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Maximizing Employee Performance through a Total Performance Management™ System

by Michael Stanleigh
Employees today are facing a performance-reporting dilemma. They have a dual reporting relationship to both a functional manager and to a project manager or sponsor. Yet their overall job performance, reviewed by their manager or supervisor, generally reflects only the work they do according to their job description. It rarely includes other work that is assigned, which is generally work on a project, as a project manager or project team member.
What is the Reason for this Performance Dilemma?

Functional managers are in constant contact with their staff. Staff tasks are well-defined and recurring. In most organizations, functional managers complete performance reviews on the basis of the ability of the staff to perform work in accordance with their job description or job profile.

However, most people do not work according to just a job description. Rather, they find that their work is comprised of work performed on a job and work performed on one or more projects. The demands and requirements of their own functional manager as well as that of their project managers or sponsors constantly pull them.

This is likely because traditional performance management systems do not take into account new reporting structures such as Matrix Management in which employees may, at times, have reporting relationships to someone other than their departmental manager. Therefore, if the employee is assigned to a project during the course of the year this aspect of their job performance is usually overlooked or not considered in their performance review. At the end of the year, the employee’s departmental manager tells the employee how well they did on the functional job, as per the job description, but doesn’t discuss any of the person’s efforts devoted to projects they were assigned. That time is not recognized. So while employees may see time spent on a project as important, they also see it as an intrusion because this effort goes unnoticed and unrecognized. They want to spend their time on their day-to-day job because that is how their performance is measured.

A more effective system to manage performance is one that reflects the employee’s “total” performance. This includes the job description performance as well as the performance on their assigned projects.

What is Total Performance Management™?
Total Performance Management™ is a performance system that evaluates employee performance on the basis of all the time spent at work. This includes the time spent on their functional job as well as special project performance.

Total Performance Management™ will ensure that the project manager or sponsor communicates overall employee contribution on the project to the employee’s functional manager. This feedback will include: How well did the employee work with the project team? How did he or she perform on the project? Did the employee complete tasks on time? Did he or she enhance the overall value of the project team dynamic? Or did they create conflict?

At the end of the year, the functional manager will review the employee’s performance as a total combination of time spent on the job and time spent on projects. Employees will then understand the true value of their contribution to the organization’s strategic direction and feel committed to their job and on project teams.

The Advantages of a Total Performance Management™ System

A Total Performance Management™ System utilizes evaluation tools and competencies for the project sponsor, project manager and project team members to ensure that the best people with the right knowledge, skills and experience are always being assigned to a project.

A competency is the knowledge, skills, ability, and characteristics associated with high performance on a job. Competencies can also help distinguish high performance from average and low performance. The organization must develop competencies for the various roles on a project. This includes the Project Sponsor, Project Manager and various types of Project Team Members.

Business Improvement Architects recently completed an extensive global research project on project management offices that showed that most organizations have not developed competency evaluation tools to assign the most qualified individual to a project team. Only 15% of Project Management Offices are using competency evaluation tools for project team selection. In other words, 85% are not using competency evaluation tools for project team selection. This is leading to less effective project teams because they may not include the best people with the right knowledge, skills and experience for the project.

The use of competency evaluation tools can help organizations to identify any existing gaps between current competencies of project team members and required competencies for each project. It also helps with identification of training needs so as to close the gap between an individual’s current competencies compared to the project and job competency requirements.

Project Manager and Team Member Competencies

The lack of competency evaluation processes is a huge concern because it can lead to project failure. Why? Because individuals are being placed on project teams without any tool or process to validate their skills, knowledge and experience for the job. Furthermore, it is difficult for organizations to increase the competency level of project managers and teams because they have no process for identifying performance improvement opportunities.

The Future of Project Management

According to our research findings, we foresee a trend for organizations to take project management out of a fixed structure, such as a Project Management Office, and put it into the hands of every employee as a competency. As with the Quality movement, project management competency will become a part of everyone’s job. For this approach to be effective it is important to have assessment tools in place to identify the competency requirements for projects as well as to assess employees before putting them onto a project. Most importantly, it will be important to capture and assess an employee’s “total” performance.

Total Performance Management™ Cycle
Performance Planning

In Total Performance Management™ the strategic goals of the organization are incorporated into the Performance Planning Stage of the performance management cycle by a process which defines and communicates components of the strategic plan to employees such as special projects for the year. In this way the employee is better able to understand how what they do will contribute to the realization of company or departmental goals. As well, manager and employee will reach an agreement on the overall department objectives and how these link to the employee’s position and project descriptions.

Performance Development

Now that the employee and manager agree on the overall goal for the position it is time to provide the tools to help employees meet their performance plan. This will include arranging training and development opportunities and experiences for the employees.

Performance Coaching

This stage is ongoing—it has no clear beginning or end. In Total Performance Management™ managers will provide continuous feedback to their employees about functional job performance as well as performance on projects. This includes: what's going well, what's not meeting expectations, what adjustments the employee needs to make and what the manager should provide the employee to assist in meeting expectations. It may be necessary to adjust action plans as necessary.

Performance Review

The formal review of performance can be done either annually or semi-annually. This review will incorporate all of the ongoing coaching between the manager and the employee that has taken place to date. Once completed, the Total Performance Management™ Cycle begins again.

Total Performance Management™ requires an understanding of managing within a Matrix Environment. As discussed in this article, this involves some negotiating and influencing between the Project Manager, who is held accountable for project success and Functional Managers, who provide the resources to the Project Manager to help ensure project success. A strong Matrix Management environment is built when functional authorities carry out their tasks in support of a project manager who is accountable for a project. Functional managers incorporate both job specific tasks and project tasks when managing the overall performance of their employees.
About the Author
As President and CEO of Business Improvement Architects, Michael works with executives and senior managers around the world to help them improve operational effectiveness through strategic planning, leadership development, project management and quality management. He has been instrumental in helping his clients reduce waste and increase efficiencies and profits with his clear processes and quality approach.
For more information about this article or the report, please contact bia™ at info@bia.ca.
Michael Stanleigh is author of the global report: “From Crisis to Control: A New Era in Strategic Project Management.”
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