The Job/Performer Level of Performance

Job level performance

"What is the city but the people?" 

—William Shakespeare

We could replace Shakespeare’s city with the word organization. Perhaps as a result of its efforts at Levels I and II, a company may have clear Organization and Process Goals. Its organization structure and its process flows may be logical, and its organization and process subgoals, resources, and interfaces may be effectively managed. However, that’s not enough. By addressing the needs at the Organization and Process Levels, a company has established a firm performance foundation. It now needs to construct a building on that foundation. That building is the performance of its people.

In previous articles, we focused on systems, not because effective systems compensate for ineffective people but because ineffective systems hinder potentially effective people. Our experience has led us to a bias: most people want to do a good job. However, if you pit a good performer against a bad system, the system will win almost every time.

What Is the Job/Performer Level?

The Job/Performer Level is so named because it looks at jobs at all levels and at the people (performers) who serve in those jobs. At this Performance Level, we take the same systems view that we take at the Organization and Process Levels. We believe that performance can be improved only if jobs and performers are analyzed in an overall performance context. The need for a systems perspective is best illustrated by an examination of managers’ typical responses to people problems. Aside from the all too frequent response of ignoring the problem, the actions we see most often are:

• Train them

• Transfer them

• Coach and counsel them

• Threaten them

• Discipline them

• Replace them

The common theme through all of these responses is them. Each action assumes that “them” is what’s broken, and therefore “them” is what needs to be fixed.

Assuming that defective people are at the root of all performance problems is as illogical as assuming that a bad battery is at the root of all automobile malfunctions. While the battery may be at fault, a good mechanic realizes that it is part of an engine system. A number of components of that system may harbor the cause of the problem. Even if the battery is performing inadequately, it may be because of another component; the root cause may lie elsewhere in the engine. Similarly, we believe that people are one part of a “performance engine”—the Human Performance System—which has a number of components that influence performance.