Overcoming the Elitism of Performance Management

We’ve all seen it before. Companies who are just a little “too good” for the rest of us. Every industry has them. The best of the best. The elite of the elite. Companies who are so darn good (or at least they think they are) that they believe they have little if anything to learn from other organizations in the peer class.

For the past 20 years, I been involved in all aspects of performance management, from simple performance measurement and reporting, to the formation of benchmarking and other peer to peer learning consortiums. I can tell you, from experience, that in all the work we’ve done, we have yet to see a company excel in EVERY aspect of performance. In fact, on average, these self proclaimed “elite organizations” tend to fair no better than the overall average on actual performance efficiency and effectiveness. And after all these years, that average still hovers between 25 and 35%. That is, companies tend to “lead the pack” in, at most, 35% of the functions they perform. That leaves at least 65% of the business where they LAG the average- well shy of what most of us would define as an “elite class”. And for that reason, these companies remain (to coin a phrase from Clint- the famous actor turned politician) “legend in their own mind”.

While it may appear to be, it is not my purpose to publicly ‘dis’ these organizations. If it were, we’d be naming names and sharing some of the real comedy that these companies produce for the rest of us in the performance management arena. Trust me, these companies know who they are, and so do you. My purpose here is to lay out the facts. And in the performance management realm, those facts say that there is no such thing as an “elite class”. Most every organization has more to learn than they have to contribute to the best practice treasure chest. And embracing that little fact can be the difference in whether you end up with a culture of learning, or a culture of ungrounded elitism.

So as you traverse the course of your performance management program, beware of the tendency to proclaim yourself a member of that elite class. Doing so will most certainly slow the degree of learning you are trying to foster in your business.

To the contrary, maintaining a healthy level of what I call “organizational humility” is a far more powerful ingredient to long term performance success. Without it, some of the most toxic ingredients such as the “NIH” (not invented here), and WSD (we’re so different) syndromes are allowed to thrive. And when this happens, any semblance of a learning culture that exists is most certainly put in jeopardy.

So in the words of Roy McAvoy (the Kevin Costner character in the movie Tin Cup) as he took the tee in the final round of the US Open- BE HUMBLE! Your peers may be less impressed (assuming they ever really were), but you’ll be the silent winner in building a long run culture of learning and innovation.


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 bob.champagne@onvectorconsulting.com

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