Improving Productivity and Performance in Government

A recent survey by McKinsey & Company in partnership with Government Executive magazine discovered that federal employees are highly motivated but accountability is lacking. If employees are motivated but lack accountability, what is going to suffer? Performance and Productivity!

This could be a great opportunity for government.

President Obama and OPM Director John Berry are capitalizing on the highly motivated federal workforce and placing a heavy emphasis on performance management in the public sector.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management defines performance management as:

The systematic process by which an agency involves its employees, as individuals and members of a group, in improving organizational effectiveness in the accomplishment of agency mission and goals.

Employee performance management includes: planning work and setting expectations, continually monitoring performance, developing the capacity to perform, periodically rating performance in a summary fashion, and rewarding good performance.

Performance management has been a topic of interest for Garry Ridge, President and CEO of WD-40 and leadership expert Ken Blanchard. The two paired up to author Helping People Win at Work. This book discusses WD-40’s year-round performance review system: its goals, features, and the cultural changes it requires. Ridge shares his “leadership point of view”: what he expects of people, what they can expect of him, and where his beliefs about leadership and motivation came from. Ken Blanchard explains why WD-40’s Partnering for Performance system works so well—and exactly how to leverage its high-value techniques in any organization.

Blanchard believes an effective performance management system has three parts:

Performance Planning – During this time leaders agree with their direct reports about goals and objectives they should be focusing on.

Performance Coaching – At this stage leaders do everything they can to help direct reports be successful. Managers work for their people, praising progress, and redirecting inappropriate performance.

Performance Review – This is where a manager and direct report sit down and assess the direct report’s performance over time.

Unfortunately, most organizations spend the greatest amount of their time on performance review. In order to positively influence productivity, the focus should be on performance planning and performance coaching. Driving employee passion can have profound effects on performance. 

Where is the focus within your agency’s performance management system? How is performance management being addressed in your agency?

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  1. #1 by Jay Goldman on May 14, 2010 - 9:11 am

    Performance management should be a misnomer. Everyone is interested in performance ACHIEVEMENT — the management of it is the unfortunate side effect of the way most companies approach it.

    I love the idea of a year-round performance review system. The antiquated, batch process most companies employ can never provide employees with the timely, relevant, and most importantly actionable feedback they need to achieve performance.

    This post reads that the planning, coaching, and review parts are quite distinct. I haven’t had the pleasure of reading _Helping People Win at Work_ (though a copy is on order!), but I’d be curious to know if they can effectively be combined into a single, regular conversation.

    Our product, Rypple, includes a powerful Coaching and Mentoring component to facilitate 1:1 meetings. Coaches and managers can track notes and actions for their team members at any time (even by sending an email CCed to Rypple with #note or #action in the body). The 15 minute long 1:1 starts with a review of those notes and actions accumulated since the last meeting and the addition of any new ones (planning), a discussion of any kudos and comments the report has received (coaching), and any feedforward or guidance for the coming period (review).

    Would love your thoughts on that approach!

    • #2 by Dominic Giammarinaro on May 17, 2010 - 12:16 pm

      Performance Achievement! I love it Jay. Isn’t the role of a leader to help their people succeed, not simply “grade” their effort at the end of the year? I think you’ll enjoy “Helping People Win at Work” as it is based on a philosophy of “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A.” In other words, let’s set clear goals for your people, show them what a good job looks like, and periodically give feedback that either is positive or redirects their efforts. Happy reading!

      • #3 by Jay Goldman on May 17, 2010 - 12:25 pm

        Dominic —

        Thanks for the quick reply! The book is on its way.

        What you’re saying reminds me of Marshall Goldsmith’s feedforward (as opposed to feedback). He essentially says that there’s not much point in talking about past actions because they can’t be changed. Instead, feedforward focuses on how to help people do better in the future. Here’s a good (though long) post about it:

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