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Common Goals: Developing an Approach to Performance Management Across an Organization

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Timothy Dodd
July 7, 2017

Through journal articles, books and speeches, many performance management experts focus on the Larson - performanceimportance of leadership in implementing performance management programs in government entities. Buy-in from leadership is critical — without a clear-cut vision of the goals of the organization, a performance management program becomes almost meaningless. Developing clear missions and visions are important to ensure outcomes, goals, activities and metrics are aligned across the organization. Ultimately, a robust performance management program identifies an organization’s purpose and connects its functions to its purpose.

While no one doubts the importance of leadership buy-in, the lack of focus on buy-in throughout an organization is somewhat surprising. After all, municipal employees, especially those in Civic Service positions, tend to stay for many years, often longer than elected and appointed officials at the top of an organization’s hierarchy. Ensuring all employees understand their role in achieving its goals and meetings its ultimate purpose is critical to ensure their buy-in and that the organization is working together to achieve collective goals.

This fits with the idea of public service motivation theory, developed by industrial organizational (IO) psychologists. This theory holds that people who choose to enter public service are inherently driven by factors different from those who are driven to work in the private sector and aligns their career choice with their desire to serve the public. An effective performance management program ensures the career goals of individual employees align with the achievement of large-scale organizational goals.

While engaging employees across an organization is critical, it is not an easy task, especially due to the large size of most government entities.

Engaging employees should include:

  • Developing common language - Common performance management terms, such as goals, outcomes, activities, projects, metrics, measures, indicators and benchmarking should be clearly defined. Communicate this information clearly and reinforce it in any communications on the subject.
  • Training - Provide information on performance management in a way that is accessible to employees across the organization. Training sessions should include activities that relate to everyday work.
  • Connection to employee evaluations - Many employees feel evaluation processes lack meaning, in large part because they are not evaluated in areas related to their work towards achieving goals of an organization. Developing an effective and efficient employee evaluation program, which connects individual accomplishments to organizational ones.

Develop a performance management program that involves and engages employees across an organization. This organizational buy-in ensures performance management is not just a flash in the pan connected to an individual leader, but rather an organizational approach to performance leadership.


Author: Tim Dodd is the Chief Performance Officer for the City of Santa Monica, CA, previously serving as the Performance Manager for the City of Baltimore and Director of Performance Management for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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