Weighing up Performance 0.2

If you follow my blog you’ll know that I was attempting to pseudogamify my diet. The original post is here http://wp.me/p3wxuY-4e. I’m sort of attempting to apply techniques from the workplace to my quest to be less podgy.

Shortly after I posted the blog I caught a bug (that I’m squarely blaming Perry Timms for) and my exercise had to stop for a week or so. At that point my progress completely stopped and I patted myself on the back for doing so well… and ate a little more than I should.

More specifically, last Friday I consumed 1.5 bottles of Prosecco and 4 beers – having not had a drink for the previous month. This drinking was accompanied by two starters and a main (I randomly chose catfish, I’m putting that down to the drinking) at a very good Vietnamese restaurant. The bill worked out cheaper than I expected http://wp.me/p3wxuY-7H

Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) may be f...

I hadn’t put weight on after this, but I lost momentum. I don’t think this was the original gamified system failing, but it does show what can happen when something is unexpectedly derailed.

Performance Management

Being an HR type the natural thing to do when you lose momentum is to start some form of performance management process. I did this with the help of my wife, we sat down together and agreed weight loss targets for the both of us – and then we chose a reward for hitting our own targets – but let the other person choose the penalty for missing them.

I now have a target and a stretch goal for each two week period and a penalty if I miss target and a reward if I exceed the stretch goal.

It looks like this

  • Weigh in every two weeks (I weigh once a day, but this will be the snapshot)
  • If I lose 2lb in a fortnight, that’s ok
  • If I lose more than 3lb in two consecutive fortnights (or a combined 6lb in a month) I get to go to a sporting event of my choice
  • If I lose less than 2lb in any week I have to drag myself out of bed abnormally early on a Saturday morning and clean the bathrooms in our house – to the exacting standards laid down by my wife

This new approach seems to be working so far. I’ve got as much focus as I had before. I’m now down to 13st 8lb from 14st 13lb and I’ve potentially got an exciting reward lined up.

Parallels to organisations

Performance management isn’t the trendiest of topics, but there are some basic truths that I tried to capture in my approach

  • Rewards are most relevant where the individual has input into them and gets an element of choice. Choice makes us feel in control and control is important to people
  • Keep the timescales for measurement clear, transparent and relevant. Don’t wait for 6 months to have a performance conversation if identifiable pieces of work about being completed each month
  • Any sanctions should be made clear ahead of time and be a reasonable consequence of the lack of change
  • It helps to write it down – within 48 hours my wife had attempted to sneakily lower her target. I had an email where we had logged it to show what we had agreed. Writing things down is important because people remember things differently – particularly under pressure. It isn’t being bureaucratic – it is actually helpful to all involved
  • Reaffirm the positive opportunity as well, rather than just setting penalties
  • Cash rewards have less emotional resonance than an experience (hence the reason I’m not giving myself cash to buy something if I hit target, I’m giving myself an experience I’ll remember)
  • Socialising targets is a good way of building commitment to them

The last point, about socialising of goals and challenges, is often overlooked. If you want to sustain a change (and get others to recognise you are trying and to support you) the best way to do it is to be vulnerable enough to admit to the need to change.

The next time you have a struggling performer, please don’t take them in a quiet room for a chat and think you’ve done your bit because you asked  ‘what help do you need from me?’.

Ask ‘what support can we find you to help you get where you want to be?” or “is there anyone you’d really like to work with – or partner with – to get there faster?”.

The more people supporting them in the change, the more likely they are to succeed.