3 Myths for Managing Employee Performance – Myth #2

July 29, 2015

This is part two of a three-part blog series on performance development.

MYTH – A cascading process with cascading goals will ensure that what everyone is working on will support our business objectives.

The idea of cascading goals is built on the top-down model of business management. This model suggests that if everyone’s goals align with the goals of the person they report to, and top organizational leadership have goals focused on promoting the interests of the organization, then each level in the organization is adding strength to the level above it.

Although the visual image of cascading goals evokes is quite powerful, the reality can be quite chaotic in practice.

  1. Relies on a Domino Effect: Everyday work continues whether goals are updated or not. Each year as managers are asked to begin the performance review process, they look with anticipation for the goals of their managers to use as the foundation for their own goal writing. When senior management’s goals are delayed, or if any link in the goal writing cascade chain is delayed, the entire process slows down and can grind to a halt.
    Solution: Instead of cascading goals, ask people to think of their work and their goals in terms of alignment or support. Ask them to look at the business goals and strategies that the organization is pursuing and to identify how their work or the outcomes/goals of their work contributes. If an employee cannot see how their work is supporting the organization’s goals, either the work needs to be redefined or the worker needs a better line to sight to stay engaged and motivated.
  2. Disparity between Goals and “Real Work”: Too often employees get confused about where they should spend their time, working on goals or on day-to-day assignments. Goals are somehow considered as “different work” and as such as often seen as being in competition for the time required to do the real work the employee is supposed to be doing.
    Solution: Make sure that all employees, both managers and staff, understand that their work is comprised of two types of assignments: day-to-day assignments and special projects. Both types of work are important and should be viewed as complementary, not competitive. Make sure that your performance management process includes goals for day-to-day work as well as for one-time projects. Also ensure your process focuses on measuring the amount or quality of the outcomes and not the tasks required to achieve them.
  3. Management Style Based on How not Why: “What is more important: the outcomes, goals I achieve or the work I do to achieve them?” Although your organization may say it focuses on goals and outcomes, your manager’s feedback and leadership style may focus more on tasks and activities. Managers may talk more about how something should be done before they explain why it should be done. It is far too easy for a manager to believe that their way is not just the best way to do something, but the only correct way.
    Solution: Make sure that all managers know the difference between outcomes and tasks. There are clear distinctions between work that MUST be done a specific way because of safety, government or other regulations, and work that has always been done a specific way because of habit or history. Although we hear the catchphrase, “continuous improvement” in most organizations these days, we still see reluctance and fear from both managers and employees to explore something new.

Using your performance management system to help your organization succeed will only happen when both managers and employees are confident that the feedback they get from their manager will help them achieve their goals, and that their goals are in alignment with the organization’s goals and strategies.

Contributed by Marcey Uday-Riley, MSW, CPT, IRI Consultants.

View the on-demand webinar “Performance Reviews: How to Evaluate without Bias” with Marcey Uday-Riley.