Practitioner Interview: Salman Atiah Al-Zahrany
In 2017, the Performance Magazine editorial team interviewed Salman Atiah Al-Zahrany, Business Planning and Corporate Performance Manager at MARAFIQ Company, Saudi Arabia. His thoughts and views on Performance Management are presented in detail below.
”The main element within Performance Management in need of dire improvement I would say is the discipline of strategy execution.”
- Which were the key trends in Performance Management, from your point of view, as seen in 2016?
The key trend that I have seen is the alignment of different levels of the organization through its Performance Management System (PMS). The PMS is not just a tool that measures performance, but it is also a very important factor in setting smart objectives for organizations and employees alike.
- What are your thoughts on the integration of Performance Management at organizational, departmental and employee level?
It is crucial that organizations have a PMS and cascade it at all levels, to ensure progress towards achieving the company-wide objectives.
- Which will be the major changes in managing performance, in the future?
I believe the major change is the emphasis put on linking employee performance with the company’s performance. In other words, aligning employee objectives with company objectives.
- What aspects of Performance Management should be explored more through research?
There two areas that require focus, the first one being PM visualizations being made simpler, easier to use and more streamlined, to help decision-making, with the second one focusing on making said visualizations more dynamic, to accommodate changes/updates and require less human interference, so as to not misinform those looking at the data.
- Which organizations would you recommend be looked at, due to their particular approach to managing performance, and their subsequent results?
I would recommend looking at MARAFIQ, which has a Performance Management System in place that links departments with corporate objective, thus resulting in a fully top-down/bottom-up alignment.
- Which of the existing trends, topics or particular aspects within Performance Managementhave lost their relevance and/or importance, from your point of view?
I would raise a different point here than most would answer. I believe that KPI alignment is a topic that needs more focus from organizations worldwide. Nowadays, due to unintentional dynamic changes that have taken place in the business and market areas over time, many companies have forgotten about this very important practice.
So it is not an element that has lost its relevance per se, but has become forgotten bit by bit, as companies tend to other matters.
- Which are main challenges of Performance Management in practice, today?
I can summarize the challenges as follows:
- Selecting appropriate KPIs that are aligned with the organization’s corporate objectives, vision and mission.
- Maintaining a continuous improvement process by setting smart KPI targets.
- Simplifying performance visualizations so that the decision-making process is smoothed out.
- What should be improved in the use of Performance Management tools and processes?
There are lot of improvements I would say, especially if the PMS is linked with the 4 BSC perspectives. However, the main element in need of dire improvement I would say is the discipline of strategy execution, as implementing a corporate strategy nowadays is more important than ever.
- What would you consider as a best practice in Performance Management?
One can look at a Performance Management System and think of it as a best practice if the following are true:
- KPIs are selected based on industry/functional area best practice examples.
- The system is entirely aligned at all organizational levels.
- The system’s results can be visualized in a fully automated fashion.
- Which aspects of Performance Management should be emphasized during educational programs?
In my opinion, two aspects of PM that need to be emphasized concern understanding KPIs, as well as selecting them properly, in order to achieve the established corporate objectives and reach a state of full alignment in the organization.
- What are the limits that prevent practitioners from achieving higher levels of proficiency in Performance Management?
I’d rather call them obstacles than limits. I believe the main obstacle is being dragged down by business whirlwinds and kept away from true Performance Management tenets.
Another limiting aspect is the reasoning that PM is a business-only framework, which is somewhat limited I’d say. Performance Management can also be adopted in our daily lives and yield great results if we stick true to ourselves and the goals we put forward.
- What is your opinion on the emerging trend of measuring performance outside working hours, during our private time?
I personally do not have an issue with measuring performance in our private time, as I actually do this. The way I see it is each person should have certain objectives to achieve in his life and having a PM framework guide him will be very helpful to measure his performance against his set objectives.
- What personal performance measurement tools do you use (i.e. gadgets that track blood pressure, steps taken, heart rate, burnt calories or tools that help with one’s finances or personal skills)?
I like to keep myself as healthy as possible, therefore I use a lot of apps which measure how many steps I take a day or how many calories I’ve burnt. Then all the data gathered by these apps are summarized in a scoreboard that I review weekly.
Specialization Specific Question
- Consultant Point of View: What are the processes and tools you look at, in order to differentiate a successful performance management system, from a superficial one?
I believe that if an organization has implemented a comprehensive automation system, fully integrated with SAP or dBas, that is a sign of a well-thought out PM System.
- Practitioner Point of View: Which were the recent achievements in generating value from performance management in your organization?
Back at our company, the PMS we’ve implemented helped us overcome the critical financial situation that we were experiencing back in the day. We started monitoring several performance-related indicators and embarked on a process of continuous decision-making, as we started fixing issues as results were coming in. By using a well-designed Performance Management System, our weakness became our strength.