What is Performance Management?

To some people, performance management means collecting performance information. To others it implies a personal appraisal. We define performance management as: “Taking action in response to actual performance to make outcomes for users and the public better than they would otherwise be”. Action may be at individual, team, service, corporate or community level. Improvement to outcomes should benefit service users but does not always mean increased service levels – sometimes better outcomes can mean delivering better value for money. Reducing levels of service in one area may free up resources to be used more effectively elsewhere.

The term ‘performance management’ is used in different ways. We use it to mean corporate and service management of performance within a council (or other organisation or partnership). Other meanings, outside the scope of these pages, include personnel performance management (appraisals etc.) and central government’s performance framework of targets, indicators and so on, although both of these clearly overlap with performance management in our sense and are referred to in passing.

Performance management will look different in different places, but effective organisations share some common characteristics. These are:

  • real-time, regular and robust performance data
  • can-do culture inspired by strong leadership
  • agreed lines of individual accountability
  • clear performance management review, combining challenge and support
  • transparent set of performance rewards and sanctions

Effective performance management requires:

  • systematically deciding and communicating what needs to be done and having a plan for ensuring that it happens (plan)
  • getting on doing the work, whether by direct delivery, commissioning or working in partnership (do)
  • monitoring progress to allow early corrective action to be taken and ensuring performance information reaches the right people at the right time (review)
  • using the feedback to make appropriate decisions and take action to produce improvement (revise)

These plans and actions fit within a framework that we summarise as ‘plan, do, review, revise’. Through this framework, learning can be harnessed in a continuous cycle of improvement. All aspects of management overlap. For example, leadership is not in itself performance management but is essential to its effective use. To work well, it must be coordinated with other systems, such as financial management (directing resources to areas needing improvement or strategic priorities) and risk management (managing risks to avoid failure).

Contact us, to find out how we can enhance your performance management practices, and transform your business.

See also: Who is Look to Improve? and Our Services or click here to understand the benefits of performance management.


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