Performance Management Successes and Killers: Can you handle the truth?

by Cindy Harp | September 20, 2016

Performance Management Tulsa Persimmon TruthOur previous blogs on performance management focused on the increasing trend that many organizations are shifting towards more frequent exchanges of feedback, as well as helping teams learn how to provide feedback to each other, rather than solely through a manager or leader.  In our last blog, we discussed an exercise you can use to have the team give feedback to each other – both positive and opportunities for improvement.  When we have introduced this exercise to organizations in the past, we’re often met with a deer-in-the-headlights look and wary hesitation. So my next question is typically, what is stopping you?  What is driving the fear of this process?   If your team needs to ease into the feedback process, the following exercise will be helpful.


The Successes and Killers exercise (based on the Nominal Technique) is one we use to help understand the characteristics that are making an organization, project, culture, or process successful and what are causing pain points or getting in the way.  In addition, this exercise can identify how to prevent those pain points going forward.  This is a quick exercise that engages large groups and ensures that everyone gets a chance to voice their opinions.

Start with Performance Management Successes

Let’s assume that you are thinking about changing your current performance management process.   Have everyone sit at tables of 4 to 6 people and give everyone a stack of sticky notes.  Start with “Successes” – ask the team to put one characteristic per sticky note of what makes the current performance management process successful.  Have each person write down their individual thoughts or characteristics for about 5 minutes, without sharing their thoughts with others.

Next, have the tables share their sticky notes amongst each other with the goal of clarifying any questions and removing duplicates.  If you have a large group, you might want to have each table clarify and remove duplicates before you ask all participants to combine in one place. Once all duplicates have been removed, each sticky note is clarified and they are all displayed in one area (such as a flip-chart or whiteboard), give each person 5 votes.  Each participant can vote for the sticky note(s) that they feel are the most crucial for success.  They can give all five votes to one sticky or spread them across different characteristics as they see fit.  Once everyone has voted, tally up the votes to determine how the success characteristics are prioritized.  This helps you identify what the team feels are the top success characteristics to keep for the performance management process.


Repeat the same process for “Killers”.  This will provide you with a prioritized list of things that might need to change.  After gathering all killers, focus on the top 5 Killers and shift your attention to how to prevent or remedy the pain points.  As a facilitated group, walk through one of the Killers and have the group identify 3 – 5 ways that killer can be prevented or changed.  It can be helpful to capture these on flip chart pages.  Work your way through each of the top 5 killers.

In very little time, you will understand what the group really wants to keep, as well as ideas for eliminating some of the pain points in your process, project, culture or organization. This exercise can be either a confirmation of the direction you think you need to take or can sometimes provide eye opening input that can help you shape where you want to go.  Try it the next time you are wanting to get ideas in a brainstorming session or a prioritization meeting!

If you liked this article be sure to check back next week as we conclude our series with Performance Management Best Practices. Check out our Insights and Tools for tips, templates and techniques to take you and your organization to the next level.

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