Performance management is more popular than ever; it’s practically an epidemic. 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 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. However, Gary Cokins has another theory (no longer available). 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 has grown more popular while other related topics – like profitability analysis or risk management – still languish in relative obscurity. Another possibility is based on the categorizations that Malcolm Gladwell popularized in the boo 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. Using this characterization and tying it back to Cokins’ idea, bloggers may serve as “mavens” who make sure the vendors and consultants’ claims aren’t too exaggerated. In either case, the source of the epidemic is adoption by well-connected influencers.
The skeptic in me can’t help wondering if the discipline of performance management has actually become more popular or if the phrase is just being used more often. Maybe we’re all being subjected to greenwashing.
Performance management may not really be an epidemic just yet but it definitely feels like its reaching a tipping point.