Thursday, October 30, 2014

Track, Rank, & Publish

Over the past few weeks, I have had numerous conversations about performance management. Emanating from my last blog essay, “Beating Cadence, the Drumbeat of Performance Management”, the challenges and opportunities for implementing or improving performance management disciplines seem to cross industries and company sizes broadly. In those conversations, I have found myself referring back to an old practice that I call “Track, Rank & Publish.”

As I mentioned in my previous essay, I deeply believe in the practice and discipline of performance management in business. Keeping a steady “cadence” in that practice has been vital to my past success, and I shared a view in that essay of my “daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual” approach. What I want to elaborate here is that at every step of that “cadence,” I would use this idea of “Track, Rank, & Publish” to illuminate and communicate the status of the team’s performance not just as a whole, but broken down into more accountable entities. Simply put, we would “Track” performance with a regular cadence and I worked hard to eliminate any data/reporting issues that raised any questions with the reports. Second, we would “rank” performance by market, customer, and sales leader very simply high to low, first to worst, good to bad, ahead of plan -> on plan -> below plan, etc. Finally we would “publish” those results in a variety of forums, looking to stay on a “cadence” so the organization would see results and rankings regularly and become accustomed to the idea of “Track, Rank, & Publish.”

There are a number of approaches that I have used over the years to heighten the impact and awareness of the published rankings. One technique was to simply highlight the top 10% vs the bottom 10% of the ranked performance to spotlight the top and bottom performers. Clearly no one wants to be identified as a bottom performer and finding yourself in the bottom 10% was never a desired or comfortable outcome! Taking the smallest move to identify those groups in bold, or to color the top 10% in green (for money!!) and the bottom 10% in red (for stop!!) I was amazed by the impact of just color coding the list; if no one wants to be in the bottom 10%, then REALLY no one wants to be on that list when it is colored red!

Using another approach, I developed a report that I called the “Triple D” report in my last role where we tracked customer performance weekly and sorted the customers in three groups, “Drivers, Defectors, & Drains,” thus the “Triple D” report. To make the “Driver” list, the account had to have positive sales for the week vs year ago, a “Defector” showed no sales for the week and may be a lost or lapsed account, and a “Drain” account showed sales declines for the week vs year ago. Not only did we sort the accounts into these three groupings, we then ranked each list high to low, highlighting the biggest “Drivers, Defectors, & Drains” for the week. It didn’t take long for each sales leader to be watching this report like a hawk, emailing me quickly to emphasize that their customer was a significant “driver”, or WHY their customer was showing up on the “drains” list.

Regardless of approach or technique, the intent (like always) is to accelerate performance by heightening accountability across the organization. Think about your business context and find an approach that works for you, whether using the color coded top and bottom 10% approach, or something like the “Triple D” report, look for ways to expand the visibility and accountability of performance results and use the approach of “Track, Rank & Publish” to accelerate your teams performance!

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