Monday, January 30, 2012

A Performance Management Model

As a follow-up to the recent post and comments "Are You Managing or Just Nagging?", here's everything you need to facilitate a robust dialog on performance management, with lots of room for grey areas.

A. Simple model:

B. Supporting material for each quadrant:

1. Managing: How to Discuss an Employee Performance Problem

2. Nagging: Are You Managing or Just Nagging?

3. Vacation: 10 Reasons to go on a Vacation

4. Avoiding: The Cowardly Manager’s Guide to Dealing with Poor Performers

Just made it up over the weekend - what do you think? Make sense? What's missing, what would you change? Could it make me rich and famous like Ken Blanchard or Marshall Goldsmith (humble credit to both for influencing my thinking on this model)?

Feel free to use, modify, etc... just give me some credit, but only if it works well. (-:

2/1/2012 update:

Some of the early feedback on this model suggests it needs some clarification. Let’s try a brief description of each quadrant, and see if that helps. We’ll start at the upper right quadrant and work our way around:

1. Managing.
This is where a manager is taking appropriate action on legitimate performance problems. That is, there is something the employee is doing or not doing that is having a significant impact on results. Or, in the case of a behavioral or values issue, it’s having a significant impact on the results on others, company reputation, etc….
The post How to Discuss an Employee Performance Problem describes how to have this kind of discussion in a productive way, not punitive way.

2. Avoiding.
This is where a manager SHOULD be taking action on something the employee is doing or not doing, but because of a lack of courage, skill, awareness, or whatever, is not doing anything about it.
The post The Cowardly Manager’s Guide to Dealing with Poor Performers describes in a tongue-in-cheek way the perils of this lack of avoiding addressing a performance issue head-on.

3. Vacation.
This is where a manager’s team is just humming along, with NO performance problems, so there’s no need to take action. It’s probably because the manager has done such a good job in hiring, communicating performance goals and expectations, being a role model, giving regular feedback and coaching, and developing employees. Or, it could be just dumb luck. (-:
Either way, the manager is able to take a well-deserved vacation, and the post 10 Reasons to go on a Vacation describes why it’s important for a manager (or anyone) to take vacation.

4. Nagging.
This is where a manager is riding herd on an employee for some little thing that really doesn’t matter. While the issue may be a personal pet peeve for the manager, there’s no clear connection to the employee’s performance. The post Are You Managing or Just Nagging? attempts to distinguish between performance problems, works habits, and pet peeves.


Tim G said...

Looks interesting.

Maybe I haven't had enough caffeine yet this morning, I'm not sure I completely get it...would you describe this model as descriptive or prescriptive?


Meredith Masse said...

This made me laugh... because it's true. My only issue with the model is it implies that the only people who get to go on vacation are those who ignore their people and their people's impact on the organization's goals. Really? Should vacation be a reward for doing a GREAT job, not being a half-assed manager?

Just sayin'.

Arkadiusz Dymalski said...

While this model is helpful as a strong wake-up ring due to it's simplicity I think that for most of the managers naming the gray areas would be even more inspiring.

I'd go for 3x3 grid with the following descriptions:
Nagging|Loosing Steam|Managing
Grouching|Loosing opportunity|Playing with fire
Vacation|Calming before the storm|Avoiding.

These aren't yet the perfect wordings but I think it's important to emphasize that being in the middle isn't sufficient.

Dan McCarthy said...

Tim, Meredith, Arkadiusz -
To me, a good model should speak for itself; so clearly, this one needs either some fine-tuning or an explanation. I’m going to post an update and try explaining the 4 quadrants. Let me know if that does it.
Thanks for the feedback, questions, and suggestions!

Rod Johnson said...

I've been looking at your performance model which is positioned for simplicity, and I'm not sure I quite get it.

First. Nagging suggests it has No Impact on performance - my belief is it's likely to have a negative impact.

And Vacation. If my nagging boss takes a long vacation - my guess is that my performance would likely improve.

Next: Avoiding - head in the sand. It implies it has a high impact (positive)on performance. However in this case I'm assuming you mean "High" as being a neutral to negative impact on performance.

Also "take action" implies initiation needs to occur. I think you're implying that "Action" is naturally occurring in these two quadrants.

Maybe I'm being overly critical - but i believe you wanted critical feedback.

Good luck on Phase 2

Dan McCarthy said...

Rod -
Thanks for the feedback. I've since written an update that may address your points - please let me know.

Free KPI said...

Thank you for this post! The matrix is great for explaining what is an efficient performance management.

Dave Cantrell said...

This is the Blake Mouton Managerial Grid. It's a very useful tool for determining your leadership style, or your bosses' and peers styles, or even your subordinates' styles so you can develop them into future leaders. The military teaches junior leadership this model for exactly this reason.

Dan McCarthy said...

"Free" -
You're welcome.

Dave -
Thanks, I appreciate your comment, but it's not Blake Mouton at all, other than it's a management grid.
I agree, the B-M grid is a classic, and still very relevant.

Martina Kaiser said...


I like the model for it's simplicity. That said, in one important way, it oversimplifies to the point of missing an important aspect of managing a team - coaching for improved performance. The model seems to assume that employees are either doing something right, or not as right, while we also need to think about what an employee could be doing that is new and different, above their performance level or a stretch to their performance to help them really grow to the next level. To me, this is one of the hardest parts of managing people because it takes a lot more thought. It is easy to determine if someone did a task well or not but it is harder to identify new tasks that will help them grow.

My 2 cents...


Dan McCarthy said...

Martina -
Thanks. You're right, the coaching and development part of a manager's job is not covered in this model. It only covers addressing performance problems. It could almost be another dimension, or another gird. In fact, I've used the nine-box performance and potential model as a way to determine the appropriate coaching strategy to take for each employee.
That's the part managemnet I enjoy the most - helping employees go from good to great, not dealing with performance issues.

dhgoblue said...

The matrix makes a good point. But I think I'd move avoidance to the bottom left - no action/ no impact. Bottom right is high impact on performance, right? This quadrant could really be the nirvana achieved through spending a lot of quality time in the managing quandrant (action/impact). I see managing as laying the groundwork for a high performance team - one that doesn't require a lot of day to day managing to achieve results. Low action/high impact reminds me of Ken Blanchard's point in the one minute manager.

Dan McCarthy said...

dhgoblue -
When I designed this, I was thinking by avoiding addressing a problem, the manager's lack of action would have a big impact - a negative one - on the entire team and organization. I then tried to represent the nirvana situation in the vacation quadrant. But as you and others have pointed out, there are a lot of different ways you can take this. That's why I think it would make a robust group discussion.

Brian Hodgson said...

Always a balance between motivating, enabling, pushing, and not micromanaging.

Also depends who you have on your team.

Sara Mathews said...

I really appreciate how it is broken down into quadrants. It's not just simplified to define a manager or management style but also the impact on the employees and the outcome. Great job.

Sara M. Mathews