Execution Management vs. Performance Management


by Kelly Nelsen, Ph.D.

Performance management generally refers to measuring past performance and making an adjustment or two in order to increase performance next time. In the workplace, you perform to some standard, and your boss measures your performance to see if it met the standard.  Based upon the results of that measurement, you adjust your performance (or the standard) as necessary in order to meet it the next time around.  At its essence, it’s nothing more than an employee appraisal process that the human resources department typically owns.

Execution management is a bit different.  Execution is the act of doing something, and when you manage execution, you’re focused on managing an act rather than a result. That’s not to say that execution management is or should be about micro-management – far from it.  But shouldn’t management be about leading, guiding, and motivating people to greatness rather than simply judging them at the end?

Shouldn’t management be about leading, guiding, and motivating people to greatness rather than simply judging them at the end?

The Way Sports Teams Do It

Organizations usually set goals at the beginning of the year and then look at them again at the end of the year to see if they were met. Based upon this annual review, adjustments are then made for the coming year. But what if a football coach managed its players this way? The coach would set a goal at the beginning of the season to win 15 out of 16 games, let’s say, but only at the end of the season would he look back and discover that they only won six. That would be one sure way of getting fired as a coach, wouldn’t it? Instead, the players are coached throughout the game, and the game itself is reviewed in detail at its conclusion. This way, players can make adjustments as they go. Shouldn’t organizations work that way, too? Shouldn’t they practice execution management the same way that sports teams do?

Driven by Strategy

It’s not enough to manage the execution of individuals in an organization; rather, individuals’ activities need to be driven by the organization’s strategy and goals. Just as the individual football players’ activities are driven by the team’s, management’s, and owner’s goals, so must individual employees’ activities be driven by higher-level goals and strategies.

Unlike performance management, execution management is owned by senior executives. It starts with defining the strategy and continues with the execution of it. While the purpose of performance management is to determine how well employees are performing for succession planning, training, merit raises, and the like, the purpose of execution management is to successfully carry out the strategic plan in order to realize the organization’s vision. Because strategic plans are identified at the highest levels in an organization, execution management is the ultimate responsibility of the executive team. Performance management, on the other hand, is typically the ultimate responsibility of Human Resources.

If you want a system that merely looks at past performance of employees to see if they deserve a raise or a bonus, a simple performance measurement system will do. But if you want to manage the successful execution of your strategic plan, take a look at Keyne Insight’s strategy execution management system at http://www.keyneinsight.com.

Kelly Nelsen, Ph.D., is the CEO of Keyne Insight

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