I recently read an article in which the author began with saying he was “dubious about the accuracy of his bathroom scale”. He discussed the many creative ways he manipulated the reading, from adjusting that little ‘magic knob’ on the bottom of the scale, to leaning a particular way to increase the likelihood of a more favorable reading. The author was using this metaphor to drive home the importance of self honesty and commitment to a vision, rather than constantly changing the game fit our needs and wants of the moment.
While this was written in a philosophical (life principles) context, I couldn’t help thinking about it in the realm of managing performance in the workplace. How many times do our management reports behave like that “bathroom scale”? How often do we send out data and numbers, fully aware that human nature will be to play with that ‘little knob’ on the scale, or tilt their ‘management bodies’ to get the readings they want?
As difficult as it may be, it’s up to us as good performance managers to lay out and reinforce a consistent and honest performance vision for the organization. We need to lay out the data in a thoughtful and meaningful way, not simply report numbers and factoids. We need work with our management to understand the data in a holistic manner, embrace the conclusions honestly, and set a firm vision for short and long run organizational improvement. Then, it’s our job to report that data in a meaningful and insightful way that encourages an honest and consistent interpretation of that data vis a vis the organization’s vision.
And therein lies the rub. Many performance management organizations today are still in the mode of reporting data, rather than information. And its not all their fault. The practice of interpreting data to fit our (management’s) individual agendas has been around since the beginning of time. Like I said earlier, it’s human nature.
Your mission as performance managers should be to change that culture. Starting with the top brass, and working through the organization. Most of you are in a unique position of managing the information flow, and as a result, have quite a bit of influence over how data is presented, interpreted, and acted on.
The answer is not to replace that old scale, but to get management to embrace a more honest and consistent interpretation of what the data is telling them. Good performance managers will use their power productively and responsibly to create that “unwavering commitment of performance excellence”.
Author: Bob Champagne is Managing Partner of onVector Consulting Group, a privately held international management consulting organization specializing in the design and deployment of Performance Management tools, systems, and solutions. Bob has over 25 years of Performance Management experience and has consulted with hundreds of companies across numerous industries and geographies. Bob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org