Posts Tagged management

Measuring employee performance in collaborative environments

Employee performance measurement was relatively simple in the world of command and control management.  No to be overly simplistic, but basically your manager told you what to do, and when review time came around you were measured on how well you did what you were told.  Think of it this way, in the old days tasks and “action items” were delegated and it was easy to set milestones and measure individual achievement.

The metrics used in this environment were generally well-defined quantifiers that were direct descendants of the production economy.  Employee performance was most often tied to revenue or profit, project status, process or other quantifiable metrics.  Unfortunately, these metrics tended to focus on the accomplishments of the past, not the future potential of the individual or the organisation.

In truly collaborative environments it’s a bit more tricky to measure performance for a variety of reasons.  First, entire processes are changing as the organisation adopts new ways of working.  And when things are in flux, as they often are when healthy collaboration is occurring, it can be difficult to recognise not only who has responsibility for tasks but for entire initiatives.  So how do you keep all that straight?

Here’s the nub: collaboration does not necessarily mean unstructured.  There is a need for process, not only around collaborative decision making but also in the tracking of objectives within the collaborative work flow and the overall effectiveness of the organisation.  Without clearly defined assumptions, responsibilities and goals, leading a collaborative effort can be a lot like coaching kids soccer.  You’ll have 10 people within 5 feet of the ball kicking wildly, but there won’t be a lot of progress made.  So set some ground rules and find a good coach.  But don’t let measurement of these processes form the basis for employee evaluation, as that would put you right back in the trap of measuring something other than desired results.

In summary, don’t resort to the same set of measurements that were appropriate for the manufacturing of widgets.  Take some risks.  Use your performance measurement system to foster and encourage creativity and risk taking, and don’t be afraid to adopt qualitative not quantitative measurements.  Consider that the collaborative quotient of your organisation is linked to the interactions of your people, processes and information systems and give thought to what optimal performance of these interrelated systems might look like; then set your measurements to encourage that state.

For example, the employee performance measurements of the future might contain qualitative measurements of things such as size and relevance of social network, participation in initiatives, innovation index and overall impact on organisational health.

How do you see employee performance measurement evolving?

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What’s your view of collaboration?

Practically every executive I meet with these days wants to talk about collaboration.  The interesting thing is, in most cases it quickly becomes clear that what they really want to discuss is optimising delegation.

While moving from “command and control” to “communicate and collaborate” is the stated goal of many leaders, you don’t see very many of these actually relinquishing command.  Most think they are collaborating when in fact all they are doing is spreading the responsibility more widely.  And in that case, to quote an old expression, “Unless you’re the lead dog the view never changes.”

One of the potential benefits of improved organisational communication is the power of democratising the business. Today’s use of collaboration as a buzzword is eerily reminiscent of the “empowering the worker” jargon of the 80s.  A lot of companies talked about it, but only a few led the transformation and capitalised on the benefits.  To those few the strategic advantage became huge.

So it’s interesting to talk to business leaders today and hear them talk about change, and it’s fascinating to discuss new technologies and innovative business process, but at the end of the day, more often than not, the real transformation of their organisations will only occur through a careful self-analysis by these executives, and an actual commitment to personal transformation.  Because unless they are truly willing to trust the team they’ve built, and distribute not only responsibility but authority, it’s all just academic.

What does collaboration look like to you?

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Remote Control

You don’t get much more remote than my ranch office; it’s 30 miles by highway to the nearest stoplight. And other members of my team are geographically dispersed as well. So it was with great interest that I read an article by Elizabeth Garone in The Wall Street Journal that deals with the challenges of managing remote employees.

Among her recommendations for success:

  • Hire people who are successful at working independently
  • Set expectations and define the conflict resolution process early and often
  • Train the team members in the technologies you use to communicate
  • Gather information on the team members in order to form a more complete picture of them
  • Communicate in clear, simple terms

Another concept that Elizabeth discusses is the need to form deep, personal relationships early on in the collaborative engagement. She recommends traveling to the employees’ locations regularly in order to establish and maintain these ties.

The most emotionally charged times in the life of a group project are when the team first forms, during sensitive conflict resolution and when the results are delivered. When a team is spread around the world, it’s hard to establish the necessary early trust or successfully manage conflict.

Often times technology can be used as a catalyst to the formation of trust early in the life of a project team. By bringing virtual teams together via online meeting tools, the emotional sense of connectedness can be increased, ultimately leading to greater success. And the depth of understanding that multimedia communications tools bring can also help make sure there are no misunderstandings during critical negotiations.

These tips apply to particular projects, but in a world where remote workers are becoming more commonplace there’s a need to make all employees feel connected as well.  Debbie Tegart talked about this issue of connectedness recently and says that, “Remote workers quit more times than not because of lack of connection NOT because they are unhappy with their job description/tasks.”  She recommends using technology to make resources more immediately obvious and to increase a remote worker’s sense of belonging.

Leaders who understand and use these tips can increase the success and satisfaction of their remote teams.

What tips do you have to help improve remote relationships?

Roger Farnsworth

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