The Performance Equation:Behaviour = f (Person x Environment)
The equation B= f (P x E) was proposed by Lewin (1936) although he did not specify how the interaction between the person and the environment would occur. The model below is an expanded and organisationally oriented interpretation of Lewin’s original model. At the core of the model from an organisational perspective is the old “can do, will do, will fit” adage, but the model expands on this to bring to life the factors that underpin this basic proposition and lend support to the equation.
We intuitively know an executive’s manifested behaviour on the job is a function of individual style in the context of the particular operating environment. For example, if we place, either through recruitment or promotion, a generally extroverted individual into the back office with little or no engagement with stakeholders on a day to day basis, it is likely that adjustment problems will arise. Similarly, if we place a generally introverted individual in a market facing role with high levels of face to face contact, it is also likely adjustment problems will arise. Such misplaced individuals will struggle to reconcile their own innate characteristics with an environment which inflicts on them a combination of boredom, discomfort and anxiety. The equation is subtler though than the introvert / extrovert dichotomy.
The pivotal point of the model is the notion of employee engagement, but before we get to that we need to understand the characteristics of the person. Appropriate levels of skill, knowledge, experience, cognitive strength and flexibility, and aligned familiarity and interest are the easy criteria and can be evaluated through basic job matching, targeted interviewing and ability testing. Careful consideration of these factors will ensure your newly appointed Engineering Director can and will do the job, but will the individual fit with your culture, values and leadership behaviours and stay aligned over the longer term?
The working environment, presented in red, namely: working structures, performance management systems, organisational adaptiveness, power, politics and culture and the calibre of organisational leadership plays a crucial role in establishing fit and is universally underestimated in the overall performance equation both in external recruitment and internal promotion. There is not much point pouring clean water into a bucket full of holes. Taking these environmental factors one by one:
Working Structures: Identifiable sources of executive effectiveness include: role clarity, autonomy, recognition/involvement and the executive’s sense of achievement, accomplishment and mastery. These factors feed directly into the prevailing culture. The extent to which these factors are negative or positive determines to a significant degree the executive’s self-concept and subsequent modus operandi. Is it characterised by authentic behaviours, two-way communication, high commitment and responsiveness or by low creativity, blaming, intragroup conflict and
Performance Management: Not many of us have experienced good performance management systems. Effective performance management depends on translating business values and strategies into readily identifiable, tangible behaviours and hard outputs on the ground. Once again role design and role clarity are crucial. It is impossible to build an appraisal framework on shaky foundations. The interaction between business strategy, the role and the quantum and structure of financial and non-financial rewards
Organisational Adaptiveness: So, the organisation purports to have a strategy, the executive roles are clearly defined and performance management is working. How does the organisation respond to market changes, unexpected challenges and its own results? Does it reinvest cleverly to capitalise on opportunities? Does it pull back from exposed positions appropriately? Does it release people with dignity? Maybe our Engineering Director is required to downsize a functional area in a way which conflicts with his (or her) value structure. The organisation needs to be nimble enough to redefine its business strategy and communicate this empathically. These are the characteristics of an adaptive organisation, a key element in fully engaging quality executives on an ongoing basis.
Power, Politics and Culture: Power, politics and culture act as either blockers or enablers of executive development and retention. Power can be coercive, legitimate, personal or sanctioned through ownership and structure. Politics is about formal and informal frameworks in the organisation, the underlying assumptions held by management and employees about the business, and the symbols and messages which reflect both day to day and long term reality. Maybe the organisation squeezes its assets a little too hard and this compromises safety which in turn causes consternation for the new Engineering Director. Power, politics and culture combine to create a value structure which enhances or retards executive engagement.
Many times, when executives are not performing optimally they regularly cite environmental factors. “If only the CEO was more insightful”, “My role is
The concept of engagement though is obviously subtler than the introvert / extrovert dichotomy outlined earlier or the raft of environmental factors mentioned above, which can be a valid assessment of the state of play, or possibly an executive projecting blame for his or her own inability to adapt and perform. Postulate our new Engineering Director mentioned earlier who was not temperamentally engaged by the aggressive
Leadership is the