Innovating the Practice of Performance Management

February 11, 2009
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Everywhere you turn in the business media there are articles about how to manage during an economic downturn. Even I have written a recent blog on this topic titled ABBA: Take a Chance on Me … Choose Performance Management in an Ailing Economy. Many of these articles are advocating the author’s special interest angle. But I recently read one that I like that is titled Managing in a Downturn – the Time is Ripe for New Ideas by Lynda Gratton of the London Business School. A key quote of hers refers to the impact on managing of an economic:

Accepted wisdoms are challenged and this break in thinking can result in the adoption of new practices and the adoption of new habits and skills. These pressures and fissures – while difficult at the time – can yield fresh ideas, engaging experiments and interesting adaptations in the long run… 


Everywhere you turn in the business media there are articles about how to manage during an economic downturn. Even I have written a recent blog on this topic titled ABBA: Take a Chance on Me … Choose Performance Management in an Ailing Economy. Many of these articles are advocating the author’s special interest angle. But I recently read one that I like that is titled Managing in a Downturn – the Time is Ripe for New Ideas by Lynda Gratton of the London Business School. A key quote of hers refers to the impact on managing of an economic:

Accepted wisdoms are challenged and this break in thinking can result in the adoption of new practices and the adoption of new habits and skills. These pressures and fissures – while difficult at the time – can yield fresh ideas, engaging experiments and interesting adaptations in the long run. This is important because while many managers are adept at innovating products and services, few have been adept at innovating the practice of management itself. As a consequence, businesses are often cluttered with increasingly outdated ways of managing: performance management processes that were invented in the 1950s…

What impedes innovation in managing? It may be helpful to step back and think about what it means to manage an organization. Of course there are business schools, executive education programs, and MBA degrees that imply that managing is a formal profession, but it is not nearly as formalized as in fields such as engineering, law, or medicine. In those fields, there are bodies of accumulated wisdom well documented with rules and knowledge so that each successive decade those fields can improve upon themselves. For example, bloodletting is fortunately a medical practice of the past, and there’s been great progress since then. However, managing organizations hardly compares to these fields. New management fads routinely surface, and managers quickly purchase the next popular books heralding the fad as the solution.

What is needed?

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