Test Positive – The Secret of Transformation: Measure Impact In Our Performance Management System.

The best measurement for results is our “impact” – how we put in our effort, and whether we are helpful to others we work with.

By Pang Zijun, Facilitator/Implementation Consultant, Arbinger Singapore/Malaysia | January 19, 2021

We all talk about measuring impact: measuring business impact, or how and whether our money, time and investments have made a difference, and at times we use the word “impact” and “influence” interchangeably, but I would like to focus on a different definition of “impact” – my helpfulness to others.

Why is the “new” definition of impact so important?

Let’s have a look at it together.

A few years ago, I was leading a team of high school counsellors designing programs for students. We worked hard. We spent a lot of time on discussions, sacrificed weekends and holidays, and stayed up late to coordinate with colleagues in other countries. We put the program together, even translated it into different languages, and brainstormed marketing plans and sales strategies.

If you had asked me what I thought our “impact” was, I would have said it proudly and loudly that our impact was tremendous! Why not?! We invested so much time, effort, and energy. We were great!

But here is the thing – the program failed.

It did not fail because of clients’ dissatisfaction, nor poor business results, it failed simply because the marketing and sales team faced unimaginable challenges when marketing and selling the program the way WE designed: too many different themes hence market campaigns were lacking focus, added campaigns contributed to an increase in budget, etc. Sales weren’t getting quality leads or finding the opportunity cost wasn’t worthwhile when a client finally signed. What’s worse, the counsellors who were working and leading the program suffered when inconsistent “packages” made differentiation almost impossible to handle.

A lot of people left because of the program.

But let’s use the “impact” language and look at this situation again:

Despite everything mentioned earlier, our business impact was positive. The program was in the top range for similar competitor programs and generating 5-figure US dollars per client.

We also had positive results – clients were very happy with the services they received and the results they achieved; their feedback was great, and more clients came because of referrals.

However, when it comes to “helpfulness”, our impact was extremely negative on our colleagues.

It is not a secret that organizational transformation is all about transforming people, but the appropriate measurement and assessment of the transformation is merely discussed.

Too often, organizations only measure “output” (i.e., business impact) – what’s done, produced, and achieved – as their transformation results, however, the best measurement (or indicator) for results is our “impact” – how we put in our effort, and whether we are helpful to others we work with.

Measuring “what I do and achieve” is a self- focused silo thinking, however, measuring impact is only possible with an others-included collaborative mindset that encourages people to strengthen their commitment and reflect on “what I can do and what OTHERS can do as a result of my work”.

When it comes to performance management, organizations often think it’s too difficult to assess both the interactions within organizations and the impact of the individual employees on the organization.

Our experience, however, has been just the opposite, and we believe that there is a straightforward way to assess an employee’s impact on others. To do so properly requires an understanding of the organization and its objectives, but here are a few general suggestions:

  • Measure what an employee’s customers, colleagues, direct reports, and managers have been able to accomplish because of the efforts of the individual.
  • Tie evaluations, compensation, and career advancement to an employee’s impact on others, rather than basing them solely on individual KPIs.
  • Establish a culture in which employees hold themselves accountable for the impact of their work on others by regularly checking in with their stakeholders (boss, peers, subordinates, and customers) to better understand how their work is helping or undermining their stakeholders’ work.
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