#59 How to Rebut 3 Common Objections to Measuring Performance

December 7, 2010 by Stacey Barr

You’ve done your research, you’ve prepared your case, and your next step is to try and convince managers and colleagues to endorse your proposal for a performance measurement project. And you brace yourself because you know what’s coming…

It will be a torrent of ‘yeah-buts’ – basically, objections to giving time, money or effort to performance measurement. Are you going to sit back and take it, or do something about it before it even happens?

OBJECTION 1: Performance measurement hasn’t worked in the past.

What’s happening with this objection is that the person is assuming that because there has so far been no successful approach to performance measurement, that means there can’t be a successful approach in the future. Your focus should be on raising and challenging this assumption, and offering an approach to performance measurement that acknowledges the causes of failure and show how that approach solves those causes.

A constructive response: “You’re absolutely right that performance measurement has had problems – we’ve got too many measures, people don’t find the measures useful, they don’t align to our strategy and staff are spending too much time collecting data for these useless measures. So if we want performance measurement to succeed, we obviously need to take a different approach, and an approach that deliberately solves and prevents these kinds of problems. Here’s how my proposed approach does that…”

OBJECTION 2: We don’t have time for performance measurement.

At the foundation of this objection is the assumption that everything people are currently doing is of a higher priority than performance measurement. We already know that people spend a lot of time on urgent things that aren’t in alignment with strategy or that are rework resulting from ineffective or inefficient processes. You simply need to highlight how good performance measures can reduce the time wasted on these kinds of activities, and therefore is of a higher priority than these activities.

A constructive response: “I agree – it seems like we’re all getting busier and busier and the last thing we need is something ELSE to try and squeeze into our days. And yet I can’t help noticing how a good proportion of the things we do can be done so much easier and quicker. For example, [insert some well-research examples from your organisation]. I truly believe that it’s better to risk taking time out from some of these urgent-but-not-important activities, in order to prevent them from continuing to happen in the future.”

OBJECTION 3: We already know what matters, performance measures won’t tell us anything new.

The assumption propping up this objection is that just by looking around or relying on our experience with the work we do, we can see and know everything that matters. But the truth is, we all have biases caused by our values and moods and what we notice and what we don’t notice. And these biases prevent us from seeing objectively the patterns and trends that data can show us more quickly and easily. It’s not hard to demonstrate this with a few examples of how data has led people to surprising and valuable insights they otherwise would have missed.

A constructive response: “Our people have a fantastic knowledge of the work they do and a very strong commitment to doing their best. Our job is to empower them, so they can more easily focus on what will produce the best results. We can’t expect them to simultaneously watch the big picture as well as what’s right in front of them. Performance measures are great for showing them what’s happening in the big picture, quickly and easily, so they can make the best choices about what’s currently in front of them. For example, [insert some examples of how performance measures have produced insights that no-one noticed from just looking around].”

Be prepared, respectful, honest and focused on the big picture.

Handling objections to performance measurement requires that you dig a little deeper to understand the assumptions people are making that lead to their objections, raising those assumptions so everyone realises they are there, and then stimulating some dialogue to move beyond the objection.

It’s not about being a smarty-pants or winning a debate with the person who voices the objection. It’s about elevating the dialogue to a constructive level, so you can all get a better understanding and movement forward.

TAKE ACTION:
Which of these three objections is blocking your path to better performance measurement? Take pen to paper for 15 minutes and prepare some well-informed, respectful and constructive responses to the ways you expect this objection to be expressed by your managers or colleagues.

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  1. Dan Hillman says:

    I hear, all too frequently from managers and staff: “we don’t have time…”

    One of the reasons supervisors and managers do not “have time” is they are performing tasks that their staff should be doing, ergo, they are not “managing”. Performance measurement and management is MANAGEMENT…and supervisors and managers have to learn, and understand, this is their principal responsibility. The greater percentage of their daily routine should be committed to “management tasks”…and one of them is performance management. If you accept the title of manager, get paid management wages, then “manage”.

  2. Stacey Barr says:

    I agree, Dan. Making time for measurement is important, and often that time needs to be made by stopping something else. Here’s a link to a webcast I did in 2010 for bettermanagement.com that discusses some ideas for making time for performance measurement:
    http://www.bettermanagement.com/seminars/seminar.aspx?l=15048

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