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Santa’s Performance Management Process

By Jim Hartigan
December 6, 2010

Hello.  My name is Jingle and I’m one of Santa’s elves.  To state the obvious, managing any team is a demanding task.  It’s a balancing act—completing your own responsibilities while remaining available to support your employees.  It’s something with which every manager struggles.  But imagine if your own responsibilities included single-handedly bringing a smile to the face of millions of children every year.  And on top of that, you’re responsible for supporting a team of, say, 300,000 employees (give or take a few thousand).  That’s why we, the elves of The North Pole, didn’t give Santa too much flak in the old days.  If we were lucky, we’d get 5 minutes of face time with him ... our manager ... per year!  But, we didn’t complain too much.  After all, we are a naturally autonomous and industrious people.  But, behind closed doors, some elves began to chatter.  You’d hear whispers of walk-outs, mumbles of unionization, and production numbers began to decline.  Even the dim-witted reindeer, with their walnut-sized brains, would occasionally take a break from inhaling slop from their feedbags to actually form sentences (using mono-syllabic words, mind you) along the lines of “Fat Man no like us.”  Ugh.  Foul beasts.  Anyhow, Santa, busy as he was, remained completely oblivious to the crumbling morale and deteriorating productivity.  However, once the perceptive Mrs. Claus caught on, everything changed.
“Kris,” Mrs. Claus said that evening.  “Explain your Performance Management strategy to me.”  Santa froze, dropping his glass of milk onto the floor.  He looked right back at Mrs. Claus, and admitted that he had none.  From that day forward, the Performance Management process up here at The North Pole has improved drastically.  Santa called the entire senior management team into his study and explained the new Performance Management plan.  And in the spirit of the season, I’d like to share the details of that plan with you.
Let’s begin at the beginning.  What is “Performance Management” anyway?  Performance Management is a general term that refers to the activities an organization performs to ensure its vision, mission, strategies, and goals are effectively carried out by the team.  If you were to put any successful Performance Management plan under a microscope, you’d notice three common elements: Performance Planning, Day-to-Day Coaching, and Performance Evaluations.  So, let’s take just a moment and look at each of these elements in greater detail.
Performance Planning
In her article entitled “Where Have All the Managers Gone,” Madeline Homan Blanchard describes Performance Planning as the process “where goals, objectives, and performance standards are established.”  Conversely, an example of Santa’s old idea of Performance Planning can be found in a memo sent on Dec. 26, 1987 (the beginning of our fiscal year).  Santa writes, “Popping down to Rio de Janeiro to mellow out for a few weeks.  Keep up the good work, y’all.”  Of course, this was prior to the Mrs. Claus intervention.  
So, what does Performance Planning look like in real life?  In short, it’s a way of describing to your employees exactly what is expected of them.  A thorough job analysis, as described in the our Memphis Elf Jim Hartigan’s past articles on Job Knowledge Testing, and a position analysis, as he described in his article on Succession Planning will help to identify those goals, objectives, and performance standards you want to communicate to your team.  The standards set forth should follow the “SMART” rule; that is, they should be Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Timely.  Consider soliciting feedback from the team as you develop your plan.  The more involved an employee is in the planning process, the clearer their objectives will be.
Day-to-Day Coaching
After the plan has been laid out, it’s the manager’s responsibility to keep the communication lines open with the team to ensure it is being carried out successfully.  In Performance Management, this is referred to as Day-to-Day Coaching.  Blanchard describes this step as the time for managers to observe and monitor the performance of their employees, offering praise and redirection when necessary.
The organizational benefits of day-to-day coaching are many.  In addition to providing the manager with critical input on his or her team’s ability and willingness to carry out the company’s mission, it also demonstrates to the team that the manager is fully invested in their success.  Employees are more willing to go to bat for a manager that they feel is in their corner.  For example, Santa was pleased to see the “Baby-Wets-A-Lot” numbers go off the charts once he implemented the weekly status update meetings with his senior management team.  They were simple meetings that gave us all a chance to connect with one another over a cup of eggnog and talk about our projects in a casual environment.
Performance Evaluation
The third and final element of a successful Performance Management plan is the Performance Evaluation.  Blanchard’s definition of a Performance Evaluation is “where managers sit down with employees after a period of time and review their performance.”  Oftentimes, employees dread the Performance Evaluation.  Many view it as the annual event that makes or breaks their job or level of compensation.  We elves viewed it as more of a joke back in the day.  Half the time, Santa didn’t even know our names.  By 1984, I had been Santa’s Senior Operations Manager for Europe and Asia for 3 years and he still called me “dude.”  Not because we were that friendly, but because he had no idea what my name was.
But I digress.  How often and by what medium you conduct Performance Evaluations is determined by your corporate culture.  Whether your organization follows the traditional annual performance review or the process is ongoing and cumulative throughout the year is up to you.  Whatever you choose, if the preceding steps were executed properly, there should be no surprises for the employee or manager during the Performance Evaluation.
I hope you’ve found this brief introduction to Performance Management beneficial!  In the many years I’ve spent working for Santa Claus, I’ve witnessed the right way and the wrong way to manage the performance of a large team.  Just because the average height of his employees is less than 2 feet doesn’t make it any less difficult.  Nothing threatens to break down a team’s morale and productivity quite like poorly-managed performance.  That’s why we take it so seriously in The North Pole!

About the Author:
Jim Hartigan, Chief Business Development Officer and Partner joined OrgWide Services, a Training/e-Learning, Communications, Surveys and Consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim’s last position was that of Senior Vice President – Global Brand Services where he provided strategic leadership and business development and support to the $22B enterprise of 10 brands and more than 3,400 hotels in 80 countries around the world. His team was responsible for ensuring excellence in system product quality, customer satisfaction, market research, brand management, media planning, and sustainability.

Jim Hartigan
Chief Business Development Officer & Partner
OrgWide Services
165 N. Main Street, Suite 202
Collierville, TN 38017
office: 901.850.8190  Ext. 230
mobile: 901.628.6586

Recent Articles:

Hospitality Employee Selection and the Venus Fly Trap – A Study in Floral Business Acumen / Jim Hartigan / December 2010
The Right Tool for the job makes all the difference in the world! / Jim Hartigan / October 2010
Restore Honor to Your Organization: Succession Planning…the Ninja Way / Jim Hartigan / October 2010
Measure to Manage – The importance of KPIs ... and vampires / Jim Hartigan / September 2010
For Everything There is a Season - Including Budgets / Jim Hartigan / August 2010
Say What? Listen, Learn, and Act–Why Guess, When You Can Know Redux / Jim Hartigan / August 2010
Why Guess When You Can Know - Maximizing the Effectiveness of Your Workplace Surveys / Jim Hartigan / August 2010
Team Member Segmentation in the Workplace…or “If everyone brought potato salad to the picnic – it wouldn’t be much of a picnic!” / Jim Hartigan / July 2010
The Power of Effective Communication in the Workplace (and our Founding Fathers’ unrivaled Tweeting abilities) / Jim Hartigan / July 2010


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