Measuring Progress: A Year-End Ritual

How well am I doing? Most of us are inclined to reflect on the past year and engage in some form of self-evaluation. Of course, there are formal processes as well that may be more prescribed and adhere to protocols and processes for measuring progress.

Results, the bottom line, outcomes, deliverables—are often used to describe expectations of workplace performance. If the organization’s culture specifies that quantification is the norm, this often suggests overlooking the means to the end, or in other words the processes engaged to arrive at the desired outcomes and measurable goals. This gives rise to important questions for leaders:

In an outcome-based culture, how can one evaluate individual performance if the only measure is output? How does the concept of equifinality fit into organizational thinking when it comes to performance?

There is considerable business literature that touts the value of team work, SMART goals, leading by example, the power of performance planning, and so forth. However, if performance is only based on a number or statistic, what about the qualitative behaviors that get a team or individual to the desired outcomes? How can an individual feel valued for her/his contributions if they are reduced to a digit on a performance evaluation?

As we near the end of 2016, many are engaged in the ritual of reviewing their performance plans and goals that were set/established a year prior. To this end, leaders may want to consider the following:

  • The individual’s contributions to the well-being or camaraderie of the unit.
  • The influence certain individuals have among peers without a formal leader or supervisor title.
  • How goals are met, not just that they are met; consider equifinality.
  • Feedback on a regular versus annual basis better allows individuals to recognize and celebrate progress.
  • How different individuals respond to praise; not everyone likes public recognition.
  • Remember how you measure progress—does it apply to all?
  • Recognize all outcomes, not just the ones that get headlines.

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One comment

  • Connie Fuller December 21, 2016   Reply →

    Patricia, I love your thoughts on equifinality. It is a concept I have embraced since I first learned of it many years ago. Unfortunately, it is not embraced by all. The notion that “there is only one way” to do anything defies reality. Your points are right-on!

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