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Consultant interview: Fadi Al-Jafari on what strengthens a performance management system

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Image source: Alice Donovan Rouse | Unsplash

Having a clear vision for your organization and being aware of its external environment to prevent threats and capture opportunities instead. This is how strategic thinking works for Fadi Al-Jafari, a Senior Management Consultant, Leader of Data Analysis and Visualization Center, and Project Manager at The KPI Institute. In this interview, he explains what makes a strategy and performance manager successful and how organizations can make sound decisions on the spot.

Trends

What were the key trends in Organizational Performance Management in 2021, from your point of view?

Organizations are working on digitalizing performance management systems (PMS) and ensuring that individuals have the right digital tools to perform their duties as they work remotely nowadays.

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

Regarding the vast changes in external environments, organizations are shifting their strategy planning and execution practices from the traditional approach to the agile approach to make sure they capture the external opportunities and avoid the external threats in the early stages. This will help them adapt in a fast manner to those changes.

What does the corporate performance management system of the future look like? 

Digitalized PMS that connects and measures individuals, teams, and organizational work in a timely manner to help top management make decisions on the spot

What will be the major challenges in managing performance in the future, and how should organizations prepare for them?

The major challenges would be how to measure the individual’s performance right and without any biases, use the data to predict future the individual’s performance, and benefit from the data they have to improve the individual’s performance. One solution is to use digital PMS that collects data regularly and measures individual performance based on the tasks they work on and then use data analytics tools to draw conclusions and predictions based on the analysis.

How is technology impacting how organizations conduct strategic planning and manage performance? Any specific technology tools you would like to mention?

Technology is a key element in supporting strategy. Technology supports environmental scanning tasks as organizations can nowadays collect and analyze data on a timely basis. They can analyze their internal environment as well as their external environment. In addition, technology also helps in predicting trends.

Technology helps organizations gather real-time data and big data. Having such big real-time data helps organizations make sound decisions based on facts and figures. Using tools like Tableau and Power BI helps an organization create real-time dashboards that show the trends and changes in data. In addition, organizations can use those tools to predict outcomes to support proactive planning.

How does sustainability impact how organizations conduct strategic planning and manage performance? Any specific sustainability aspects you would like to mention?

Sustainability requires organizational objectives and strategy to consider the social welfare of the employees and communities.

Practice

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions in our day-to-day lives, social relations, economies, and business dynamics. Given the impact of the crisis, what do you think are the specific changes in the way strategic planning and performance management is being conducted post COVID?

Organizations should focus more on creating an intelligence unit that monitors the minor and major changes in the external environment on a continuous basis. This would help them identify risks or new trends that could affect the environment. This would also help organizations become more proactive and make decisions about needed actions once they have identified the risks.

What should be improved in using strategy and performance management tools to make an organization even more resilient to future crises?

Organizations should shift their mindsets from the usual strategic management approach to a more agile approach in planning and execution. This will help organizations adapt to changes faster based on external circumstances.

While navigating through these challenging times, what would you consider a best practice in Performance Management? 

To start with an organizational architecture framework of the PMS, ensure that cascading and alignments are conducted properly. This also enables organizations to develop a governance framework, processes, and procedures to efficiently run the system and avoid internal silos.

How does benchmarking support the improvement of performance management and target-setting systems? 

Benchmarking is a process that involves identifying and learning from the best performers in the organization. It helps develop new and challenging targets and measures that will support organizational growth.

Research

Which organizations would you recommend to be observed due to their approach to managing performance and its subsequent results? Why?

I would say Saudi Vision 2030 is a good example to be studied and followed at the national level. Organizations can follow this example and learn how the vision realization offices in Saudi handle such vision and ensure alignments between different entities. The results that Saudi achieves are astonishing, and it can be a great case study.

What aspects of Performance Management should be explored more through research, given their importance in practice?

Alignment approach between business units, departments, and divisions. This approach is requested a lot by clients to know how to handle such alignments internally.

What are the key competencies of a successful business leader ( C-level Executive)?

The business leader must show strategic thinking in terms of having a clear vision for the organization and having a clear goal of what they would like to reach in the future. The business leader must employ analytical and critical thinking to analyze the external environment, capture opportunities, and avoid external threats that could affect the organization.

What key competencies would make a Strategy and Performance Manager succeed nowadays?

An important one is strategic thinking — to be able to analyze different situations that the organization may face and to have a proactive personality that would allow them to capture changes in the market before they arise. It is crucial to identify the opportunities, capture them before the competitors do, and determine any threats to prepare the organization to deal with them.

What processes and tools do you look at when differentiating a successful performance management system from a superficial one?

To have a successful PMS, organizations must have a clear design and architecture of the PMS itself within the organization, and it must have top management support. Moving forward, the strategy office should develop this system internally and develop needed tools and needed processes that include but are not limited to: Strategic Planning Tools, Processes and Timeline; KPI Selection Tools and Processes, Departmental Cascading and Alignment Tools and Processes; Employee Cascading Tools and Processes, and Performance Culture Tools and Processes. In this manner, the organization will perform standardized tools and processes that support the internal alignment between all internal stakeholders. This will ensure clear steps for analyzing internal and external environments, standardized KPIs following best practices, and more aligned objectives on different levels. 

In addition, it’s also important for the top management and strategy team to communicate the strategic objectives, values, and organizational identity to all employees. Unfortunately, some organizations keep those elements hidden from the employees, and this leads to misalignment internally, losing organizational direction, huge gaps, and silos between departments and negatively impacting employee engagement. Missing one of the abovementioned points would weaken the PMS within the organization.

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Background

As a Management Consultant, Fadi has been involved in multiple projects related to designing, implementing, and auditing Performance Management Systems. This includes formulating objectives, selecting KPIs, documenting KPIs, and selecting initiatives on both the strategic and functional levels as well as developing balanced scorecards and dashboards to fit organizational needs. 

As a Facilitator, Fadi has been delivering Certified Strategy Business Planning Professional, Certified KPI Professional and Practitioner, Certified Performance Management Professional, Certified Employee Performance Management Professional, Certified BSC Professional, Certified Data Analysis Professional and Certified Data Visualization Professional, in both Arabic and English languages.

 
Building a successful performance management system: processes and tools
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