When you become manager, the way you think about work takes on a whole new dimension. The questions you might ask yourself are: What work needs to get done? Who’s going to do it? Do I delegate? (If so, what gets handed off and to whom?) How do I tell people how they’re doing? What do I do when someone isn’t performing to standard?
Attending to task needs is about achieving individual, group, and organizational objectives. Task needs include:
- Setting performance objectives
- Matching the person with the job
- Delegating effectively
- Analyzing performance issues
- Providing feedback
This post begins at the beginning, with setting performance objectives. But first, let’s step back and look at the bigger picture. Many organizations have instituted a formal performance management system, which typically looks something like this:
1. Managers and employees work together to set performance
objectives for the coming year.
2. Managers talk to employees about their performance.
3. At mid-year, performance objectives are rewritten to account for
changes in the business.
4. More performance discussions take place between managers and
5. Managers and employees sign off on the annual performance appraisal.
The system looks great on paper, but it can break down at any step in the process. Here are some tips to ensure that step 1, at least, does not fail.
Think about this for a moment: Without specific, measurable performance objectives, how will you know where you’re going and how will you get there? How will your employees know if they are on track or off? As manager, it is your responsibility to set the stage for the coming performance year by writing meaningful objectives.
When done right, performance objectives:
- Define performance accountabilities.
- Motivate employees by providing challenges and opportunities for growth and development.
- Provide a means for manager and employee to measure performance progress.
- Allow the employee to see how he or she contributes to the organization.
Writing meaningful objectives isn’t as easy as it looks, though. Have you heard of SMART objectives? The acronym has been around for a long time and many managers are familiar with it, yet they still don’t use it. When you prepare your business (or personal) objectives, work on tightening them up. Write them using SMART criteria:
S = Specific: Objective must be concrete, detailed, and well-defined
M = Measurable: Objective must be quantified (frequency, percentages, dollars, numbers). The following are examples of non-measurable actions:
Communicate with project leader in a timely manner.
Complete as soon as possible.
Remember, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
A = Achievable: Objective should stretch your employees but not so far that they become frustrated and unmotivated.
R = Relevant: Objective must mesh with organizational goals and employees must have the necessary knowledge, authority, resources, and skills to carry out the task.
T = Time-bound: Objective must have a finish and/or start date.
Writing SMART Objectives:
SMART objectives are typically written as follows:
Action Verb + Specific Accomplishment + Measurement + Target Date
Example: Increase sales in XYZ department by 4% by year end, 2010.
Take a look at the difference between “fuzzy” objectives and SMART objectives:
Fuzzy Objective: Contribute to a team environment.
SMART Objective: Chair (specific) project team meeting each Tuesday, beginning on 3/2/10.
Fuzzy Objective: Improve customer service.
SMART Objective: Increase customer satisfaction rating to 90% by year end, 2010.
Can you see the difference in terms of measuring outcomes? If you stay in the “fuzzy” realm, you have nothing to grab onto. You have no basis for a meaningful discussion about performance. Just about the only thing you can count on is that you and your employee will argue about the work. The conversation will go something like this.
Manager: “Did not!”
Employee: “Did too!”
Writing powerful objectives should be done in partnership with your employees. Ask them what their goals and aspirations are and then work together to craft objectives using the SMART criteria.
Of course, all of this does take time and effort, but when it’s done, you’ve created a solid basis for managing performance in the coming year. Taking the time to do this up front will save you time (and frustration) in the long run. As Peter Block said in his book, Flawless Consulting:
“Well begun is half done.”
Future posts will deal with all the other aspects of attending to the task needs. Stay tuned.