Posts Tagged ‘performance’

Do you want to know when you are falling into the Peter Principle and what to do about it?

Here is a brief run down helping to predict when the fall could occur:

Note: All eight shown on the left are needed for a team to be well rounded and maintain success. If any are missing there is the risk of developing a blind spot in that area causing trouble to brew.




Jumping into the fray and taking charge. Observe, be still and distill what is going on to a simple, insightful statement
Comparing, in detail, what is happening now to what has occurred in the past. Look at all the possibilities and develop options in the absence of rules.
Compassionately making sure everyone is taken care of. Build an over-arching mental picture that models the situation in detail.
Determining the principles and values needed in the situation. Take charge and command the group as to what to do next.
Observing, being still and distilling what is going on to a simple, insightful statement Jump into the fray and take charge.
Looking at all the possibilities and developing options in the absence of rules. Compare, in detail, what is happening now to what has occurred in the past.
Building an over-arching mental picture that models the situation. Compassionately make sure everyone is taken care of.
Taking charge and commanding the group as to what to do next. Determine the principles and values needed in the situation.


A classic example of this is being top-heavy with people who compare everything to the past. When trying to institute change there can be quite a bit of push back voiced in the saying, “We’ve always done it this way and there’s no reason to change.” They have a hard time seeing that change is needed as well as difficulty in determining all the possible ways the situation can be dismantled and improved. Not knowing how things will work in detail drives them nuts.

Something you may notice is that the attributes flip, i.e., when A is strong where B is weak then B is strong where A is weak. You may see an initial knee-jerk reaction between the two that is negative. In moving the team forward an approach that works in such situation is:

Assign both people to the same task. Judge their performance as a group rather than individually.

This creates a tension encouraging them to see that there is benefit in working with the other. It’s a lot like marriage.

As the team spirit develops a key characteristic for success emerges – interdependence!

It is this interdependence that is the basis for success. It means that as each person works to deal with his piece of the project in his minds eye the solution is interwoven with the pieces provided by others on the team. Things begin to click

Making the transition from spreadsheet-based Financial Planning and Analysis to a leading Enterprise Performance Management Solution (e.g., Hyperion, Cognos, etc..) requires commitment, executive sponsorship, and significant adjustment by those involved.  Before moving forward with haste, certain items should be considered to ensure a successful and sustainable implementation:

  1. Assess the Current Environment: Before a company can even consider beginning to scope out the analytical and reporting needs of a given organization, it is important to take a careful look at the current environment. Many organizations make the mistake of implementing analytical tools that only produce what is currently being used. The only difference may be a more complex user front end.  Doing this will not create any value for the organization and will only lead to frustration and a low adoption rate.
  2. Get to Know Users and Understand User Needs: It is important to meet with the key people in the organization that will be using or relying on the new tool to make business decisions.  Approach these conversations in a way that opens the door so that they are intricate in the design and development.  Keep in mind, fulfilling the needs of the Finance is important, however, providing a tool that has the power to directly impact the business and profitability is the goal.  It is important to have a strong executive sponsor of the project which will assist with driving the project and promoting it through-out the executive team of the company. However, receiving input from the data experts / users of the data will lay the foundation for a useful tool which will have an impact on the day to day operation and management of the company.
  3. Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s): During the discussion with management and the users in the organization, it is not only important to understand the business drivers, but also being able to measure business performance by applying KPI’s.  KPI’s need to be measurable, but one simple aspect to keep in mind, is they should be useful. Don’t overwhelm your user base with complex KPI’s that do not add value.  During your information gathering sessions you should be able to get a feel of what is needed, and you may find in most cases there is a common theme.  Some examples of KPI’s include:
    • Profit and Loss
    • Inventory Turn
    • DSO (Days Sales Outstanding)
    • Customer Loyalty/Attrition
    • Market Share Indicators
    • Other relevant measurements
  4. Good Project Management Skills Are Key: Once the information gathering sessions are complete and a signed-off proof-of-concept is in place, it is time to create a Statement of Work (SOW). The SOW is a detailed road map of the project. While drafting the SOW, it is important to keep in mind that you are providing a solution to an existing problem. Therefore it is important not to over complicate as this will only create resistance and lack of acceptance. When drafting the Statement of Work, the following should be defined:
    • Project Scope
    • Risks identified
    • Timelines defined
    • Any additional terms of the project

It is a good practice when managing a project of this scope to schedule weekly update meetings and to track the progress of the project to ensure that key deliverables are being met. This will keep the project in line with goals and timelines detailed in the SOW. Lack of diligence can most certainly result in an overage in project budget and delays in implementation. Some others points to keep in mind include:

  • Implement in phases and conduct User Acceptance Testing along the way.
  • Ensure proper training is made available not only users, but the administrators of the new tool.
  • Do not over complicate. In some cases, less is more. Provide a sustainable, usable system that can provide standardized reporting, yet have the flexibility to provide ad-hoc analysis as needed by users.

There are many styles to managing a project in the IT or Finance world. Information Technology people have their own style, understanding, and expertise. Finance and operational people have the ability to bring a different angle that is also very important to a successful implementation. Using the items detailed above as a guideline and engaging the necessary key people upfront, will make a big difference in the success of the project.

Performance Procrastination

by Guy Ralfe on May 19, 2010

We have all been in that situation where there is someone that is not pulling their weight, which places a constraint on the group’s overall performance. We often like them as people but not as much their performance, but we humbly tell ourselves things like “rather the devil we know than the devil we don’t” or “it would be too much of a disruption to replace them now”

To share a recent event, we hired a support staff that was pleasant and capable of most of the tasks required of the role but just not able to grasp the importance and flows of the business. What resulted was them performing the tasks they understood and all the things they struggled with were reassumed by those that were performing the tasks before their hire.

From a management perspective, some components of the operation were running smoother as there was a dedicated resource working the admin function; however from an operational perspective we had increased our operational overhead without increasing our service delivery to the clients which was the core objective of the hire.

After more than 4 weeks of training, the employee resigned. We wondered where we were going to find another employee and the loss suddenly felt enormous considering the investment to educate the recruit. Time to start again…

A quick search of produced a resume, a quick call the following day had the interview  and hire conducted before  noon. The following morning the replacement employee began – a mere 48 hrs and a new employee was in training. Within a week the replacement employee is competent at all the required tasks and adding depth to the operation in areas not considered possible with the earlier recruits.

To our clients there is a noticeable improvement, to the operations staff a confidence that the back office will be taken care of and a new capacity to produce has been facilitated – exactly the original objective of the hire.

On the flip side, do not forget that if the employee is not able to perform, they will know it and it will also be producing a stress for them always being behind or not knowing if their position is secure or not.

In these situations it is both beneficial to the organization and the employee  for the employee to be  relocated or replaced. The longer you procrastinate taking action, the more the focus is on the cost incurred as opposed to the cost of lost opportunities and the decision to take action becomes insurmountable.

Be decisive for your organization and your customers  when selecting and assessing performance in a role.

Leadership Cancers #3: The myth of peak performance

by Gary Monti on March 30, 2010

From sex to deodorants the push is for peak performance. The message is, “If you aren’t number one then there is something wrong.” After all, isn’t it important to be the biggest, fastest, or strongest? To use the classic project management answer, “It depends.” Let’s look at peak performance, its costs, its misuse, and a realistic alternative.

What Is Peak Performance?

Peak performance as used here might best be defined with an example – the successful return of the Apollo 13 astronauts. From the time the oxygen tank ruptured on April 14, 1970, until the landing on April 17, roughly 87 hours passed of intense activity. The mission was deemed a successful failure.

It would be an understatement to say considerable teamwork, focus, persistence, and ingenuity were required. Essentially, the stakeholders involved dropped everything they were doing to focus on solving the myriad of problems the tank explosion created. A new balance point had to be created centered around the successful return of the astronauts. The integrity of the mission literally had a hole blown in it!

What Does It Cost?

What does peak performance in such a situation cost – everything. With Apollo, hard deadlines had to be met and resources were scarce. Everything else was secondary and viewed only in terms of its utility in saving the astronauts.

Its Misuse

There is no doubt the mission was noble. So, how could peak performance be viewed as a cancer? For most of us we work in a day-to-day environment far removed from saving astronauts. Even at that, there can be a great deal of significance gained from putting in a days work.

The cancer arises when peak performance is misused. The term I’ve coined is “mesa performance.” With mesa performance a peak is hit and sustained. It’s a plateau. Most of us hear it as “setting the bar higher.” I prefer mesa performance because when one jumps over the bar there is a coming back down to normal levels. The misuse of peak performance has the expectation of staying at that level. It is the new standard. We can be told we are above everyone else and will stay there. We are on the mesa.

To put it in perspective, imagine after the astronauts returned safely everyone was breaking out the cigars and champagne, slapping each other on the back and celebrating. In the middle of this Gene Kranz, the flight director, said, “Oops, we forgot to tell you. Apollo 13.1 is having problems and we need to get on it right away! You did well with 13 so we expect you can do the same with 13.1.” No one has slept for 3 days.

When this becomes business-as-usual you know where it is headed. It can be summed in one word, unsustainable. Remember how everything was viewed as a resource with Apollo 13? Ongoing consumption of everything including reserves and backups has several major downside characteristics. People burn out and start making serious mistakes, the wiggle room for different options disappears with the drop in resources. The organization cannibalizes itself. The list goes on.

A More Realistic Option

A more realistic approach is one that is sustainable. You can see this in the word “overtime.” It means going beyond a certain reasonable limit of effort causes, over time, the consumption of infrastructure.

Overtime is best when it has a specific goal in mind and is stopped once that goal has been reached.

Ideally, planning ahead occurs and reserves are built with the knowledge they will get consumed from time to time. Flexibility and the ability to meet customer needs is maximized.

If you would like to delve deeper into project management and leadership and how to become more successful send me an e-mail at or visit where you can get a free Executive’s Guide to Change Management white paper.

When does independence promote less-than-optimal performance? When is it a force tearing the project apart? In this first of six blogs on leadership cancers we will look at the potential corrosive effect independence can have on your organization and projects leading to sub-optimal performance if not failure. It will be done through game theory and The Prisoner’s Dilemma. Finally, we’ll take a look a possible solution to the situation.


We all start life dependent upon our parents and others to be fed, clothe, nurture, and teach us. As we mature there is movement towards self-reliance, i.e., independence. Based on self-interests we can take action and control our lives. Teams can be joined for accomplishing tasks that go beyond what an individual can perform. This sounds sufficient for success. But is it?

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

When teams are formed based solely on independence a problem arises. Once a member’s self-interest fails to be met they can pull out of the relationship with potentially devastating consequences. When other team members see this behavior then they may pull out as well. Let’s look at a typical example.

Imagine a 2-person design team, John and Mary. John is extremely good at designing for performance but the product is a nightmare to maintain. Mary is just the opposite. Her designs are easily maintained but they don’t have the performance of John’s.  Each can do the entire design but lack efficiency when it comes to their weak spot. John is overly sensitive and Mary is rude. They both want to be seen as superior and never hesitate to stick it to the other. Whenever one appears to cooperate the other takes advantage and tries to put in fewer hours. There is no backup for either of them and management is afraid of losing either but will draw the line at flat out refusal to work and will withhold any bonuses. The grid below shows the four possibilities in terms of effort-hours expended. If they both cooperated the total hours would be 60 (blue). With both being non-cooperation it shoots up to 100. If either pulls out completely the other has to put in 150 hours. The job ends up taking 100 hours (red) because both will be selfish at the first sign of cooperation by the other.

John Selfish John Cooperates
Mary Selfish 50,50 0,150
Mary Cooperates 150,0 30,30

In game theory this is called The Prisoner’s Dilemma. Both could cooperate and put in fewer hours overall but that would require being empathetic and trusting. Instead, at the first sign of seeing the other cooperate, the one will try to take advantage and be selfish. With them both being selfish the job gets done but at great inefficiency.

A Possible Solution

One approach is asking them to cooperate, pointing out the value to the organization and they could be more productive. That is unrealistic since it expects altruism from two uncooperative people. A more realistic approach and one that works well in a complex situation is a joint evaluation. Their bonuses, profit sharing, etc., rises or falls with team performance. This returns power to the leader. Mary and John can do as they like and they will be rewarded accordingly. There are risks associated with this approach. However, if costs are outstripping benefits then it is worth considering.

If you find this topic as fascinating as I do and would like to delve deeper into game theory and its use in leadership send me an e-mail at or visit

Social Media ROCKSTARS!

by Deepika Bajaj on February 1, 2010

social-media-rockstarEvery day I come across people who either love or hate social media. Some say they get it and some DON’T. Some say it here to stay and some say it isn’t. Whatever the case, there are people who are leveraging it to build their identity, relationships and followers.

So, what are the characteristics of these ROCKSTARS…???

Like traditional ROCKSTARS, these social media ROCKSTARS have similar characteristics.

1. Talent par excellence – For any ROCKSTAR to get a celebrity status, what is needed most is talent. Similarly, the social media ROCKSTARS have a inherent talent to make their presence felt with their blogs, articles and videos. They seem to produce this with their focus on what is meaningful to their readers. They don’t talk about their hobbies or pets or travel plans – they know what their readers are looking for and offer that information in a powerful manner.

2. Performance – Traditional ROCKSTARS like Van Halen, Pink Floyd were brilliant performers. They took over the stage the minute they got on it. The crowds loved them and they kept them engaged with variations in their music and styles. Similarly, Social Media ROCKSTARS steer away from monotony. They innovate their writing, thinking and presentation. They keep the audience keep coming back for more.

3. Energy – Ever seen ACDC or Metallica on stage. These ROCKSTARS are powerhouses of energy. They keep going on. It is there energy that gets the entire stadium energized at a rock concert. Similarly, social media ROCKSTARS have tons of energy to come with new thoughts, new material and consistently deliver it to their target audience. It is their energy and stamina that gravitates the readers to them…they always have new material and their followers, readers can’t get enough of them…

By now you must be wondering what these Social Media Rockstars look like in real life – well! To me, people like Kevin Rose (co-founder of the top social news site ), Matt Inman (who consistently produce viral hit, after hit, or bloggers like Chris Brogan or Marshall Kirkpatrick (who spend a great amount of their time online creating guides and resources designed to help people) are the genuine social media rockstars!


Measure for Success

by Guy Ralfe on January 20, 2010

I don’t see myself as competitive but thinking about it if someone draws a line in the sand, I have to jump over it. My boss decided that we all needed a challenge to get us through the winter. He offered to everyone in the company an entry to Boston’s Run To Remember – 1/2 marathon. Not being a runner but seeing the line in the sand I signed up.

I asked a few questions to get an idea of how to train and how to build up to this race. I was told “…you need to get into the habit of running about 35-40km (about 21.5-24.8 mi) a week” and then build up on speed after you have established a base in attaining distance.

I had never run more than 10 km before, and to be honest if I recall most of those 10km were walked, how was I going to achieve this? Well I put on my trainers and set off aiming for 35 km in the first week. After a mammoth effort I managed just over 10km on my first run. Suddenly 35 km didn’t look so far but finding another 3 hour slots in the week was going to be the challenge. Getting daily email reminders from my boss on how far he had run, quickly helped overcome that problem, and surprisingly, after my first week of training I managed to log a respectable 37.5 km. Now that was some two months ago, and it has gotten a lot colder up here in the north east. What started to happen was that I began not keeping accurate records of what I was running so I began telling myself stories about what I had done to feel better, not what I had left to accomplish. The result was that suddenly I was not able to keep up the required standard.

Lately I have been trying to build up speed since all I had been focusing on was distance. (to you athletes out there I am not a runner yet so no laughing at my shared statistics) From discussions I heard someone mention that you need to be in the 4:50 min/km pace for this type of a run. So I sported a watch and off I set. In my mind, I was thinking that I must be getting close to the 5 min/km mark. Well after a good fast run the watch must have had a problem, I was averaging 5:32 min/km. I was suddenly aware how weak my training program was and that the performance metrics for running were both speed and distance. After some work I have now been able to break the 5:00 min/km mark for my training runs.

So just yesterday I went for a run in Copenhagen, it is flat with no hills and I felt like I had flown. At one point I sprinted alongside a cyclist to keep the pace elevated for 2 minutes – my time must have been close to 4:50 min/km. After looking at my watch I only managed 5:01 min/km. I was really upset and shocked, but I also learned a very clear lesson that us humans cannot be objective for our own sake.

We must know what we are going to do, what the criteria (metrics) are that define the standard if we are at all going to compete. Let’s not fool ourselves we compete all day every day. We need to ensure we stay ahead of the pack to succeed and realize our ambitions.

This is a great video emphasizing the point of knowing what the standard is and measuring against it.

(Click to Start Video)

Here is a brilliant blog post Don’t Do Your Best that gives more insight into the limitations we commonly set ourselves when saying we will do our best.

And from a business perspective here is a an insight to what it means to Run the Last Mile of the Race.

Know your ambitions, personal and business, set the criteria you are going to measure against then go out and perform. And if nothing else measure your performance!

Appraisals for Results

by Guy Ralfe on January 13, 2010

For many it is performance appraisal time of year, a time of reflection and setting of goals for the coming year. It is a frantic time as everyone digs deep to recall the goings on of the past 12 months. The net result is that employees are really only as good as the most recent performances their manager can recall at the time of the interview.

At the same time bonus packages are being calculated and targets adjusted for the coming year. This measure is usually computed month over month and so it does amass the individuals performance over the period. The trouble though, is that employees only appear to be conscious of this metric for the last 6 weeks of any bonus period as it is usually in this time frame they then can comprehend the chances of achieving their targets and gaining the benefit of a financial bonus.

For all the effort placed into the Appraisal and Bonus process it yields a relatively low return.

I read a quote made by Jacqueline Novogratz in her contribution on Dignity in the ebook What matters Now released here on Active Garage.

“Giving a poor person food or money might help them survive another day… but it doesn’t give them dignity. there’s a better way. Creating ways for people to solve their own problems isn’t just an opportunity in 2010. It is an obligation.”

Motivating individuals and aligning an organization is a difficult task at best, but if we think about it in the context of Jacqueline’s quote, making the goals and performance metrics to support building an individual’s dignity we could better produce the longer term objectives the appraisal process sets out to achieve for the organization and the individual. Today’s process supports the survival approach to objectives, not the fostering, growing and building produced through teaching someone how to do something.

Here are a few thoughts I had to create such a situation:

  1. Shorter time frames – measure and reward on a quarterly basis. Building dignity repeatedly will enforce the behavior.
  2. Center goals around the employee – focus on the employees ambitions and align the organizational metrics to that. When you are hungry you look for food, associate the corporate goals with the food and you will get a person working to take care of themselves and as a result the organization at the same time.
  3. Formulate don’t deliver/direct – mandating a goal is the same as being given something and not knowing how to fend for it again. Formulate a plan in a way that you educate how to attain the goal without directing to the goal. This produces stimulation, thought and learning which will go a long way to help individuals fend for themselves and the organization in the future.
  4. Social Dignity – we are all social by nature and need our networks to survive. Produce situations of dignity for the individual in their social network, at work or at play, will increase their stature as a result of attaining their goals.

Being human is to take care of ourselves first, look to that to produce better results from your employees and your organization.