In previous Intersol blogs, we talked about thinking strategically, change management, corporate culture, collaboration and building strong teams. Today we look at a practical means to pull much of this together by using technology to engage all levels of the organization in a “performance discussion”.
Winston Churchill is often cited with his quotation “No matter how beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” Few organizations however have truly embedded performance thinking into everyday decision making. In many businesses, performance monitoring and reporting is still often considered a “necessary evil” to meet either corporate or governmental compliance reporting requirements. Part of the frustration all managers have is that responding to performance based requests are generally time consuming, tedious, and error-prone.
Where Does Performance Technology Fit? Advances in Business Intelligence (BI) technologies offer the promise of readily accessible information around the planning, monitoring and reporting processes that are essential to any organization’s ability to achieve long term success. The conundrum however is how to generate and sustain the necessary organizational engagement to undertake the development efforts towards building a well aligned performance solution? Technology provides the vital link for both designing and deploying quality performance content. Figure 1 (see this link) illustrates how performance technologies like collaborative planning, dashboards and scorecarding are key components in both a Performance Content Design and Development Cycle and a Performance Awareness and Decision Cycle. Utilizing technology not only helps clarify and standardize the requisite supporting performance content and data, but enables employees at all levels to better visualize gaps or disconnects that may require additional refinement. It turns theoretical value into practical information, conceptual approaches into reality-based practices, and the promises of performance management into hard deliverables.
How Do I Get Started? To succeed in utilizing performance technology however, “baby steps” is the name of the game. Each advance in the use of technology needs to be preceded by an increase in organizational learning. Similarly, each enhancement in performance understanding should be reinforced through the use of technology thereby ensuring these advancements get “institutionalized”. Figure 2 (see this link) shows the need to balance the progress in performance understanding with the use of performance technology. Adapted from the work of Howard Dresner, who is often considered to have coined the word “Business Intelligence”, it shows the relationship and ultimate end-states associated with building quality performance content and deploying effective performance technology. To migrate from a stoic management environment, one needs both improved business practices and increased responsiveness via the application of technology. Focusing solely on new practices or technology however, can often lead to sub-optimal results. Too much conceptual education without practical hands-on reinforcement can lead to a passive culture where rules and procedures dominate and staff engagement is lost under the weight of the protocols to be adhered to. Applying technology in isolation however, can also be problematic as it can often be done using misaligned or poor quality data which frequently leads to staff apprehension on how the information will be used. Bottom line, without understanding the technology options ahead of time and crafting content to best suit a viable solution, performance systems can be ineffective and actually work against the development of enterprise wide acceptance and engagement. The trick, as Stephen Covey would say, is “Begin with the End in Mind.”
What Technology is Right for Me? These days, there are a wide variety of leading-edge Business Intelligence (BI) solutions from which to choose. In many cases, organizations have a technology infrastructure that either includes BI or can be easily extended to take advantage of BI. Although each specific Bi technology will have its own strengths and weaknesses, most have the core functionality required to properly visualize performance relationships and supporting data. The bottom line here...organizations can (and should) leverage what they already own or can easily acquire without turning a performance enhancement project into a major technology acquisition exercise. A careful assessment of the organizational gaps in performance understanding and performance content development hand-in-hand with a review of exactly what capabilities exist within available technologies should be the first step to embarking on any major organizational performance improvement initiative.
Landmark-Intersol is a strategic partnership focused on helping organization’s develop and deploy practical performance information for decision making.
Mike Haley is Practice Lead of Performance Alignment at Landmark-Intersol and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott Hodge is a Principal Associate for Performance Alignment at Landmark-Intersol and can be reached at email@example.com.
For more information, visit us at www.intersol.ca