The individual or the system?

Simon Caulkin in his Observer column yesterday shows clearly how an obsession with performance management, or how the individual is performing within organisation, is blinding us to possibility that what may really need reform are the systems which organisation uses.

 When Britain’s athletics coach publicly ‘named and shamed’ individual team members for their disappointing showing at a recent European championships, his words could have no effect on their technical ability. Running faster or jumping further is a matter of physical conditioning that takes months of training, diet and practice. Instead, he obviously believed he could affect their attitude – that he could improve their performance by motivating them to try harder. He was doing – or trying to do – performance management.

According to Caulkin, too many organisational managers – whether they be in factories, in customer services,in the NHS, or in education or whatever, do something analogous to what the coach did and do it with about as much success.

Anybody in thrall of performance management as the cure for all ills, and you do would not have to throw a stick in any organisation to find somebody of that ilk, would do well to read Caulkin’s thought -provoking piece more than once and consider carefully his assertion that “performance management too often consists of trying to make people do the wrong thing righter” 


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