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Do be aware how you frame a performance management discussion.

I often encounter clients whose experience of performance management discussions is that they are a game of scoring the maximum amount and justifying a high score or protecting against the potential consequences of a low score.

The conversation is dominated by the consequences.

In contrast, when working with a recent client implementing fourth generation balanced scorecards, at this stage, we encouraged the teams to score their performance and discuss why they had scored them as they did. Not so much justify – as explain. In doing so they learnt about what each other were thinking and also how they were doing relative to others, given the contexts they were each in. As a result some moved scores up – others down and others were pleased to find their judgement confirmed by others.

It was about quality of conversation and learning. The teams were doing this in “learning sets” rather than “performance reviews” which created a different frame around the discussion. Of course they later used it to explain their performance to themselves, the people they supported, their staff and the management and the board. However by then they were confident that they knew how they were performing relative to peers and why, so these explanations were much more that-an explanation – rather than a justification which is what many can become.

So as much as anything it is how you “Frame” the discussions that influences what goes on within them.

So do think about how you frame performance management discussions. What hidden agenda or even explicit consequence is sitting behind the meeting?

Even if you do not have it, others may perceive you have it from past experience. So be aware of these and explicitly mark out ways in which you are breaking this thinking and encouraging conversation and learning, rather than evaluation and game playing.

Phil Jones
Excitant Ltd
Where balanced scorecards work properly and make a difference