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Academic Interview: Mohamed Zairi


ZairiIn 2017, the Performance Magazine editorial team interviewed Mohamed Zairi, CEO at Excellence Tetralogy and Executive Chairman at The European Centre for Best Practice Management and Zairi Institute, United Kingdom. His thoughts and views on Performance Management are detailed below.

One big challenge is to provide a mindset that comprehends the fact that measurement is not about tracking numbers or having intelligent dashboards, but that it is a mindset, a philosophy that has to be driven top-down.


  1. Which were the most significant 2016 key trends in Performance Management, from your point of view?

The most significant trends continue to be in the area of intangible measurement, particularly measuring intangible assets, such as human capital and the new distinctive capabilities for adaptation and competitiveness.

  1. What are your thoughts on the integration of Performance Management at the organizational, departmental and employee levels?

The integration of PM across the board is becoming more significant as a trend because nowadays organizations are regarded as open systems. There are lots of concepts which look at where value is captured, where it is created and put forward for the customer, in both discrete areas and larger, strategic areas. Some of this integration is also extending externally, because more and more organizations are expected to behave as open systems through digital connectivity.

  1. Which will be the major changes in managing performance, in the future?

Insofar as the major changes in managing performance are concerned, they are going to be mostly related to the outcomes and impacts, with more emphasis either on the major leaps towards competitiveness – using international indices, or on the impact that happiness has on the customer.


  1. What aspects of Performance Management should be explored more through research?

As far as research is concerned, there are multiple areas which should be explored, that look at the discipline holistically, joining together the measurement of distinctive capabilities and the way in which these become distinctive, as an example of the best way to compete.

Moreover, it will be important to look at causal relationships between one aspect of measurement – from a capabilities viewpoint (i.e. the how to and where) – and the impact on outcomes, to which I alluded previously, where one aspect of measurement is to look at the significance of outcomes.

  1. Which organizations would you recommend to be looked at, due to their particular approach to managing performance, and their subsequent results?

I think the emerging thoughts on performance measurement are related to the government sector. For instance, some of the work we are doing in the UAE is really innovative. We’re talking here about smart service design, customization of services, with consumers and citizens being involved in  creating and measuring the impact of said services, both from an excellence & effectiveness or efficiency point of view, and through measuring the impact this design has on happiness.

  1. Which of the existing trends, topics or particular aspects within Performance Management have lost their relevance and/or importance, from your point of view?

On this topic, I feel that the problem is not the relevance of measuring equilibrium of efficiency, optimization processes and output measurements. More significant nowadays is the responsiveness and measurement that facilitate the application of agility, adaptability and suitability of measurement, in terms of tracking where value is being made, as opposed to measurement that is static and looks specifically at optimization and consistency, and not at agility and dealing with disruption.


  1. Which are the main challenges of Performance Management in practice, today?

One big challenge is to provide a mindset that comprehends the fact that measurement is not about tracking numbers or having intelligent dashboards, but that it is a mindset, a philosophy that has to be driven top-down.

We are still far behind on this and many organizations are too distracted with tools and dashboards, without a clear understanding of how measurement and its pervasiveness can impact the whole organization.

  1. What should be improved in the use of Performance Management tools and processes?

This, I believe, is really a matter of “horses for courses”, as the saying goes, making sure that the language of measurement, of the general philosophy, is what matters, and not the need to have gadgets and tools that are colourful and which tend to be a distraction, and not real enablers.

  1. What would you consider as a best practice in Performance Management?

The intent to achieve, the driveability of strategic initiatives to realize strategic objectives and the impact of outcomes measured at the highest possible level, are the best practices in Performance Management. Again, this is something that is happening in the government sector, as opposed to the private sector.


  1. Which aspects of Performance Management should be emphasized during educational programs?

I’d recommend looking at organizations as ecosystems, instead of using Performance Management from a micro perspective, linked to processes and being blinded by the aforementioned equilibrium of efficiency, optimization and effectiveness.

Personal Performance

  1. What is your opinion on the emerging trend of measuring performance outside working hours?

The work-life balance is an agenda of wellbeing & happiness. The modern philosophy of measurement is that the psychological, emotional, physical and perhaps even spiritual strengths can help people produce the best quality work and perform to their highest level of creativity and innovation.

  1. What personal performance measurement tools do you use?

We primarily defer to tools and instruments that revolve around the work-life balance & the state of wellbeing, in order to maintain these in a healthy condition.

Specialization Specific Question

13a. Academic Points of View: We are developing a database of subjects/degrees in Performance Management. What are your suggestions relevant to the database (i.e. subjects/degrees such as the Masters in Managing Organizational Performance)?

I suggest a Masters in Performance Management, that looks at intangible assets, at organizations as ecosystems and perhaps that focuses more on the emotional or happiness impact.

13b. 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 this area is still under the microscope and that there are no significant tools that really look at measuring things from an emotional or happiness impact point of view. There are some algorithms that are currently being developed and any of them, if they were used, would do the job just fine.

13c. Practitioner Point of View: Which were the recent achievements in generating value from performance management in your organization?

Our recent achievements can be indexed from the work we do for the UAE government. We have seen significant leaps in performance, as emphasis is now placed more on driving performance for the future through disruptive thinking and driving performance by looking at capabilities from a relative standpoint, than on stabilizing the ship and creating a constancy of purposes, through  consistency and predictability of performance, from a static perspective.

Should you be interested in having your interview featured in one of our publications, contact us at [email protected]!

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