Lead to Regenerate

How to apply principles of regeneration for self and organizational development

Performance Management

Many organisations make performance management a managerial responsibility that is shared by the line or functional managers and HR executives. Here is one definition of performance management:

“Performance management is a process by which managers and employees work together to plan, monitor and review an employee’s work objectives and overall contribution to the organisation. More than just an annual performance review, performance management is the continuous process of setting objectives, assessing progress and providing on-going coaching and feedback to ensure that employees are meeting their objectives and career goals.” (Source: Read the report here.)

Reviewing experiences

As mentioned above, organisations go through an elaborate exercise of planning, monitoring, and reviewing goals. This is cascaded from top layer of management down to individual job holders, working through many tiers in between. Here is what some managers have to say about their experiences.

General manager, sales: “One of the sales engineers told me during his performance review that he lost a sizeable order because he didn’t received support from his colleagues in other departments and engineering staff, to prepare a customised proposal for a pan-India customer. His reason was genuine and I rated him ‘Good’, although he didn’t meet the targeted sales figure. I fought for him when HR was carrying out a rationalisation of increment proposals across the organisation.”

HR head from another organisation: “The annual performance review is a big headache. Most managers don’t send their employees’ performance reviews on time, and when we do get them, we find a disconnect in the way managers rate their people. That is, it isn’t always not related to their achievements.

“When we question them, they justify, saying that the shortfalls were for reasons outside their control. Many rounds of discussions with top management and negotiations are needed before we announce the results. Finally, what we finally have are watered down versions of performance standards.”

An executive in operations: “We get orders in last week of the month and then we have to rush. This creates quality issues and affects our performance rating.”

Energy sapping

Performance management is often very complicated and an energy sapping exercise. The above accounts are, by no means, exceptions.

The problem is that performance is thought of more in terms of the result and less in terms of the actual work carried out. Results are, undoubtedly, important, but focusing solely on them can lead to many deficiencies in performance management systems.

When goals are set, they are either based on previous year’s (or quarter’s) results or on ambitious targets. The preparedness of those who are going to perform those tasks and who would achieve those goals is not assessed well.

If midterm reviews are conducted, the reasons for failures are discussed and this is followed by, “Let’s try harder, we must succeed!” exhortations. Cross-functional issues aren’t addressed properly.

Whether it is a midterm review or an end-of-year review, diagnosis of failures and prevention of underlying causes isn’t done thoroughly. The performance review system is a series of statements and tables fixing responsibilities, but with no diagnostic value.

Performance is a result of processes

An organisation’s performance is a result of how well its work processes are performed and how well various initiatives are executed. It depends on suitability of people performing the tasks as well. Peoples’ competence and attitudes determine how well they perform them. But the outcomes also depend on external environment.

An analogy of a musical concert is useful. Before the show starts, musicians tune their instruments — they check and get the sound system adjusted. They take their designated positions and practice a bit. There is a total emphasis on preparedness and methods. Can organisations view performance likewise?

Horizontal cross function

If an organisation’s performance is seen as a collection of processes and projects, it can help influence the outcome. Attention will then go to designing processes and smart planning of projects. Innovation or design thinking can be applied in this. (Read Thinking outside the box and The art of designing novel solutions)

Peoples’ training needs derived from work processes and projects will then be given the attention they deserve. Consequently, managers will also examine if the attitudes of those working match the tasks entrusted to them.

The performance management exercise will be then be a horizontal cross functional one mentored by senior managers and experts. People placement and training plans can be linked to it. Performance management can also be a vehicle for innovation and design thinking.

 This article  in the Jargon Jungle series was published at here

Pushing the envelop : JargonJungle

Pushing the envelope’ means going well beyond what is believed to be normal

Rewind to India of early 2014. Could you have imagined at that time, the following scenario playing out?

“Over 1 crore relatively well-off Indians have given up their LPG subsidy only because of an appeal, not through coercion or law. The savings are being used to partly finance free LPGs to five crore needy families, so that women can avoid the health-hazard of smoke.

“Opening of over 21 crore new bank accounts, for those who were earlier without access to banking, is helping in targeting subsidies better to the really needy, and preventing leakages. These bank accounts are also being used to disburse small loans to people for generating livelihoods and for directing insurance schemes that are partly funded by the governments.

“Aadhar enrolments have crossed the 100 crore mark, making it the world’s largest personal identity database. Aadhar enables better subsidy targeting.”

India has been “pushing the envelope” as they say.

Fast forward

… to some time in the near future. Imagine:

Scene 1: You are away on a business trip. In your hotel room, you turn to your Facebook newsfeed, put on your Oculus VR (Virtual Reality) headset and catch up with your daughter’s birthday party which you missed. You have joined the party — well, almost. You not only see and hear the action, but you also record yourself into the party video and send it back to your family. Your daughter’s birthday is, in a sense, complete.

Scene 2: You are in a furniture showroom. You try on that lovely sofa set and that classy bar by virtually placing it in your living room. Doing so, you know that they look good and fit perfectly well in the available space.

Some companies push the envelope to bring to us completely new and better ways of doing some thing.

Cut to present

You are discussing your product launch plan and surprisingly, everything seems to be in control. Your team is on course for a smooth product launch. It’s a known game for your team, since it has launched many products in the last one year. You have ironed out many wrinkles and squashed potential glitches by invoking Murphy’s Laws.

Your boss walks in, and after being satisfied that everything is in order, he says, “Guys, what I see looks like a good job. But why don’t we (your team) push the envelope this time?” He pauses, gets up, and while leaving says, “Get back to me if you need anything.”

Did you get what your boss just said? You have to figure out whether pushing the envelope means advancing the launch date or achieving several X time on the ground activation level. You also have to figure out how you will do it.

Performance envelope

Individuals, groups, and organisations usually end up in little envelopes of performance, which act as standards for lower (what is the minimum acceptable) and upper limits (what they think is possible).

This happens by habit. Most times, this habit is also quite economical. You don’t wish to get up every day and set your goals from scratch. You know what you have been doing and if that is good enough, you try and stick to it, unless someone else is upsetting the balance by doing it more, faster, or better. As your envelope gets more and more comfortable, you live in it. Trying new things and bettering yourself becomes rarer.

Some individuals may get bored with the self-imposed envelope and try to ‘push’ it. But organisations don’t get bored. Unless they are threatened by external events or are challenged to perform by their leaders, they stay where they are.

If ‘benchmarking’ makes you aware of where others are and motivates you to achieve at least their level, ‘pushing the envelope’ means going well beyond what is believed to be normal.

 This article  in the Jargon Jungle series was published at here 

Hackthons : leapfrog into future

(Image source )

Thirteen-year-old Neelesh groggily staggered through the door in the morning after three nights and two days. His parents, confused, asked him if anything was wrong. Though Neelesh had informed them of his absence from home, they were worried. Neelesh managed to say cheerily: “We won! My team won the first prize!” and pumped his fists in the air. Then, he crashed on his bed and fell asleep.

His parents exchanged a glance that said ‘typical of him’ and sighed. His team had won a ‘hackathon’ organised by a multinational company to develop working prototypes for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Neelesh is your typical guy who loves coding and goes at it for days.

“I have participated in more than 10 hackathons in the past year. I have consumed copious quantities of coffee and Redbull, but the projects my team and I completed were worth the effort. I also met amazing people at these events,” says another passionate coder.

Hackathons are contests in which groups of developers, experts, graphic visualisers, user interface designers and project managers collaborate to develop prototypes of innovative products, services and components. These competitions typically last from a day up to a week. Hackathons have a specific focus and rules by which teams have to operate. This framework may be open to all or restricted to individual teams.

Origin story

Where does the endless stream of new features, products or services — whether in messaging, streaming of videos, ticketing, navigation, checking status of trains or purchased items, games, buying or selling — come from? Who is behind this deluge? It is not just armies of developers, designers, artists, experts, who work for colossuses like Google, Apple and Microsoft that keep launching them. Small but highly innovative companies also help. Large development projects and teams are often behind these launches.

Increasingly, cutting-edge products and features come out of these breathless events. Even companies with large internal development teams organise hackathons to leapfrog into the future and come out with innovation that would otherwise have been impossible. The famous ‘Like’ button and ‘Facebook chat’ were first demonstrated at one of Facebook’s internal hackathons. Another example of a ‘hack’ (a product that first came out at a hackathon) is ‘GroupMe’, which was later acquired by Skype.

Marathons of effort

Hackathons are marathons of hacking efforts. The ‘thon’, from the word ‘marathon’, signals long duration and the endurance needed when competing. ‘Hack’, in this context, doesn’t mean unauthorised or illegal access to a computer system or facility. It also has no connection to physical violence. Here, it means a quick and dirty job that serves purpose. It is like cutting out a block of rock or wood to create a useful and interesting object; there is no time to chisel and polish the product. Hackathons aim to create something useful immediately — the finish can come later. They can be very useful for agile development or achieving business agility.

Encouraging talent

Hackathons draw upon passion, energy, skill and creativity of the people who wish to create something great quickly without getting bogged down by corporate working. Talented people thrive on such challenges, and the chance of winning prizes and being recognised provides further impetus to such people. Hackathons are a great way of engaging with talented people.

Though they are usually software development events, the idea is now spreading to other sectors as well. They are being held for developing business models around core technology or a problem statement, sometimes even for developing cooking recipes! One can only imagine the kind of hackathons that could be held for building a movie’s storyline.

Hackthons are events for creativity, they can be conceived creatively.

This article was first published by here

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