Managing Performance – From a Distance

So, you are a manager and your people are working from home – or on alternate days. How do you manage their performance long-distance? It’s a bit of a challenge, at least at first. Not because they are poor performers or you’re a poor manager. It’s a challenge because you’ll have to change your habits of communicating.

Remember how you used to tell them what to DO? With the details, sometimes: “Do this, then do that, and get Dave to do the other thing.”

No more. Performance is not about DOING anymore. It’s about DELIVERING. Borrow a term used by consultants: “Deliverables”. For a consultant, that’s what performance is: it’s a Deliverable. (I’m going to capitalize that word for a while because it’s important to learn to use it properly).

The whole world of performance has changed, because your “Goal Team” is now likely distributed, and you cannot assume that everyone understands the “big picture”. Now is the time to be clear with your people about the “Goal Deliverable(s)” – the product(s), service(s) and/or communication(s) to be delivered as the ultimate outcome of their work. If you haven’t had this conversation with them, they cannot see the larger purpose of what they are doing, so they are probably busy doing tasks and activities.

Once the Goal Team is familiar with the Goal Deliverable(s), work with them to identify all the other people, the necessary players, who will be involved in the accomplishment of the Goal Deliverable(s): their Collaborators, Resource suppliers, Authorities (not just you: include regulators and other rule-makers) and Beneficiaries (those who receive or benefit from the Goal Deliverable). Sound challenging? Maybe, but it’s what anyone who has a substantial goal or objective needs to figure out.

You have to “Know your CRABs”. You have been doing this for as long as you’ve been a manager, probably without saying it the way I’ve said it here. But now you need use the language and to train your Goal Team members about using it too. Your people will understand the CRABs idea: they know it takes Collaborators, Resource suppliers and Beneficiaries to accomplish anything substantive. They just never saw the whole circle before, and now it’s time. Introduce your Goal Team to their “Performance Circle” of CRABs, and invite their thoughts on how to expand, reduce or otherwise clarify it.

Note the Diagram that comes with this post:

  • The arrows are 2-way, indicating a central “Goal Owner”, i.e., your Goal Team members, will be in 2-way communication with each CRAB player, to create, commit to and support the fulfillment of Agreements – yours and theirs – to deliver goal-relevant Deliverables to one another.
  • Note also that the Collaborators, Resource suppliers and Beneficiaries have the same elements in their Agreements for goal-relevant Deliverables: Deliverable specifications, Schedules and Costs.
  • The Authorities have a slightly different set of elements in their Agreements – Deliverables, Goals, Rules & regulations, and/or Budgets – because, well, they are the people who have a say about the big-picture requirements for a Goal-Team’s work.

Your Goal Team members will come to learn that their job is not about DOING – it is about identifying the key players required to send and receive the goal-relevant Deliverables that will add up to their Goal Deliverable. They will learn about making Agreements with those key players to provide what is needed and when. And that means your Goal Team members will learn how to “manage” relationships with their CRABs to achieve the Goal Deliverable.

You’ve been doing this all along: you’ve always known there is an “end result”, the Goal Deliverable. But your Goal Team may not have seen that big picture Goal, or the Performance Circle of CRABs that contribute to its accomplishment. The key things they will discover for themselves are:

  1. They are a Goal Team. Every team (or department, or functional group, etc.) needs to be clear about its primary big-picture Goal. What is its ultimate Goal Deliverable? A product? A service? A communication? To whom? For whom? For what benefit? You can have this conversation with them and develop your own ways of saying it clearly.
  2. Every Goal Team has a “Performance Circle”. There are multiple “outsider” players necessary to accomplish a Goal Deliverable (finance people, IT experts, marketing consultants, regulatory agencies, etc.). Any Goal Team Member or any Collaborator, Resource supplier, Authority or Beneficiary can be made aware of the Team’s Goal and then be asked to commit to sending and/or receiving well-specified and goal-relevant products, services and/or communications, in support of the Team’s larger goal.
  3. Performance happens on the arrows. Performance is the product of a relationship – those two-way arrows between Goal Team members and the Collaborators, Resource suppliers and B Each relationship will establish Agreements for the delivery of the goal-relevant Deliverables needed – to and from Goal Team member(s) and CRAB member(s) – for the ultimate accomplishment of the Goal Deliverable. Each arrow in the Performance Circle is therefore a relationship and Agreements for Deliverables and a pathway for the delivery of those Deliverables. Paying attention to the arrows between the Goal Team and the CRABs will also reveal the difference between Doing, which happens in those “boxes”, and Deliverable Agreements, which happen on the “arrows”.

A high-performance Goal Team will identify their Performance Circle and establish the relationships that commit to and deliver their goal-relevant Deliverables to meet agreed-upon specifications, schedules, and costs. Some of your Goal Team Members may begin to operate like managers, sometimes making the promise to deliver, sometimes asking others to commit to fulfilling the promise – and sometimes both.

No need to get crabby about any of this. It’s a new day, one that calls for a shift between Doing Things like “tasks” and “activities”, to Delivering things like goal-relevant products, services and communications. You know how to do this, and how to coordinate this “performance circle” idea, with relationships that clarify Agreements and support the necessary Deliverables. Now you need to speak that language with your people, so they learn how to do that too.

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