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Stop Killing Bambi – A Follow Up

My recent Blog “Stop Killing Bambi – A View of Managing Staff Performance” generated a lot of interest and discussion.


This blog will build on that article by outlining how to separate and deal with both the 2%-ers and your good employees. 


Before I begin, consider what Ken Miller says in his book “We Don’t Make Widgets”. 


Evaluations are moldy because they concentrate on the employee. As managers, many of us have spent long hours filling out these report cards, fully aware that our good employees would come in and be rock stars and our bad employees are going to come in and be marginally adequate no matter how we scored either group.”


Ken goes on to demonstrate that everything we do can be thought of as (a) a factory (b) making widgets (c) to deliver outcomes (d) for customers.  And he works almost exclusively in the public sector!  


Let’s apply Ken’s idea of widgets to performance management and show how we can stop Killing Bambi in three simple steps.


First:Don’t concentrate on the employee


Second:Remember it’s about the customer so you need to identify who the customer is


Finally:Split performance management into two widgets; one for the good employees and one for the 2%-ers


Specifically, for the good employees 

  • The factory is the Line Managers and their direct reports.

  • Make the widget a simple and meaningful way of supporting a continuous improvement discussion rather than the conventional performance appraisal conversation (please stop using ratings, rankings and reviews)

  • The outcome is a plan for a better future

  • The customer is ….??  I’d argue the customer is actually the Executive Management Team (or perhaps HR on their behalf) because they use the information from the outcome to deal with other widgets such as considering pay rises and developing staff training budgets.

Then for the 2%-ers

  • The factory is the Line Managers and HR.

  • Make the widget a pre-scripted ‘difficult conversation’ focusing on the management problem rather than the employee’s ‘poor performance’ (please stop using Performance Improvement Plans)

  • The outcome is a documented summary of the meeting demonstrating a plan on how the employee can be party of the solution to overcome the management problem

  • The customer is ….??  I’d argue the lawyers because if the employee does not turn around, then the documentation (outcome) will be reviewed by them for flaws and short comings. 

For almost 20 years I know from personal experience that by concentrating on the system rather than the employee, clearly identifying the customer who uses the outcomes and then using separate widgets for the good employees and 2%-ers, makes both processes far simpler, time and cost effective and delivers more meaningful outcomes for customers.

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