Removing Resistance to PuMP Using Polarity Thinking
Quite frankly not everyone who embarks on implementing KPIs follows through to the end. Take Janet, a strategy manager with a leading bank, for example. Janet passionately managed to rally her leadership team and managers behind the development of a clear measurable strategy. But that energy seemed to dissipate gradually with the implementation of performance measures. “People are saying it’s too much work. The old way of doing things was much better.” Janet felt the same to some degree but could not voice her concerns. This was her project. She felt compelled to continue defending the ‘great’ benefits proper use of KPIs’ would have on performance.
Most leaders and managers appreciate the important role performance measurement plays in organizational change and transformation. Few understand that to successfully use KPIs, one must see their paradoxical nature and therefore approach them as polarities to manage not problems to solve.
” Polarities to manage are sets of opposites that can’t function well independently. Because the two sides of a polarity are interdependent, you cannot choose one as a “solution” and neglect the other. The objective of the Polarity Management perspective is to get the best of both opposites while avoiding the limits of each.”
Successfully implementing KPIs requires an organization to replace some “bad” performance measurement habits with “good” habits. Replacing bad habits involves deciding to move from:
- Using measures to judge people’s performance TO using measures to improve performance continuously.
- Strategy with vague and weasely statements TO strategy with statements that describe results in words a 10-year-old would understand.
- Brainstorming to select measures TO deliberately designing KPIs that are evidence of goals or results being measured.
- Asking people to simply sign-off on selected measures TO getting buy-in for the measures.
- Rushing to get data and build dashboards TO detailing how each measure should be implemented.
- Comparing this month to last month performance TO using statistical methods to make the true signals of change in performance measures easier to see, statistically valid, and incredibly useful for producing insights.
- Using performance reports to cover yourself TO using performance reports to drive action on improving performance.
- Using education, resourcing and funding as improvement initiatives TO using process improvements as the basis for reaching targets.
We normally see the above movements as problems to solve. ‘We define the problem as what we are going from and the solutions as what we are going to.’ However, it is best if we understand the movements as dilemmas or paradoxes.
Looking at the movements, I see the following polarities:
|Broad: Strategy needs to be broad to cover all areas of the business and at “30,000 ft”.||AND||Understandable: For strategy to be implementable and cascaded across the organization, it needs to be clear and specific, i.e., easily understood by everyone in the organization.|
|Report: Performance measures are used to report to executives and other stakeholders on performance||AND||Gain Insights: Performance measures are used to give useful insights to managers and leaders.|
|Flexible: The content, design, and publishing of performance reports needs to meet the needs of the targeted audience||AND||Structured: Performance measurement is a proces not an event. “It is a feedback loop that links strategy, reporting and continuous improvement together into an integrated system of managing business performance”.|
|Manage: In managing, measures are a tool for controlling people, activities and resources to achieve organizational goals||AND||Learn: In organizational learning, measures are a tool for providing feedback on the progress towards organizational goals and the constraints holding back performance so that performance can be improved.|
Understand the Polarities in Performance Measurement to Successfully Implement Your PuMP Project
A decision to implement PuMP is mostly driven by the need to address the downsides of some or all of the above polarities. Let’s take the example of the Manage and Learn polarity. If you are currently focusing on using measures to manage, you may be experiencing the negative results of this pole and see this as a problem to solve. Also, you may have recognized the need to move FROM the downside of the Manage Pole TO the upside of the Learn Pole. See figure below:
Manage and Learn in performance measurement are interdependent pairs and each has its upsides and downsides. The Learning Pole becomes a liability without its interdependent pole partner, Managing, and vice versa. When you approach these two as problems to solve and push for Learning at the expense of Managing, it means you are working with an incomple truth. Like Janet, you will experience resistance from those who see the benefits of the Managing Pole. People will most likely see PuMP as the problem. You may also begin to doubt yourself.
Successful implementatin of the PuMP Process requires the ability to see the polaries in performance measurements and the ability to leverage the energy between them. It starts with seeing the whole picture . See the figure below:
How then do we leverage the energy in polarities to implement performance measurement successfully? This question will be addressed in our next issue of The Performance Leader.
Performance Leadership & Measurement Specialist