Focus on Performance
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4. Implement an integrated performance management system that supports a culture of coaching accountability and development. At Zappos.com, CEO Tony Hsieh regularly takes employees from all levels out for a night on the town. In fact, managers at the online shoe and clothing retailer are encouraged to interact socially with direct reports.
But beneath the socializing lies a host of metrics and performance measurement targets. Everyone in the company knows what is expected of them and knows the company's overall performance goals. These goals are discussed regularly at weekly or semi-daily meetings, which are both casual in format but clear in purpose. And, guess what? None of the goals are numbers based! The most important metric for Zappos employees, from the warehouse folks to the IT managers, is how well they are living up to the company's 10 core values in their daily job performance and decision making.
Zappos reinforces this process with regular meetings and honest, transparent feedback to employees. We all know that it's bad to have too many meetings, but setting goals without setting aside time for face-to-face interaction is a sure way to derail an organization. This can be particularly tempting in IT organizations, where everyone is used to electronic communication.
5. Sponsor regular performance-focused meetings that allow the opportunity to re-assess strategy, goals and objectives and quickly change course. While regular meetings are needed to keep everyone on track, equally important are "big-think" meetings to reassess strategic issues. In any organization, changing a plan or a way of doing business is difficult and disruptive. But creating mechanisms to facilitate these types of changes are essential, either to communicate and get feedback on major course shifts by management or to harvest very useful ideas bubbling up from the ranks.
Marissa Mayer, the top VP in charge of Google's user interface, has regular office hours when employees can come to her with ideas and concerns. And engineers on Google's Gmail team can spontaneously call major strategy meetings that can quickly result in seismic shifts. Usually, these meetings are precipitated either by what an engineer sees as a missed opportunity or a major failure requiring some sort of course correction. A continued ability to change direction, marshal the appropriate resources and meet a specific challenge strongly represents organizational agility.
Building a framework for a values-based agile IT organization or department is no easy thing. But when IT leaders turn to a values-based performance management strategy, they can better position themselves as catalysts of agility throughout the enterprise.
Organizations that can agree on values and goals and can also stick to the program or, if necessary, change the program to keep the lofty mission in their sights, can maintain agility required to achieve the highest levels of performance.
Charlie Moss is founder of The Moss Group, a strategic consulting firm.