Focused Action Research Based Goal Pursuit: The Secret Sauce in Great Performance Review

Focused Action Research Based Goal Pursuit: The Secret Sauce in Great Performance Review

Eileen Piggotirvine (Royal Roads University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch060
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Abstract

Despite the fact that creating employee focus, motivation and improved outcomes through performance review is widely encouraged, such constraining and potentially isolating activity is also equally derided. I argue in this chapter that many obstacles in performance review can be overcome through inclusion of focused goal pursuit which has a simple, collaborative, flexible, personal and organizational learning and improvement, emphasis whilst combining both rigour and responsiveness. I offer an overview cycle for performance review with such an embedded Focused Action Research Goals (FARG) approach. The overview cycle and FARG approach are underpinned by three key principles encouraging: depth of learning; stretch in challenge; and collaboration based on dialogue and openness. The chapter moves beyond outlining processes and principles to drawing links to recent thinking from the neuroscience and neuroleadership fields. Regions of the brain relevant particularly to goal pursuit are discussed alongside the impact of stress and elements considered to enhance this critical organizational function. Some caution about drawing categorical and overly simplistic conclusions is also included.
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Introduction

The importance of both performance review and goal pursuit for a range of activities such as strategic planning, focusing and aligning thinking, professional development, motivation, learning, creating a sense of completion and achievement, and enhancing personal and organizational performance is widely articulated (Armstrong, 2000; Asplund & Blacksmith, 2013; Gordon, 2006; Kouzes & Posner, 2007; Locke & Latham, 2013; Vorhauser-Smith, 2011) For many people, however, these two activities individually and collectively are often associated with feelings of: time-wasting; pointlessness; constraint about being pinned down; hierarchical imposition and control; poorly conducted reviews by management; isolation in commonly individualistic processes; and confusion about the processes (see for example, Bird, 2015; Forrester, 2011; Myrna, 2009; Perillo, 2006).

It is my belief, borne out of extensive experience in a performance reviewer (with over 120 senior leaders in organizations) and researcher role, that performance review can have many positive employee and organizational improvement outcomes. I hasten to add that this experience has indicated practical process elements in performance review that are make or break in contributing to creating meaning, acceptance and impact. Most of those elements are linked to the approach adopted for pursuing goals within performance review and it is this specific topic that I wish to emphasize in this chapter.

I begin by presenting an overview cycle to establish the broader performance review context before paying specific attention to the Focused Action Research Goals (FARG) approach (adapted from Piggot-Irvine, 2015) embedded within the cycle. The FARG approach is designed to address some of the earlier noted constraints via inclusion of simple, flexible, iterative (cyclical and on-going), collaborative and evidence-based decision making elements. In addition, the FARG approach strengthens strategic alignment of individual, team, and organizational aims.

The next section of the chapter provides background to three key principles underpinning the overview cycle and embedded FARG approach: shift in depth, lift in challenge, and authentic collaboration. Shift in depth is more likely to occur when performance review and embedded goal pursuit involve the use of evidence/data to support any conclusions drawn, where reviewees become informed through examination of best practice ideas linked to specific goals selected, and when there is detailed planning to show improvement steps and timelines. Lift in challenge is frequently associated with the term high goals and, as these terms imply, the goals should stretch the reviewee. Authentic collaboration is enacted when reviewees are engaged with others in ways where not only support, clarity and mentoring are provided but also strong feedback, honest dialogue and critique. It involves striving for shared (bilateral) control in performance review through employment of a non-defensive (productive), dialogical, orientation on the part of reviewers and reviewees.

The final section of the chapter explores thinking from the neuroscience and neuroleadership fields linked to goal pursuit in particular. Areas of the brain involved in goal pursuit are discussed alongside interpretation of relevancy of findings to practical application and potential limitations associated with interpretation. Note that deeper discussion of many of the topics discussed in this chapter is provided in my recent book (Piggot-Irvine, 2015).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Shift in Depth: Occurs when goal pursuit involves the use of evidence/data to support any conclusions drawn, becoming informed through examination of best practice ideas linked to goals, and detailed planning to show improvement steps and timelines.

Lift in Challenge: Lift in challenge with goal pursuit is frequently associated with the term high or stretch goals. Locke and Latham (2013) emphasized the importance of high goals to focus attention and effort toward goal oriented activity and away from irrelevant activity.

Performance Review: Variably described also as performance management and appraisal. An activity “… intended to benefit both the individual and organisation by leading to affirmation that performance expectations are being met and to the identification of areas for improvement” ( Piggot-Irvine & Cardno, 2005 , p. 12).

Neuroscience: Study of the brain by scientists often through the use of tools such as fMRI and EEG. Neuroscience findings are showing us that several areas of the brain seem to be involved in goal pursuit.

Neuroleadership: The neuroleadership field has provided an interpretation of neuroscience for the leadership arena. For example, in the context of goal pursuit, approach conditions that could maximise goal pursuit activity have been described. In particular, the two neuroleadership acronyms of SCARF (status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, fairness) and AIM (antecedents, integration, managing rewards and anticipation) have been outlined by Berkman and Rock (2012) .

FARG: In this approach, there is cyclic, iterative, activity described as phases of Preparatory (focusing), Reconnaissance (informed current situation analysis), Implementation of improvement, Evaluation of achievement, Recommendation creation, and Reporting. In the model there are links also made to further improvement and it allows for dealing with emergent and sometimes multiple issues. The FARG approach is underpinned by the three key principles of shift in depth, lift in challenge, and authentic collaboration.

Goal Alignment: Emphasizes the importance of creating goals at an individual and team level which cascade from the organization purpose and processes. Such alignment is a feature of the FARG approach.

Action Research: AR is a relatively popular developmental research methodology which has both data collection (research) and change (action) elements ( Piggot-Irvine et al, 2011 ). It has a cyclical orientation (often iterative planning, acting, reflecting and evaluating) and is highly developmental and practical in its intent and it is the latter that makes it suitable as an approach to goal pursuit. Zuber-Skerritt (2012) adds that AR is also democratic, participative and collaborative.

Authentic Collaboration: Collaboration enacted when participants are engaged with others in ways where not only support, clarity and mentoring are provided but also strong feedback, honest dialogue and critique. It involves striving for shared (bilateral) control through employment of a non-defensive (productive), dialogical, orientation ( Argyris, 2003 ; Cardno, 2001 ; Senge, Cambron-McCabe, Lucas, Smith, Dutton, & Kleiner, 2000 ).

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