ outer systems and inter-dependencies are affected. I hear stories (and witnessed a few as well) of government having a complete lack of familiarity in the organization’s business model, how it operates, how it reports performance (and information not included in these reports), what systems/norms are interfering with a course correction, or how the government (and the organization) are implicitly agreeing to miss performance specifications, misallocate funds, and maintain the status quo. Unfortunately, this pattern is likely not as rare as we wish to think.
I also hear stories of organizations caught in public scandals, with subsequent and significant government intervention, only to retain members/processes/artifacts of the previous system that contributed to the scandal in the first place. Homeostatic mechanisms that maintain the previous system still exist. Even more shocking is that one of these organizations resists government and regional directives for ‘local co-collaboration’ in order to improve services, products, and programs. And this is done with the organization’s implicit belief of retaining moral and professional authority in the region.
I also hear stories of organizational cultures where government reports, customer documents, and service plans are missing key details (and data) sufficient to maintain transparency, facilitate course correction, or insure funding is used as intended. These problems also result when homeostatic reinforcing mechanisms (of the status quo) are introduced in ‘isolated pockets’ of the organization; but without executive oversight, inquiry, or consultation. In many cases these ‘events’ are ‘swept under the rug’ without further review or corrective action. In other cases someone loses there job but only after significant derailment has been allowed to occur.
These failings should not occur as frequently as reported and yet if one takes a few minutes to do a search on google they will find numerous more examples not covered here. These examples are not intended to be exhaustive but instead illustrative of what can happen when the appropriate framework and components is missing.
The following image displays some of the questions each organization can ask itself in order to better evaluate its performance management framework:
A system’s approach to performance management isn’t easy but it’s well worth the effort. Without a systems approach to developing a performance management framework the organization is likely to be left with unaligned components, metrics (if they exist), and outcomes.
How does your organization evaluated performance? How would you describe your organization’s current performance management framework? Leave your comments below.
Travis Barker, MPA GCPM
No names were used in this article (when known) to maintain confidentiality. The case details used are for example only.
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