Jun 11 2009

Performance Management & Leniency

Published by at 1:19 pm
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Keep in mind that I admit I’m wet behind the ears. On the other hand I do feel I’ve been around the block and am at least well studied on management techniques, HR methodologies, and leadership techniques. I would say I have the most personal experience in leadership and it comes very naturally to me and I while I understand management and HR techniques, it’s not so natural so I tend to stumble. One thing I AM capable of doing most of the time is recognizing the different mechanisms in the system and processes in the organization and realize how they are designed and why they are designed that way.

It’s mid-year review time so I’ve been noodling about a specific technique in performance management that I’ve gone quite a bit into detail on in multiple classes during my time achieving my bachelor’s degree. There are many strategic reasons for a two pronged performance management system such as the one at IHS, one part which has a positive leniency error and one with a negative leniency error. What I mean by that is that every person has a certain amount of leniency or strictness. People are really lenient, really strict, or somewhere in between. Depending on the performance management process, it will either work well for people who are lenient or people who are strict. If you use a two pronged system, it will balance out based on whether the person is super strict or super lenient.

  • Strict people are generally focused on RESULTS. So an objective based system is agreeable to managers who are strict. They will grade people really harshly or really well as appropriate based on their results. On the other hand, lenient managers will struggle with an objective based system because they don’t want to give “good” people a “bad” grade. So lenient people will generally put “meets expectations” across the board for all people unless there’s something REALLY out of place.
  • Lenient people are generally focused on EFFORT and SOFT SKILLS. So a core competency is agreeable to managers who are lenient. They will grade people really harshly or really well as appropriate based on their efforts and soft skills. On the other hand, strict managers will struggle an effort based system because they are so results oriented. So strict people will generally put “meets expectations” across the board for all people unless there’s something REALLY out of place.

So if you use a two-pronged system it should balance out. The problem occurs when either A. the systems aren’t appropriately balanced or B. managers forcefully “monkey” with the system to make the outcome what they wish. When either of these things occur the checks and balances of leniency is destroyed and people who have leniency short comings are not caught. Now I will step back for a moment and suggest that the two systems might not actually have to be perfectly balanced. For example, if the company was TRULEY results oriented, they would put a heavier weight on the object based side of the system vs the competency side.

What is important is that people not “monkey” with the system. In a two-pronged system, everyone will be uncomfortable with either one side or the other side of the system, but at the end of the day that’s what makes the system work. You need to stick to the rules of the system, grade people the way the system tells you to grade, and the human factor will be counter balanced by the system. I don’t know maybe I’m arguing my own point in circles. Maybe the system is designed so that even if people monkey with it, in the end it ends up being balanced. Who knows…

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