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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Editor’s Note: This piece was first published in the 22nd PERFORMANCE Magazine – Printed Edition. The KPI Institute’s Business Research Analyst Aida Manea discusses in this article how AI supports decision-making by eliminating biases and diminishing the number of human errors.
Through a variety of ways, artificial intelligence (AI) can help organizations enable and focus on better decision-making. AI could take over administrative roles and allow humans to prioritize more valuable things that require more time. The intelligent agent can take over manual tasks and enable process automation. AI can also plan decisions or predict results based on historical data.
That holds true even at the departmental level. Freeing managers from worries related to repetitive, administrative, and employee compliance tasks gives them more time for performance management activities. This is reflected in the use of AI as a behavioral assessment tool, data-driven processes where teams are coordinated through feedback, and more opportunities for meaningful human interaction.
AI in Performance Management
According to a study conducted by the University of Twente, there are two ways to implement AI in an organization. On a small scale, AI can assist a manager in improving small parts of the system, like inventory optimization. On a larger scale, AI could play a role in redesigning core processes at the organizational level.
One thing to pay attention to is knowing which type of implementation to choose. In an environment where human interaction and feedback are essential, it would not be the wisest choice to go for the second option as it could affect human connections.
The best-case scenario is to benefit from an assisting AI as it would help the manager make decisions while the assistant processes a vast amount of data. This will not only speed up the decision-making process but also guarantee the data veracity.
AI makes its mark on performance management systems through digitalization. Real-time feedback is important now more than ever due to the changes within performance management. The traditional yearly review is now being replaced by more frequent and informal check-ins as this would enable the shift from talking about people to talking with people. The 360-degree feedback practice focuses on asking colleagues for feedback on an employee’s performance.
Another strong point of AI is that it eliminates the biases toward individuals by assessing patterns and historical data with no opinion that might dilute decisions. While the line managers or HR may have their personal opinions about employees coincide with their responsibilities, AI supports decision-making by eliminating biases and diminishing the number of human errors.
AI for HR
At the HR department, the implementation of an AI system will not only process the data faster but will also deliver robust data collection, frequent fact-based performance, and improvement discussions. HR managers are responsible for their teams’ attitudes and behavior so that they can truly contribute to organizational goals.
In 2018, IBM realized the need for AI in mitigating biases and improving departmental performance. This is why IBM Smarter Workforce Institute wrote the paper “The role of AI in mitigating bias to enhance diversity and inclusion,” in which practical recommendations are offered for organizations that are looking to adopt AI in their HR daily activities.
Efficient and effective recruitment – A recruiter’s main challenges are prioritizing all the roles they are responsible for and finding a way to differentiate among candidates that applied for the same position. Deploying AI determines how long a job requisition will take to fill based on past data so that recruiters can prioritize the roles available.
Moreover, AI can predict future performance by determining the match between a resume and the job requisition and filtering candidates. The challenge in IBM regarding effective recruitment is to help HR managers surface the top candidates for the open positions and prioritize the most important requisitions. Their solution is IBM Watson Recruitment, an AI system that assesses information about the job market and past experiences of potential candidates in order to predict the necessary time to fill in positions and spot the most suitable candidates.
The huge advantage for recruiters is that they can focus on building and nurturing relationships with applicants. At the same time, AI collects the demanded skills from job requisitions and generates a score against skills mentioned in resumes. Finally, IWR watches over the hiring decisions to make sure they are free from bias and turns the candidate and recruiter’s experiences into better ones.
Enhancing motivation – At IBM, the individual needs of employees are essential, and managers get alerts about it. For example, the manager is alerted when there is an employee with years of experience in the company, has skills, and is ready for a promotion. The same applies to the case of employees with a higher propensity to leave or when employees from a specific department are at risk of missing their targets.
Through this alarm signal, managers are able to make decisions over the organization’s talent management approach. Another AI implication is the chatter analysis used to capture the top three internal issues from social media sources. Leaders can receive personalized recommendations to increase the team’s engagement. Other benefits brought by AI can be smarter compensation planning and career development.
The drawbacks of AI systems can be avoided by making sure the data is never used as a sole determinator in decisions. AI initiatives can barely break organizational barriers, based on a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review in which only 8% of firms engage in core practices that support the adoption of Artificial Intelligence. The shift towards AI should start by aligning the organizational culture and the internal operating ways to support digital transformation. Here are the three main actions to scale up AI:
- Replace siloed work with cross-functional teams collaboration. The mix of perspectives increases the impact AI has over the processes as it ensures that projects address broad organizational concerns and not just isolated ones. Moreover, if end users are required to test what development teams work on, the chances of adoption increase.
- Abandon the top-down approach. Integrating AI into processes will increase the trust of employees in algorithms. They are the ones who will ultimately make a decision based on the algorithm result and their experience. Once they feel empowered to make decisions without having to consult a higher-up, they will get a taste of what AI can offer: freedom of action.
- Embrace an agile, experimental, and adaptable mindset. The idea of having an idea baked before it is deployed must be replaced with a test and learn vision. This reduces the fear of failure and allows companies to correct minor mistakes before they become costly ones by receiving early feedback from users.
AI’s ability to promote automated processes, analyze data, predicts trends, and even build frameworks helps the organization in its strategy and business planning. In order to maximize the product and effects of AI, it is essential to establish a strong strategy mindset.
The KPI Institute offers a program that would help you design an organization’s strategy and plan your business using a strategic framework. Enroll now in the Certified Strategy and Business Planning Professional Live Online course! For more details, visit The KPI Institute’s website HERE.
Horizontal progression or lattices started to spread among employees, particularly millennials, years ago. Many individuals are working to progress their career paths horizontally instead of vertically. This raises two important questions: Is it better to move up the ladder or across it? Is it better for the companies to hire those who progress vertically or horizontally?
Vertical career progression refers to usual career growth within the same field. Being promoted from a marketing executive to a senior marketing specialist, and then to a marketing manager is an example of that progression. As for horizontal career progression, it refers to growing skills in more than one field. For instance, an individual may start working as a marketing executive, and then decide to shift to the sales department to gain more experience in selling products and dealing with customers.
Vertical career progression has always been the common career path in the workplace across the industries. However, change has been going on at a fast pace. All types of organizations (profit, non-profit, public and private) are all experiencing quick changes in various areas. Especially after the pandemic, things have developed massively, and new skills and competencies are arising everyday in the workplace, particularly in companies working on creating innovative and agile environments.
Benefits of Horizontal and Vertical Career Progression
Both types of career progression are essential and beneficial in the workplace as they will enable managers and leaders to have a wide range of skills within one department. With organizations reducing their boundaries every day due to the changes occurring–managers, leaders, and recruiters need to look at career progression from a different point of view other than the traditional one.
Employees going up the ladder will benefit their departments with their long experience and in-depth knowledge in terms of delivering their projects or tasks on time and with high quality. Even when they deal with their clients, they will be able to reflect easily using their long experience in the field. Moreover, they will be able to transfer their experience and knowledge to the younger ones via coaching, feedback sessions, and on-the-job learning.
Due to the wide range of skills, employees moving across the ladder are also vital and bring a positive impact to their departments. Despite their short experience within one field, they are equipped with a set of skills that will be beneficial to various situations. For instance, an employee who spends some time in the marketing and the sales department will have some experience not only in promoting the company’s products but also in communicating with the customers.
The marketing department can benefit from such employees in enhancing their customer outreach and passing on knowledge to others through tips or advice in communicating with customers. This can be valuable in companies trying to embed agility within their cultures. Most common types of agile environments include scrum and lean. These types of environments require flexibility, continuous problem solving and discovering solutions. As a result, both types of employees will provide lots of ideas and solutions. They will look at problems from different angles.
How Companies Support Employees’ Career Progression
According to Deloitte, due to today’s flatter organizational structures, businesses have less options for developing their employees and moving their career up the ladder. So, lattice organizations are expanding career tracks to incorporate lateral, diagonal, and planned descents as a strategy to help employees progress. They report that employees become more adaptable through career movements across organizational silos, improving their strategic flexibility.
Incorporating different options of career development will require companies to change the way their job structures, work cultures, and career development plans. However, companies will reap its sweet fruit through having more motivated and productive employees, innovative culture, better performance, as well as more flexibility and adaptability. Moreover, it will help companies face their current challenges such as high turnover rates and employees with limited skills that cannot balance the needs of today’s industry.
In the end, it is believed that even with all these changes undergoing in the world, both career paths are needed within the workplace. Employees get to choose the career path that suits their priorities and future plans. But at the same time, their choices have to be well planned and thought of because there is a huge difference between growing horizontally in a structured manner and hopping from one job to another. In the same context , companies need to go beyond the traditional linear career path and embrace other ones to be able to come up with the changes going on.
Whether you go up or across the ladder in choosing a career growth, it is important to be competent. Invite your colleagues and join The KPI Institute’s Certified Performance Management Professional course to boost the knowledge and skills on improving performance at all organizational levels. Visit The KPI Institute’s website for more information.