Understanding Performance

What is Performance?

Performance could be defined simply in terms of the achievement of quantified objectives. But performance is not only a matter of what people achieve but also how they are achieving it. A high performance result comes from appropriate behavior and the effective use of required knowledge, skills and competencies.

Performance management must examine how results are attained because this provides the information necessary to consider what needs to be done to improve those results. The concept of performance has been expressed by Brumbrach (1988) as follows: ‘Performance means both behaviors and results. Behavior emanates from the performer and transforms performance from abstraction to action.

Not just the instruments for results, behavior is also an outcome in its own right – the product of mental and physical effort applied to tasks – and can be judged apart from results. This definition of performance leads to the conclusion that when managing performance both behavior and results need to be considered.


It is not a question of simply considering the achievement of targets as used to happen in management-by-objectives scheme. Competence factors need to be included in the process. This is the so-called ‘mixed model’ of performance management, which covers the achievement of expected levels of competence as well as objective setting and review.

Significance of Performance

Performance is all about the core values of the organization. This is an aspect of behavior but it focuses on what people do to realize core values such as concern for quality, concern for people, concern for equal opportunity and operating ethically. It means converting espoused values into values in use: ensuring that the rhetoric becomes reality.

Meaning of Alignment

One of the most important purposes of performance management is to assign individual and organizational objectives. This means what people do at work leads to the achievement of organizational goals.

The real concept of performance is associated with an approach to creating a particular vision of purpose and aims of the organization, which will be helping each employee to understand and recognize their part of responsibilities by the help of which they will manage and enhance the performance of both individuals and the organization.

In an organization, alignment is a flow of objectives from the top to bottom and at each level, team or individual objectives are defined in comparison with higher-level goals. But it also should be a transparent process where individuals and teams are being given the opportunity to set their own goals within the framework defined by the purpose, strategy and values of the organization.

Objectives should be agreed, not set, and this agreement should be reached through the open dialogues that take place between managers and individuals throughout the year. In other words, this needs to be seen as a partnership in which responsibility is shared and mutual expectations are defined.

Managing Expectations

Performance management is essentially about the management of expectations. It creates a shared understanding of what is required to improve performance and how this will be achieved by clarifying and agreeing what people are expected to do and how they are expected to behave and uses these agreements as the basis for measurement, review and the preparation of plans for performance improvement and development.

The Significance of Discretionary Behavior

Performance management is concerned with the encouragement of productive discretionary behavior. Discretionary behavior refers to the choices that people make about how they carry out their work and the amount of effort, care, innovation and productive behavior they display.

It is the difference between people just doing a job and people doing a great job.