Okay when we start to think and talk about frameworks for managing performance we tend to get all left brain and get all those algorithmic neurological processes buzzing around. However, getting a pragmatic framework in place for our organisation is a mix of left and right brain work, heuristic and analytic thinking.
Many organisations today are looking into performance frameworks, mainly due from an increased awareness of the need to proactively manage outcomes and sometimes from a regulatory perspective. That is, we might be reporting all the numbers and financial data that we have, but this really misses the mark in terms of truly providing feedback on how our organisation is improving performance. What are the results we are achieving from all our effort…?
The Action Learning Cycle has been around for quite a while, originally said to be developed by British physicist Reginald Revans in the 1940’s. Today it is proven as a basic method to get things moving – remember making progress is one of the keys to organisational momentum and motivation. Most versions of the ALC follow a cycle of: Plan, Act, Observe, Reflect, Replan, Act, Observe, Reflect, Replan and so on towards our goals… And yet when we think performance management, we seem to want to get all theoretical, rather than practical. Those left brain, algorithmic electrons tend to trick us into thinking there must be an established set of instructions to establish a framework…but this is a long way off the mark.
The performance and measurement frameworks that guide our direction can still be based on the intuitive ALC.
- We need a Plan. So what do we need to achieve, what do we want to achieve. Let’s define these into a set of Results. These are performance Results, no weasel words, not actions, a description of what we want to achieve (not do). Once we have the Results we can design performance measures for these Results.
- Act. We have the plan and now we have added the actions, projects or initiatives that will progress us towards the Results. Great, let’s Act.
- Observe – what do we observe…? Well whatever is observable is measureable – these are our performance measures, they provide us feedback on how we are progressing (or not) towards our Results.
- Reflection, Learning and Replan.
Just add enthusiasm and motivation (from demonstrating the progress we are making) and you’ve got the perfect mix for success.
When we have these elements in place then we will have a framework that provides feedback on what we are trying to achieve. We will be receiving feedback on the progress towards our purpose and results that enables a better understanding of performance, targets and measurement. These approaches also help us with the shift away from only looking at the financial outcome type measures that really are rear-view-mirror indicators of what we did, but not how well we did it, or what we learned from doing it.
High performing organisations are those that learn. Iterative and progressive improvement is achieved over many cycles of acting, measuring and learning.