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Tutorial: Performance Management


Most of us have, one time or another, experienced the frustration and uncertainty of not knowing what is expected of you in the work situation, or not knowing how you are doing - having phantom managers who you rarely ever saw, or who were scared or incompetent to give you the necessary direction and feedback.

There is a saying that "if you don't know where you are going, then any road will take you there".

Any organisation that finds itself on this road is doomed - local and international competition will soon take care of that.

But although it is the job of top management to show the right way, they can not do it all by themselves - it will have to be a team effort behind which all employees throw their combined weight.

This means clarity of vision and purpose from top to bottom so that everybody gets to know the identified road, and what their part in it should be.

This philosophy is supported by the concept of cascading ('deploying') goals and objectives from top to bottom throughout an organisation.


The process should start with Strategic Planning by the top management team who should come up with a Corporate Strategic Business Plan for the year, containing, inter alia, the corporate vision, mission, values, goals and strategies for the short to long term. In turn, this should be followed by similar strategic and operational planning sessions at the lower unit levels (e.g. division, department, section), each lower level using the higher level Business Plans as input into their own process. Objectives for individual employees are being derived from the appropriate Business Plan of the unit of which they are members. Planning, therefore, should take place "top-down".

So, by each employee achieving his own objectives, the corporate vision and goals will eventually be achieved, "bottom-up".

This process supports the notion that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail - but it also demonstrates how top-down goals and objectives are operationalised into practical and achievable individual employee objectives, right down to the lowest level in the organisation.

Let's look in a bit more detail how this process works:

At a Strategic Planning Session, the strategic priorities and goals for a unit are decided, but eventually also who should take responsibility for what, by way of an Operational Action Plan

The strategic planning session is then followed by one-on-one performance planning meetings between line managers and jobholders, drawing from this Action Plan those objectives allocated to the respective jobholders. To this then are added any further objectives the position demands.

Before the next 4 or 6-monthly formal Performance Reviews/Appraisals take place, the unit/team should meet again to review the achievement of the previously set Action Plan, and to renew it for the next period as necessary.

Strategic Planning precedes Performance Management, but falls outside the scope of this guide, so let's focus on Performance Management in detail.

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