Home Thinking Aloud The Missing Link: Revolutionizing Performance Management Through Execution Management

The Missing Link: Revolutionizing Performance Management Through Execution Management


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by Bruce Hodes, CEO of CMI Teamwork Chicago and author of “Front Line Heroes

Over the years, I have been haunted and vexed by four enigmas. What has eluded me is a process that supports the implementation of the strategic plan. A lot of time and energy goes into yearly planning. A leadership team remaining focused on execution of the plan becomes the challenge given the day-to-day fires. This issue breaks down into the four enigmas that, until recently, I have not been able to solve. Recently I had a breakthrough and have components that, together, make up the missing link.

Enigma #1.

My first enigma is: once you have an annual strategic plan, how do you ensure follow-through and implementation? How do you support real action throughout the year? How do you prevent the unintended syndrome that results from a beautiful plan in a beautiful binder sitting with all the other similar binders in the CEOs office? Our breakthrough came when we were introduced to the execution management philosophy called the Keyne Methodology which we support by utilizing software called Keynelink.

Enigma #2.

My second enigma is: how do you make time for the coaching and development of your employees and direct reports? How do you know what your employees are doing that will directly impact the strategic plan and corporate initiatives? How do you know if your employees have any relationship or understanding to the strategic plan?   How do you find time to meet with your employees and direct reports and discuss their progress on goals and objectives? Do your employees even have goals and objectives?

As business leaders, we intuitively know that we need to have timely meetings with employees to provide coaching and get feedback. With our clients, many of these coaching meetings just never happen. While meetings occur, they tend to be about firefighting and problem solving.

I have witnessed organizations in which employees never get any type of formal coaching or feedback. In one organization I worked with, people were—at best—reviewed once a year for salary and bonus-setting purposes. There was no formal feedback process. In the same company, managers bemoaned that they should be coaching and talking with employees about their performance, but they never got around to it.   This is the norm in many organizations.

For this to change, development and training need to be as equally important as fighting fires. The Manager’s role, as the developers of people, needs to be just as important as the manager’s ability to get things done. If development and training matters to the organization, there will be time for coaching and feedback. If it does not matter, this goes by the way side.

Enigma #3.

The third enigma is: how do you make the annual performance appraisal more than something that is disliked and disrespected? Just about everyone I have come across in business over my thirty years hates the annual review process. Why corporate citizens hate annual appraisals is that employees find it meaningless. No one likes to be judged or evaluated. Managers, at best, find it flawed and not well designed or executed. This appraisal morass is a big deal. I have listened to whining and complaining about how appraisals are done and how they are utilized. The biggest issue with the appraisal review system is that it takes place after the fact. It is a process held after the year is over. It is not a coaching and development system. It is all about rating past performance.

What execution management and the Keyne Methodology offers is the distinction of a monthly or bi-monthly progress meeting. This is a short meeting of 30 minutes with a structured format in which Employee and Manager offer each other feedback on the progress of the initiatives, goals and demonstrating the values of the company. From this alignment occurs. From this process, the appraisal data is collected. The annual appraisal then becomes something that is understood, appreciated, and contains no surprises. Transparency is present.

Enigma #4.

How do you make the core values of the organization relevant to day-to-day employee behavior? The core values often sound great. They are lofty and inspirational. Typically, the leadership team feels exhilarated at their creation. However, then comes a failure of performance. They somehow just do not make the difference they were designed to make.

For most employees, core values are seldom relevant. They are not accessible or usable. Managers and employees need a place they can stand that will guide their behavior and attitude. Managers and team leaders need formal documented organizational values and beliefs from which they can coach attitude and behaviors. When properly positioned, the organizational core values can do this. They can provide a template from which employee behavior can be measured and viewed.

In the progress meeting utilizing Keynelink both the manager and employee assess how the employee demonstrates the values. From this a dialogue occurs as does alignment. It also ensures that the values stay relevant and pertinent because they are a key part of the progress meeting.

The Missing Link.

So, I had these enigmas and while on the road to find answers, I met a couple named Kelly and Wayne Nelsen who had created Execution Management, Keynelink and the Keyne Methodology. What follows is a system that aligns the different parts of an organization.

It is critical that an organization and business keep the strategic plan in front of and relevant to all employees. This system needs to be flexible because, what someone is working on this week can completely alter next week. How do the employees, let alone managers and executives, stay on top of it all?

The first step in implementing Execution Management is defining and outlining the yearly initiatives. Typically, these Corporate Initiatives are the product of a strategic planning process. In the strategic plan, I recommend, in addition, developing the foundation of the company, outlining the organization’s mission, values, and the yearly corporate initiatives.

In the next phase, the CEO, Key leaders and employees define their own roles by answering the question “what does the organization hold me accountable for?” This begins with distinguishing the four to six primary job Accountabilities. It typically is a group of activities and are not as detailed as the job description. They do describe your role and accountabilities within the organization. Typically, each employee will have 4 – 6 accountabilities.

Once the employee has completed the process and has defined his or her accountabilities, they submit them to their manager, who will give feedback and offer editing.

After accountabilities are outlined, we can begin defining goals. Goals need to be clear, measurable, and require results by an affixed date. These should be written in the employee’s own voice. They can be monthly, quarterly or yearly in length. All goals are then directly linked to the company initiatives. This linkage is critical in that it supports alignment on what was committed to during yearly planning. Again, management gives feedback and coaching.

Now we are ready to introduce the next unique aspect of execution management methodology. The next section entails creating values. these are not the typical types of values. Instead, these values are behavioral. Imagine the expectation that everyone walks the talk of the organization’s behavioral values. Utilizing this methodology is a way for the five or six behavioral values of the organization to become truly relevant to employees and managers.

Once all the behavioral values are established, the employee and manager schedule a time every month to meet and discuss the progress being made. Prior to the progress meeting, each will score the employee on their day-to-day accountabilities, how their behavior is consistent or inconsistent to the behavioral values, and what progress regarding their goals has been made.

In this system, you are either living the values or you are not. It is a yes or no scoring model. By the same token, the employee also can give the manager feedback as to how they perceive the company is meeting its corporate initiatives.

Progress meetings are critical and at the heart of why this is such a powerful methodology. Again, I did not say appraisal session, I said progress meetings. If you, as the management and executive leadership do not value feedback and dialogue, this is not the system for you. It is understood that managers can contribute to and actively support employees’ performance.

In this methodology, feedback and dialogue occur between employee and manager every month for 30 minutes, tops. The intention is that the employees want feedback from their managers and want to give feedback to their managers. Communication is valued. Ultimately, you want the relationship between managers and employees to be a two-way coaching partnership.

These progress meetings cover the progress that the employee is making. Manager and employee review whether their day-to-day behaviors are falling within the parameters of the behavioral values. In these meetings, there is no drama allowed. The accomplishments are celebrated. The areas for future concentration reviewed. At these meetings, next steps and follow-ups are designed.

I have been utilizing this way of thinking about execution management and alignment with my clients! This system and way of thinking about execution management has really addressed the four enigmas. I am now enigma free. I have stopped going to all those Enigmas Anonymous meetings. I have a lot more time. I am fulfilled, a changed and much happier blood sucker consultant – really…

Let’s go over each enigma and see how it has been resolved:

1. During the year, how do the CEO, the manager, and employees keep track of what employees and executives are doing to implement the organization’s strategic plan? This system gets to the heart of what we have been talking about. All goals are tied to the initiatives, and there are frequent meetings regarding how the employee is progressing in supporting the corporative initiatives.

2. As a manager and business leader, how do you make time for the coaching and development of your employees and direct reports? This is where the progress meetings come in. During these meetings coaching, communication, and alignment occurs.

3. How do you make the annual performance appraisal more than something that is disliked and disrespected? In this execution management system, the yearly appraisal system becomes quite simple. It is the end step of the process. Goals are assessed as exceeded, met, or not met. The same process is done for accountabilities and values. Then there are comments that are made by both the employee and manager. The yearly appraisal is the output of this system and is understood and respected given that context.

4. How do you make the core values of the organization relevant to day-to-day employee behavior? During the year, employees are continuously asked to take a view of their day-to-day behavior considering the behavior values they set. They are asked to tangibly rate how they have been behaving given those values. I have seen this have a lot of power. Managers can reinforce the employee behavior that works and coach the employee behavior that does not work.

One CEO utilizing this methodology reported that it forces him to talk about progress and give feedback to his direct reports. He said, “I know I should have always been doing this, but I never made the time. This methodology allows me to do this.” Another employee who is working within this methodology said, ‘It’s great; I know what is expected of me. This system also allows me to give feedback to my manager.’”

My company, CMI, has also been utilizing this methodology, and I can attest that it has made a real difference in ensuring that we are all on the same page and aligned on the same goals.   Hopefully this stimulates your own thinking regarding execution management and coaching.

Look and see how you can apply these methodologies in your organization to execute on your plan and align your corporate efforts.


Bruce Hodes

Since growing up in his family’s boating business to founding his company CMI, Bruce Hodes has dedicated himself to helping companies grow by developing executive leadership teams, business leaders and executives into powerful performers. Bruce’s adaptable Breakthrough Strategic Business Planning methodology has been specifically designed for small-to-mid-sized companies and is especially valuable for family company challenges. In February of 2012 Bruce published his first book “Front Line Heroes“.


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