Performance Management Defined (and Debated)

Throwing down the blogging gauntlet, Michael asks a simple – but provocative – question:

How would […] you define Performance Management and what does it mean when it is successfully implemented?

My initial reaction was to borrow a phrase from Justice Potter Stewart: I’m not sure I can define performance management, but I know it when I see it. This may well be true but it’s hardly useful for our collective readers.

The term performance management seems to have become even more popular than when I ran my informal experiment three years ago.  A Yahoo! search for performance management now returns more than 45 million results.  While this tripling may not mean much due to changes in the underlying algorithm, it is enlightening to realize that performance management is now almost double the 25 million search results for customer relationship management.  Clearly, 200% growth for performance management compared to 50% for customer relationship management suggests that the former is a hotter market.

Unfortunately, checking the sponsored ads for the search confirms that the term performance management still is being used in many different ways.   As before, the most popular use appears to be workforce performance management (aka human capital management), followed by financial, operational and IT performance management.  To help reduce confusion between these terms, I’ve previously tried to disambiguate the different subcategories.

As for a definition, from my point of view not much has changed since 2005 when I tried to demystify performance management and provided the following explanation:

Performance management’s focus is on creating methodical and predictable ways to improve business results, or performance, across organizations. Simply put, performance management helps organizations achieve their strategic goals.

This isn’t a formal definition but perhaps it can serve as a starting point for the three of us to come up with a shared view.  Gary, what do you think?

2 Responses to Performance Management Defined (and Debated)

  1. Timo Elliott September 20, 2009 at 10:07 am #

    Aargh! Here goes the “death by definition” spiral….

    Anybody have real, concrete examples of how having a definition will actually help somebody? (i.e. the goal of the exercise)

    I’ve seen the term “business intelligence” debated for 20 years, without any impact on the real word…

  2. Michael Ensley September 23, 2009 at 6:35 am #

    Here is a link to my definition and the framework I use when defining Performance Management:

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