Dynamic Alignment works in any performance management process
The whole idea behind performance management is to align effort, achieve results, and, at its core, motivate your team members. The problem is, the old models aren’t nearly as effective anymore. They don’t work when an organization needs to adjust to rapidly changing circumstances, because many of our performance management processes are built for stability and static alignment. Traditionally, it’s based on the carrot and the stick principle. Goals are set. Progress is tracked over time. If you perform well, you’re rewarded. If not, rewards are withheld. The tension with a process that rewards alignment when agility is needed, is often demotivating. Goals are not connected to results because of shifting priorities, and people feel their efforts are wasted.
No matter what your formal performance management process, you can still use Dynamic Alignment to get more out of it. The techniques manage the tension between alignment and agility, reducing frustration from wasted effort, which increases motivation – and engagement.
4 Ways to Build Dynamic Alignment
- Dynamic Alignment still starts with setting goals. But the first step to support a motivating process is to ensure that your team members understand the goals are creating clarity, not certainty. From the beginning set the expectation that these are the goals AND they will most likely change in priority, scope, etc. This aligns expectations and builds trust because they aren’t caught off guard or frustrated by priority shifts when they invariably happen. Let your team members know that opportunities and challenges will arise for the business and the team. You may find that a particular path is not taking them where the team needs to go. Encourage your team members to discuss opportunities and challenges they see over time that may indicate a course correction is needed. This gives them the opportunity to be a co-creator in priority shifts. The shifts are done with them, not to them.
- When priority shifts happen, it’s essential to explain why and check for deeper understanding. Why is this more important than our previous priority? How will it create bigger, better, or more critical impact? Why is it a good thing for our customers or clients? Explain that it’s not personal. It’s not because the individual is doing a poor job or was focused on the wrong thing. When a person understands the why, it allows them to connect to their personal why, increasing their engagement and motivation.
- When a project or work deliverable is deprioritized, have a conversation about what can be used from the work that has already been done. Frustration increases and motivation decreases when we make progress against a goal, only to have it be deprioritized — especially when it happens repeatedly. It’s like rolling the boulder up the hill and having it roll back down. People begin to see less and less value in putting in the effort when they perceive it’s just going to be for nothing. How can it be applied to the new priorities? What did we learn along the way that could have a positive impact on the new priorities? What skills did they hone? Recognize the value that the effort to-date has created.
- Dynamic Alignment must be horizontal as well. When your team’s priorities are being realigned, demotivation is still a threat if alignment doesn’t exist with the people they need to collaborate with to make things happen. Cross-boundary misalignment often leads to conflict, confusion, and isolation. When left unresolved, collaboration is seen as a punishment, not engaging and valuable.
And it can be leveraged within whatever performance management process your organization uses.