This week I have further reflected upon the Measure what matters, in particular the question: how do we know that we are on the right track even when we have set our mission, objectives and key results?
In order to reach our Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), these should be supported by what John Doerr calls the CFRs of performance management.
The CFR stands for Conversations, Feedback and Recognition that together form the best support system for high performing teams, individuals and organisations.
The CFRs are so powerful that many companies have actually ditched the annual performance reviews and focus much more on generating processes that enable individuals succeed and fail faster:
“When companies replace- or at least augment- the annual review with ongoing conversations and real-time feedback, they’re better able to make improvements throughout the year. Alignment and transparency become everyday imperatives. When employees are struggling, their managers don’t sit and wait for some scheduled day of reckoning. They jump into tough discussions like firefighters, without hesitation” (p. 178).
The real-time feedback and recognition in particular enable faster pivoting but also lift the individuals into a position where they feel supported and are able to do better work.
Using the CFRs moves everyone forward and enables quicker decisions when you know what is really going on with your team.
Conversations are one-on-one discussions between a manager and an employee.
These conversations are authentic and focus on enabling both parties to keep the line of communication open, discuss what is going well and also identify potential challenges that might impede progress.
Some of the key questions for having focused conversations can include (p. 180):
- What are you working on?
- How are you doing; how are your OKRs coming along?
- Is there anything impeding your work?
- What do you need from me to be (more) successful?
- How do you need to grow to achieve your career goals?
These conversations can take place on monthly basis or even weekly, depending on the relationship and need of both parties.
But the key is to keep these conversations ongoing and really focus on the underlying factors of people’s lives, thoughts, and aspirations that often impact on day-to-day work.
Five core factors that can be touched upon include goal setting and reflection, ongoing progress updates (including problem-solving if needed), two-way coaching, career growth, and lightweight performance reviews that focus on reporting on progress since the last meeting.
Asking these kinds of questions helps to keep track how people are doing, what’s on their mind, and also reduce potential misunderstandings or mistakes that could otherwise flourish.
“If you don’t know how well you are performing, how can you possibly get better?” (p. 184)
The opportunities for ongoing feedback are key in keeping everyone on track, enabling employees and managers spot potential problems but also to discover opportunities that might be otherwise missed.
Useful feedback is detailed.
Such feedback details what specific behaviours or actions the individual has taken, and how these are perceived by others.
For example, giving positive feedback on how someone led a meeting or handled a presentation gives the other person an opportunity to understand how they are coming across.
But feedback is not just about performance tracking between a manager and an employee.
Feedback also includes insights from colleagues and other team members in how an individual is tracking or how a particular product/idea is being progressed.
Peer-feedback is really essential especially in cases where individuals work across large organisations and teams as this allows the interdepartmental teamwork to flourish.
Recognition is about recognising often in real-time when and where individuals are excelling.
Rather than waiting for a formal opportunity, great managers and team members recognise good work and communicate this recognition as part of the work place culture:
“Gone are the days when gold watches were coveted awards for simple longevity. Modern recognition is performance-based and horizontal. It crowdsources meritocracy” (p. 186).
This includes big and small wins, particular behaviours that are helpful and drive the vision forward.
To implement recognition within an organisation, Doerr recommends to consider these five areas (p. 186-187):
- Institute peer-to-peer recognition. These can be e.g. scheduled meetings where workers recognise each other for excellence and create a culture of gratitude.
- Establish clear criteria. Recognise people for what they have achieved and how they have demonstrated your company’s values.
- Share recognition stories. These can be included in company newsletters or blogs that showcase individuals who have gone the extra mile.
- Make recognition frequent and attainable. These can be just noticing small actions, extra tasks completed, or particular daily tasks that many of us take for granted.
- Tie recognition to company goals and strategies. Whatever the company’s goals are, recognise people in how they are achieving these e.g. teamwork, innovation.
CFRs as part of organisational mindset
Much of the work around CFRs will eventually become (or should become) integral part of the company mindset where good work is noticed, people are encouraged, and there is a real-time element of knowing how things are going across the board.
For some, this might sound tedious and like a massive increase in workload if managers have so many employees that running even the annual performance reviews is a pain.
But the beauty of CFRs really lies in the fact that they give you real-time data and alert you to potential challenges that also impact your own Objectives and Key Results.
Reading this book has made me even more grateful for my supervisor who uses the CFRs beautifully in a way that enables others to do better and achieve more.
We should never underestimate the power that lies in deep conversations, timely and detailed feedback, and that recognises the big and little wins along the way.
Embedding CFRs can indeed transform organisations and lives but only if we are truly wedded to the process and use it to uplift others and ourselves.