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Managing performance: Lessons learned from the World Cup

Did you watch the World Cup? Every four years we gather to cheer the best team, and every World Cup holds a surprise - be it the birth of a new ace, the rise of a new team or the fall of a star.

I'm not a big fan of football but I still enjoy it enough to know that the Brazilian team is one of the best out there. Unfortunately, the end result, as we know now, is not what we expected.

Regardless of the result, the World Cup gives us insights on what we need to manage and drive performance, especially under uncertain and unexpected circumstances, to become successful.

Here are three valuable lessons for your company's performance:

Lesson 1: Having a talent pool is critical and so is building a team that understands how they can contribute to the goal(s).

There is no doubt that it is critical to identify a talent pool to drive and accelerate the business and execute the company's strategy. However, what is equally important but is very much underrated is to build a team or to have everyone in your company know what actions they must take to get the job done while understanding how their work could contribute to the overall company's objectives at the same time.

In other words, this is about "alignment" of the top, the middle and the bottom of the organisation. It is about whether the vision and mission of the company have been lost despite being displayed prominently on the office wall and proudly on the company's website.

Take a look at your company and see if each department is working in "silos" and possibly affecting speed and cost with some doubt in the fairness of the performance-appraisal process. If yes, this implies that your people are still focused on merely day-to-day work with no concerns on whatever other people or other departments are currently doing. The danger here is that even if one department meets its own goals whereas the others fail, then the entire company fails.

On the other hand, when your people understand how their work is contributing to the goal, you will see more explicit results of collaboration across and within departments along with engagement in their work and repeated stable success. After all, engagement is not only about building a good place to work in, it is also about how clear people are on where they are heading.

Lesson 2: Constant and consistent follow up and feedback.

Managing and driving performance through a performance appraisal is a time-specific event happening possibly every six or 12 months, just like the World Cup taking place every four years.

However, performance appraisal is only about managing past performances without setting clear goals in a timely manner, which could eventually become troublesome in several perspectives. That is why many organisations opt for a holistic performance-management system instead. Still, it would be difficult to change your existing performance appraisals overnight to a more integrated system - so what can be done differently in the meantime?

Start following up on actions with your people and don't assume that everyone is clear on what actions were agreed in a meeting. People may have questions and face challenges on the job but could not voice it to you; consequently, work is delayed and left undone. That is why following up is vital.

Such action does not have to be formal. Let's picture this: You simply go around your team asking, "How are things going?" or "How are they doing?" and "How can I help you?" and just wait and see where that conversation leads. You may be surprised at what you find.

Afterwards, it is about giving feedback on what was done well and what can be done better, as giving feedback right away when things are still fresh in our minds could have strong impacts on both sides.

With constant follow-up and feedback, and doing a formal performance appraisal, you don't have to worry whether you will forget any past performances; instead, conversations could focus on the future.

Lesson 3: It's not just about people, it's also about having the right system.

A lot of people complained after the loss of the Brazilian team, saying that manager Luiz Felipe Scolari should have done a better job at analysing competitors and preparing the team. However, there was one point in his career when Scolari was considered a great coach and player, but the main question people often overlooked was, "Is that enough?"

There is no doubt that the quality of leadership is ultimately one of the drivers behind a company's performance, and that is why many companies invest so much in building leadership capabilities. However, leadership alone is not always enough to manage and sustain a company's performance. Rather, it takes a good system that helps align goals and key performance indicators of each department and identify how close the company is to achieving its goals while defining strong selling points as well as weak areas where resources are needed to drive numbers and more valuable insights to accelerate the overall organisational performance. Once the organisation is well equipped with these data, leaders can use this information to lead and guide their people more effectively and efficiently.

Now, although World Cup 2014 is over and we all know who the winner is, there are five more months left in 2014 for organisations; thus, start identifying where your company is now and plan to stay ahead in 2015 and many more years to come.

Iris Kim is a principal consultant specialising in strategic people transformation at APMGroup. You can contact her at Iris_k@apm.co.th.


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