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Performance Management as a practice has really been pummeled in recent years. Forced rankings, bell curves, and annual reviews… nearly all of its elements have been demonized, thrown to the curb by myriad premiere organizations.

So… has getting rid of performance management solved the problem of managing performance?

While this author respects any and all informed opinions, the answer in this case is no.

So what have we gotten wrong? Well, possibly everything. And here’s why:

Organizations manage performance for the purpose of driving results; anything else would be sadism. Therefore, the practice of performance management rests on an underlying assumption that the key to improving results is improving the performance of the performers.

But what it fails to account for is the performance failure of the workplace itself.

In other words, an organization hires talent to do great work. But that work doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it happens in the workplace that is made up of processes and systems and incentives (and politics, distraction, excessive email, lack of prioritization, etc).

What if we should be performance managing our workplace instead of the individuals within it?

So whose responsibility is it to manage the performance of the system in which our talent is working?

If you’re reading this, then likely it’s yours.

If performance management has become a minefield in your organization, then try, instead, giving your workplace a performance review. Instead of evaluating your team members, engage them in the process. Investigate what holds them back, where they encounter bottlenecks, where they require connection or clarity.

Find ways you can enhance the system in which your team is performing, instead of focusing on the things they need to do differently.

By focusing on fixing the system rather than the individuals, you create a path to success, efficiency, and innovation that engages your performers, allowing them to deliver the work you’ve been seeking all along.