Enterprise performance management: all we have to fear is…fear of ourselves
I’ve either been managing or helping others to manage their Enterprise Performance Management systems for well over a decade now, and whilst I’ve seen a lot of successful projects, I’ve seen an equal amount that gets mired in enterprise “hang ups.” The root of these issues stem from one key aspect of Enterprise Performance Management; that being that very often, the main obstacle to success is cultural in nature and not technological.
Effective performance management involves a fine balance between ownership and accountability for all stakeholders within (and around) an organization. In my experience, the opportunity of performance management is the true devolution of the ownership of success to where it should naturally reside in the organization. This also by definition clarifies lines of accountability in areas where improvement is required.
All too often however, ownership is not truly devolved and we become too biased towards “top down accountability.” For example, in cases when only poor performance is actively exposed through a commonly adopted “exception reporting” process. Superficially, it at first appears an efficient–hence reasonable–approach. After all, why focus senior managers’ limited time and energy on areas that don’t require scrutiny because they are already working as needed? It can even emerge as a de-facto process in processes where good performance is also exposed.
For instance, hands up anyone who’s heard this one before: “We’re low on time; talk to us only about how you’re going to fix what’s broken in your area.” Consider the behaviour I’ve seen this top-,down approach drive in those with responsibility for components of a performance framework; aversion, objection, deflection and distraction. None of these actually help remedy poor performance and when aggregated across the enterprise, can lead to a potentially toxic state of enterprise self-denial. A business that is collectively afraid of itself.
Thankfully, there is another way…
When ownership is truly devolved, it enables a more holistic discussion that puts any poor performance in its correct context. When it works at its best, I’ve seen dialogue transcend hierarchy and seniority, and focus on the real value achieved along with a genuine “peer based” exploration of how to drive improvement. The outcome of this is that people are credited when successful and they also feel supported when planning for improvement.
A transparent, well-understood performance framework that enjoys wide buy-in at all levels of the enterprise is the best basis for achieving that state of continuous improvement we’re all striving for. Additionally, technology can hugely improve the chances of success with socially oriented, collaborative performance management software solutions that are supremely easy to use.
In short, when individuals can see that all around them are engaging in effective (sometimes passionate) discourse on driving success, they are far more likely to start engaging themselves. Thus collectively, we migrate away from self-denial towards “enterprise enlightenment.”