By all accounts, performance management is more popular than ever. As an example, just a few years ago there were only three or four conferences dedicated to the topic. So far this year, I’ve already been to more than 10 and the conference season doesn’t even get into full swing until later this month.
Why the extraordinary rise in popularity? As an unabashed proponent of performance management, I’d like to chalk it up to the fact that stories of organizations dramatically improving their performance have inspired others to follow suit. Gary Cokins has another theory. He attributes the spread of performance management to the rise of social networking. With technologies like blogs and wikis, word of mouth travels more quickly than it did in the past.
It is an interesting idea but it doesn’t explain why performance management specifically has grown more popular while other related topics – like profitability analysis or risk management – still languish in relative obscurity. Personally, I think it has more to do with the people spreading the word than the mechanisms that they are using. Using the categorizations that Malcolm Gladwell popularized in The Tipping Point, performance management has moved beyond a few charismatic “salesmen” and is now firmly rooted in the “connectors”, causing a small world phenomena. The bloggers may serve as “mavens” making sure that the vendors and consultants’ claims aren’t too overly exaggerated but the source of the epidemic is the adoption by well-connected influencers.
Performance management may not yet be a social epidemic but it definitely seems to be reaching its tipping point.