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Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

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A performance plan differs from a conventional plan in that it is a proactive document. It is designed for continuous use throughout the year as a guide and reference tool to direct the leader and his or her unit’s activities. The primary purpose of a performance plan is to create results and maximize performance.

Managers often produce an annual performance plan only to give senior management what they want to see. Leaders view performance planning as an opportunity to review and analyze actual past performance. It gives them the means to identify ways to improve their personal and organizational unit’s overall performance and productivity.

Managers as leaders actively use their performance plan to drive the unit’s as well as their own performance. They continually reference their performance plan as a roadmap throughout the year to guide and direct their activities and courses of action as well as those of their subordinates.

Leaders work and plan under the direction of senior management. They define overall strategic company goals and plans. Senior management also forms operational and tactical strategies directing the company’s activities during the year. Typically leaders are responsible for specific aspects of the operational and tactical plans. Their performance plans are directly linked to their assigned goals and objectives. How leaders accomplish these goals and objectives is self-defined. This is where they are given an opportunity to shine.

As was discussed in the previous lesson, leaders are driven by a vision of what is possible, not expected. In formulating a performance plan, leaders begin with an initial preparation before it is formally written and executed. This preliminary process includes:

Collecting and Correlating Data

Leaders collect and correlate the information and data they developed during a review of their organizational unit’s prior performance. This provides a complete picture of the unit’s successes and weaknesses. It helps pinpoint how successes can be capitalized on, and identifies the problems and issues that must be resolved to maximize the unit’s performance.

Leaders ensure their plans coincide with their vision. This is necessary if their vision is to be attained. They analyze and make sure plans can be incorporated into their overall goals and objectives.

The information collected from these two planning activities provides reliable insight and direction. It shapes how performance plans are to be formulated and becomes the foundation for all future performance plans.


Leaders obtain input and feedback from all members of their unit. This strategy works to bring individual members “on board.” It greatly increases the probability they will accept the plan and implement the necessary strategies to make it successful.

Leaders use brainstorming to get reliable feedback. They use this feedback to creatively approach the development of their performance plan. They need to “think outside of the box” to view their goals and objectives creatively and without bias. Brainstorming accomplishes this by encouraging entrepreneurial thinking. Then leaders can easily define the issues concerning maximizing unit performance from various perspectives.

The purpose of brainstorming is not only to identify ways to achieve goals and complete tasks. It is used as a method to seek out information and ideas for exceeding normal expectations. Leaders always look for ways to optimize performance and results. Effective brainstorming also helps them improve budgetary performance as it maximizes the use of assigned resources.

Formulating Plans

Throughout the preparation and brainstorming phases of planning, the performance plan begins to take shape. Senior management has assigned the overall goals and objectives. The feedback and the analysis of the organizational unit details what needs to be accomplished. From this information, assumptions can be made that will form the basis of the plan.

Leaders clarify the specific direction the organizational unit will take. The steps needed to achieve this direction are carefully outlined and detailed. Each step is then formulated into specific objectives along with the activities required to attain the chosen course of direction.

From this information, leaders assign specific tasks and responsibilities to each individual unit member. These assignments become part of the performance plan, assuring that all objectives will be accomplished.

Leaders make sure each subordinate assigned to a task or responsibility has the necessary resources to be successful. Additionally, each task and responsibility includes established milestones so subordinates understand exactly what they need to do, by when. Milestones provide leaders with performance standards to ensure assigned tasks and responsibilities are accomplished in a timely fashion. This allows for effective managing of the performance plan as well as making modifications when needed.

Formalizing Plans

The final step of performance planning is to formalize a written plan. This becomes the actual management tool that guides and directs the organizational unit in the accomplishment of its goals and objectives.

The degree to which plans need to be refined will vary according to company standards. However, leaders make sure their plan clearly and precisely details the goals and objectives of the entire organizational unit. They write these in clear, easily understood language. Plans also include a timeline plotting each task, responsibility and milestone. Each time segment details the individual(s) responsible for specific tasks and their accomplishment and defines the resources to be allocated. All supporting data collected throughout the planning process is included to substantiate the plan, as well as the list of assumptions the plan is based upon.

Excerpt: Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD


Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance

Measure What Needs to Be Measured

Performance Driven Leaders Must Establish Clear Employee Expectations

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Maximizing Financial Performance

Strengthening Leadership Performance

Performance Management

Problem Solving

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Planning as a Means to Generate, Oversee and Measure Results

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Most corporations require leaders to produce an annual plan to project possible future results. Many leaders tend to undertake this assignment with little or no enthusiasm even though it is necessary to forge new paths to generating positive, successful outcomes. Once completed, most annual plans sit on the shelf until the next planning cycle. Many times the rationale is that people are too involved and overwhelmed with daily activities to follow their plan.

Effective leaders tend to view planning as a means to generate, oversee and measure results. Planning gives leaders time to consider how they can improve their own as well as overall workplace performance. It allows leaders to reflect on ways to stretch their employees’ abilities in order to make them a more viable resource for generating and enhancing long-term results. In order to get the best results possible from their leadership efforts, leaders need to prepare for them.

Leaders must recognize that preparing for results does have its challenges, and be aware of them before beginning their next planning cycle.

During planning and budgetary reviews, leaders sometimes develop unreliable projected numbers and assumptions. It is all too easy to develop projections without specific facts to back them up, yet obtaining positive end results relies on sound forecasting.

Many leaders fail to invest the needed effort to review past performance, and this deficiency tends to affect their end outcomes. Some also fall short in taking the necessary time to effectively base future projections and assumptions upon what their organizational units have actually achieved in the past, which distorts expectations.

Obtaining results implies that plans and budgets not be developed in a void. Effective leaders realize that they must build on past successes and determine why and how past failures occurred. They know that to increase results it is essential to plan for strengthening weak and non-performing areas.

Leaders can only accomplish this by thoroughly reviewing past performance in all areas in order to link plans to where the organizational unit currently stands. Performance reviews allow leaders to accurately project their organizational unit’s performance forward in incremental steps. This is the only realistic method of achieving and sustaining growth.

As leaders begin the planning process to increase performance and results, they need to address five specific areas that tend to create the greatest challenges:

Faulty Assumptions

Every plan that is designed to increase results needs to be based upon a series of assumptions. Consisting of future and anticipated variables that impact the actual performance of the plan, assumptions include economic conditions, sales and production forecasts, as well as anticipated major orders.

If assumptions are inaccurate, plans will be worthless and future results will not be realized. For example, if a plan is based upon 10% growth when in reality the economy is causing a 10% decline, everything in the plan is based upon an inaccurate assumption.

When developing their plans, leaders must focus on carefully creating, listing and detailing accurate and realistic assumptions. As conditions change during the year, reviewing assumptions becomes a necessary procedure in order to adjust them to actual conditions. This enables leaders to quickly alter and adapt their plans throughout the year, ensuring the likelihood of obtaining the results they want.

Inaccurate Information

To get results, the development and use of accurate information within the planning process is essential. Accurate information is one of the most important aspects of planning and the most significant step in the plan’s implementation process. Leaders must take the opportunity to examine every aspect of their organizational unit’s past performance. This includes reviewing past plans and budgets against actual performance.

Results-oriented leaders understand what worked in the past and why. They identify areas for improvement, revision, modification or an increased workforce. They then focus on underlying causes that tend to influence or precipitate inadequate employee performance. Leaders who make it a point to conduct exhaustive performance reviews are able to produce accurate information and data, which helps to generate higher levels of results over shorter periods of time.

Once leaders produce a comprehensive review, it becomes much easier to update and maintain their information with a higher degree of accuracy. Leaders use the planning process to audit their information and insure its reliability and accuracy.

Pitfalls to Effective Plan Development

The first major planning pitfall that definitely affects positive end results lies in leaders choosing to create new strategies by simply duplicating previous annual plans with one or two selective changes. Most often changes include simply altering numbers to reflect current conditions. The completed plan is then submitted to senior management. These plans have little value in terms of results-oriented direction or particular action steps to follow.

A second major pitfall is found in writing plans from a “backward perspective.” This is where plans are made according to where leaders want to go, rather than on where they should be going. Strategies are developed without regard to the specific facts, data, timelines and information needed to ensure they are accurate and realistic.

All pertinent information and related data supporting various desired outcomes must be included when generating plans, with all other information that tends to conflict with the desired outcomes omitted.

Both pitfalls are attempts to short-circuit the planning process or avoid it, and greatly reduce the chances of obtaining the results leaders need to generate. When this happens, leaders fail to meet their responsibilities to themselves, employees, associates, senior management and stockholders.

Impossible Plan Timetables, Allotments and Factors

How plans are scheduled can have a major impact on whether or not results are obtained. Many leaders often assume they can achieve more than is realistically possible to attain. They tend to insert and carry over expectations of impossible timelines and deadlines for employees to follow and meet.

Performance plans should stretch each organizational unit and members’ capabilities. Time allotments to move processes and actions along toward achieving goals and objectives must be realistic. Additional time must be factored in for unanticipated events that will inevitably occur during the year.

It is essential for leaders not to under-plan, where employees are not pushed to perform. Equally as important they should not over-plan, where employees are constantly placed under stress to meet deadlines. To get better results, leaders must consider the need to balance their plan’s time requirements, workload criteria and expectations.

Failing to View Performance Plans as Positive Management Tools

Often leaders will produce required plans and forget about them until the next ones are due. It is a serious mistake to view planning as an impediment to their work and daily responsibilities.

Results-oriented leaders appreciate how and why performance plans are powerful management tools. Plans guide and direct their actions throughout the year toward the accomplishment of their goals and objectives, which always move them to securing higher levels of workplace results.

Results-oriented leaders focus on taking their plans and breaking them down into smaller monthly plans, which can be easily monitored and altered. Leaders also make certain to generate smaller step-by-step plans for every individual employee. This process tends to link both time and individual performance toward the accomplishment of common goals and objectives.

Planning is a continuous, ongoing process. Performance plans need to be continually revisited, modified and adapted to reflect actual conditions. Situations change and performance plans should allow leaders to readily anticipate and adapt to fluctuations, speedups and slowdowns, as well as unforeseen occurrences.


Looking into the Crystal Ball

The Need to Test Opinions Against the Facts

The Mastery of Details is an Integral Part of Leadership

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

Excerpt: Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

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The establishment of individual employee goals and objectives can be stressful in many organizations, especially if this is a new concept. Employees often resent being held accountable for their actions. Their perception is that these actions are punitive rather than intended as a mechanism to move the organization forward.

While the establishment of individual goals or objectives is a critical process, managers should recognize that they might be dealing with employee groups with varying degrees of experience in goal setting and implementation.

It is important for managers to understand that these gaps in experience can affect the ultimate success or failure of an individual employee. With this in mind, managers must take steps to help employees succeed, which is dependent upon their personal levels of experience. They must recognize that some employees will need more assistance than others. The key is to dedicate the time required for all to be successful in the attainment of their individual goals.

Related: Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance

The establishment of individual goals and objectives can be a stressful exercise for many employees. Though the process includes elements of an employee review, it is not an evaluation but a process of setting the employee’s direction for the future as well as coordinating individual goals with those of the organization. The following techniques and strategies should be utilized to successfully establish individual goals:


Before a manager begins the formal process of establishing individual goals and objectives with an employee, the first step is to allow the employee the time to express his or her ideas and feelings. This discussion should establish a good mood and should focus on the positive aspects of the employee’s job. If complaints are voiced, managers should ask the employee for ways to correct the problem. By giving an employee the opportunity to resolve a problem, the discussion remains focused on the positive aspects of his or her job while empowering them to develop a realistic solution.

Related: When Motivating Employees, Expectations Are Everything

Be Forward Looking

Past performance of the employee will undoubtedly become part of the discussion. However, managers should keep the discussion focused on the future goals and objectives and avoid dwelling on past performance issues. This way the employee is focused on his or her future performance and not mired in past problems.

Be Candid

As managers move through the discussion of individual goals and objectives, they must be both candid and honest regarding the employee’s abilities so that obtainable goals can be established. This is a constructive, not negative, gesture in that it helps uncover what the employee is capable of and expected to achieve.

Small Steps

To many employees, individual goals can be overwhelming when viewed in their entirety. Managers can effectively ease these fears by breaking long-term objectives down into smaller, short-term targets that move the employee forward. Creating annual, quarterly and monthly goals that both the manager and employee can agree upon is the starting place; it is then the employee’s responsibility to break those goals into weekly and daily objectives.

It should be noted that not all employees have the skills to effectively plan their own activities. Managers should review this procedure with their people and perhaps walk them through the process of taking a month’s goals and breaking them down into weekly and daily objectives.

Secure Agreement

Once both the employee and manager have developed a realistic set of goals and objectives for the employee and demonstrated how to plan their weekly and daily activities around meeting them, both parties should secure an agreement. The agreement should focus on the individual objectives and how they will be accomplished.


Managers need to have a clear understanding of how each employee plans to reach their goals and the steps that will be taken to accomplish them. However, managers must make sure that all individual goals are aligned with the organization’s, as well as with those of other unit employees. Failure to do so can result in employees working against each other rather than cooperatively toward the mutual accomplishment of common goals and objectives.

Related: Five Strategies to Build Trust


As managers are facilitators, whenever they see an opportunity or need, they should take the time to share their knowledge and expertise with employees regarding how to best reach their individual objectives.

Since goal setting can be a new experience for many employees, they may accept a goal and not know where to start or how to get there. When managers share their expertise, they are facilitating the success of the employee to achieve his or her individual goals. This is what makes the entire process both meaningful and worthwhile.

Remain Task-Oriented

Throughout the process of establishing individual goals and objectives, the climate should be warm, friendly and informal. Yet managers should ensure the process remains task-oriented, as well as be aware that they will need each employee’s assistance in the future to help attain their goals. The key is that all should be working together toward the accomplishment of mutual objectives.

Commit to Change

Managers should recognize that the establishment of goals and objectives is a commitment to change. With this in mind, employees may be resistant to change and fear the consequences it may bring. Employees may also be reluctant to commit to goals and objectives out of a personal fear that they will be unable to attain them.


Once the goal setting process has been completed, managers should review each individual objective with the employee. These goals should be committed in writing with both the employee and manager receiving a file copy for future reference.

Excerpt: Strengthening Performance: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance

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Performance planning is not developed in a void, nor is it based upon unsubstantiated estimates of budgets, performance and plans. Effective leadership demands plans be based upon past performance and results. By successfully implementing such plans, leaders can stimulate their subordinates to exceed normal performance expectations.

It is surprising how many managers develop annual plans and budgets without accounting for previous years’ performance and the realistic capabilities of their operational unit. Plans that lack these important elements are typically ineffective as roadmaps for achieving high output from an organizational unit.

Related: Six Key Benefits of Performance Management

Effective leaders understand that in order to move their unit forward, they must look at what has worked in the past and then build upon those successes. They also take proactive measures to eliminate any apparent failures and weaknesses.

This process is important for leaders to understand if they wish to motivate their subordinates to reach higher levels of achievement. Plans are not a worthless set of documents to be viewed only once or twice a year: they outline significant milestones and detail what the unit needs to do to effectively operate throughout the year. Leaders understand that performance plans lay out the path for attaining their goals and objectives.

The importance of proper planning cannot be emphasized enough: if it is to be effective and realistic, it must be focused upon prior performance of the leader’s organizational unit. Therefore, a formal review must be conducted in the following three critical areas:

Operational Performance

A formal review in this area is normally conducted on two levels simultaneously: operational and leadership. The operational review compares the organizational unit’s performance with the stated goals and objectives passed down by senior management. The leadership review compares the organizational unit’s performance with the leader’s expectations. While both levels review the same information, the leadership review is conducted from the leader’s perspective of how he or she can motivate the unit to exceed expectations.

The process of a formal review begins with a superficial selection of areas that need further examination. Particular attention needs to be paid to what did and did not work during the past year. This is where leaders can begin to develop strategies to build upon their unit’s successes and eliminate or correct any failures/weaknesses.

Leaders next need to rate the actual performance of all aspects of their organizational unit, including personnel, tasks, assignments, roles, resources and so forth. At this point, any required changes and adjustments should be noted for inclusion in future performance plans.

A final review of operational performance needs to explore the impact and affect of new trends, changes in economic conditions, and uncontrollable events on the operational unit. A thorough examination should note exactly what occurred, how it impacted the leader’s unit and how the unit responded. Any lessons learned from these experiences should also be included in future plans.

Related: Measure What Needs to Be Measured

Resource Utilization

A formal resource utilization review should be conducted to determine if the leader and the organizational unit maximized their use of available resources. Typically, this review determines if the unit effectually used personnel, machinery, equipment, time, schedules and financial resources.

Leaders need to analyze the operational or production capacity of their organizational unit. This can be conducted from several perspectives, such as production, operations or administration, depending upon the responsibilities of the unit. A resource utilization review pinpoints any bottlenecks or problems that occurred in these areas.

Next, leaders must determine the causes of bottlenecks and problems, which can include inadequate scheduling or insufficient human or financial resources. The findings should be detailed and included in future planning activities.

Related: Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Financial Performance

The last step in this review analyzes the unit’s financial performance. First, leaders determine how well their organizational unit worked within its budget. They will often discover problem areas that can be more deeply examined during the performance planning process.

An additional review should be conducted to look at the profitability of the organizational unit, including potential ways for it to cut costs and improve productivity. These findings should also be detailed and noted for further examination as well as inclusion in future performance plans.

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices in performance planning to train or educate your employees to solve problems and improve their performance in this area, refer to Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. Click here to learn more.

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog | 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Measure What Needs to Be Measured

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Performance plans are action plans, not static documents. Effective performance plans must detail the specific actions leaders and employees must follow to accomplish the goals and objectives set within it. Leaders understand that without meaningful performance standards, measuring and evaluating individual performance becomes difficult if not impossible. Once the plan is implemented, meaningful performance standards allow leaders to modify and adapt their plans to actual conditions.

Leaders must use solid standards to monitor and evaluate all aspects of performance. Any measurement used should determine and create an action both on the part of the employee being evaluated and on the part of the leader performing the evaluation.

There is a natural tendency for a leader to focus his or her activities on more prominent areas that will be highlighted and spotlighted, yet every element of the performance plan must be fully addressed.

It should be noted that any standard a leader creates will direct, limit and change the behavior and performance of their employees. This is important for leaders to understand because what and how they choose to evaluate can have either a positive or negative effect on the performance of their organizational unit.

A common pitfall in establishing performance standards is overdoing them. It burdens all involved with excessive factors and controls. Leaders know that to be effective, they need to set performance standards that are relevant and meaningful. It is far better to have fewer meaningful standards than to establish many useless ones. When applied, these standards will present a true picture of the performance of their organizational unit at any given point in time. Four areas to focus on in creating meaningful performance standards are:

What to Measure

The specific elements that need to be measured will vary by organizational unit. Typically, performance standards are set around productivity and profitability. Most leaders establish performance standards by setting specific performance expectations. Examples include:

  • Progress is evaluated by the reaching of specific milestones linked to individual goals and objectives.
  • Profitability is evaluated against the budgets established for each activity.
  • Efficiency is evaluated by the resource utilization within the organizational unit.

Each organizational unit has key factors that determine their success. Leaders identify these factors as indicators of performance and look for trigger points that are early indicators of the success or failure of these factors. For instance, if a leader is managing a manufacturing unit, he or she may focus on projected orders as a key indicator of their unit’s future activities. While a production supervisor may not be interested in these future indicators, a leader looks beyond the immediate horizon to maximize the efficiency of their unit.

How to Benchmark

Once leaders know what they want to evaluate, they need to benchmark each critical measurement. This establishes degrees of confidence and reliability in their numbers. They review these statistics over a meaningful period of time to establish a benchmark of past performance in each area. The longer a leader reviews the past performance of a specific area, the higher the degree of confidence and reliability he or she establishes.

Once key performance standards are benchmarked, leaders establish “triggering events” that result in taking immediate action. Since the benchmarked statistic is the standard, a triggering event can be predetermined. This event or “flag” occurs when performance rises above or falls below a specific percentage of the benchmarked standard. This provides leaders an early warning system to proactively deal with performance problems before they get out of hand.

How Frequently to Measure

Leaders are careful not to overburden themselves with needless information. They use performance standards as a means to keep their finger on the pulse of their unit’s performance. They can easily determine the frequency for receiving reports of their unit’s performance. Some statistics are meaningful on a daily basis, some hourly, and still others only when reported over prolonged periods of time.

What Measurements Indicate

Key performance standards need to inform leaders of the overall performance of their organizational unit. Specific measurements can trigger corrective actions, while others indicate the progress of the unit against performance plan goals and objectives. Effectively utilized, solid performance standards lead and direct the leader’s actions to fine-tune his or her unit’s performance. The right balance of key standards points the way to improved overall performance and productivity.

Excerpt: Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about performance planning techniques, refer to Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Use promo code XC9OTF47 to receive 10% discount on this book.
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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