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Aug 6
Performance Management is a Daily Responsibility
One of my many "hats" as a consultant is working on a contract teaching communication skills to managers and supervisors as part of the rollout of NSPS (National Security Personnel System) which is the new performance management program the Air Force is rolling out for 2007.

This new program is a necessary tool as the DoD responds to efforts to become more efficient and retain the best workers.  It's design is really no different than other performance management plans, and as you might imagine, the anxiety level among employees is rather high.  The reason is pretty simple:  any plan that suddenly threatens worklife as we know it, makes us nervous.

Now this topic is one that I'll explore in a later posting, but for now, I'd like to talk about performance management itself.  When I was a boy growing up in California, I used to enjoy trips to the beach, particularly Corona Del Mar.  The journey to the beach, although just 20 miles, seemed endless.  We then had to find parking and trudge across the sand dodging stray pop tops and sometimes broken glass.  Finally, when I put my foot in the water, I realized I'd arrived.

Now for many managers, performance management is the same.  We have the event - the performance appraisal, held once a year.  We set standards for our employees, then let them roam freely for one year.  We think of the year period as the journey, the appraisal is the destination.  The problem with this approach is that there's only one event - the rest of the year is composed of 11 months of sometimes mediocre behavior followed by one month of outstanding behavior designed to influence the BIG event.  The result is a reward, new standards, then the cycle of 11 + 1 month. 

This method simply doesn't do the job. Performance management should be a daily event.  Think again about the journey to the beach.  Rather than a one time event, imagine walking along the shoreline.  At any time you can put your foot in the water and "arrive."  Set your standards with the employee, then periodically check in on them.  I'm not suggesting micro-management, that's just as bad.  Maybe a monthly check-up, or even a quarterly performance review.  The bottom line is this:  your employees probably want you to know how they're doing.   Don't wait until the end of the year to check in on them.  Let them know throughout the year how they're progressing towards your mutually decided upon goals and the organization's mission. 

It's a lot more work, but the results are well worth it!

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