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Originally published 26 August 2009
This is the third installment in the series about creating a performance management initiative. Part 1 focuses on creating awareness and Part 2 emphasizes the need to find an executive sponsor. Part 3 defines the scope of the project.
Now that people understand what we want to do and we have a sponsor to defend and promote our initiative, we come to another crucial step. And one that is also often forgotten - to outline the scope of the initiative. The key is moderation! Remember that 1980 bumper sticker “Think Global, Act Local”? That is what you want to do here.
You know what your corporate strategy is, but do you need all of it at once in your performance management initiative? There is nothing wrong with taking small steps to complete a long journey. You know what the final destination is, and your sponsor will keep reminding everybody of that, but you will not get there all at once.
Define the playing field, write out where you want to go and then cut that down into smaller individual pieces, each with a very clear scope. This will help everyone stay focused during the implementation. Which is key, because this is where the danger lies. Everything is connected (ok, maybe not everything, but it sounds good), and most people within your organization will know, or claim to know, where the big problem lies. And they all will want to tackle that in their own way, creating lots of discussions that will lead to more meetings and more meetings … the best outcome of this scenario would be that you just lose a lot of time and you can carry on but, more often than not, a solution is not found in time (or budget) and the initiative is put on hold or cancelled altogether.
To avoid this, as I stated already, we define our own game by defining the playing field. We know the easy games (usually key performance indicators [KPIs] around accounting) and the harder ones (HR, sales targets), and we can make sure they get the appropriate time and place within our larger playing field. We want some easy ones to start off with to gain momentum, get everyone excited and, of course, to show that the return on this initiative is real and not just some pie in the sky idea.
After the first success, we can afford to tackle a more difficult set, maybe lose some time or step on some (political) toes. After this initial round, we can plan another iteration of easier scopes to balance those that are more time-consuming or politically charged. Of course, these can be done sequentially or in parallel. Just make sure that you don´t overextend yourself. It is better to play modestly and deliver faster than the other way around.
So what should you take home from this? Take a step back and look at your initiative as the network of interconnected pieces it really is. Draw lines around those pieces and define clearly what they do and do not contain, giving each of piece a rating on how difficult it will be to achieve. Then make up a plan that balances easier and harder iterations to keep the initiative going. Remember, a good performance management initiative is never really finished, so adopting this way of working from day one can help you to keep it going forever.
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