We talk a lot about how managers and HR can turn around individual underperformance, but why do we focus on this so much? Especially when the outcome we are after is improved business performance? What if we could turn this idea upside down and start with the macro view? How can we turn around business underperformance?
I started thinking about this when I was planning the recent HR Uprising Podcast on this topic. As HR professionals it is a constant challenge to balance time between supporting individuals and supporting the business to add value.
Some of us will have come across the term ‘Chunking Up’ or ‘Chunking Down’ from NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming). This refers to looking at a situation or problem from different levels. For example, we may be called in to help because a line manager believes an individual member of staff is underperforming. If this is the case, we have tips on how to manage this in our blog: How to manage poor performance at work. Further links to useful resources can be found at the bottom of this blog.
However, turning around one individual may mean we are only working on the symptoms of the problem rather than the cause. If we decide to ‘chunk Up’ we then look at what might be causing or influencing this underperformance. When we consider this, we realise that the cause could be at this higher level. For example, perhaps the problem is the style of the line manager or the behaviours of the team around them.
As we continue to ‘chunk up’ we may realise that there are causes higher up in the organisation e.g. the behaviours of the senior leadership, prevailing culture, or business processes. Any of these factors could be positively or negatively affecting individual or business performance.
In our white paper ‘I’ve an underperformer, get them out of here’ we explain the simple CISS model used to diagnose the causes of underperformance. The model stands for Clarity, Individual Attitude, Skills and Surroundings. Most causes of individual underperformance will fall into one of these categories and typically in 3 out of 4 cases, the cause is not the individual themselves.
By ‘chunking up’ we can see that it may well be the manager who isn’t providing clarity of expectations, or access to training or coaching which is the true cause. ‘Chunking up’ further, we may realise that the organisation or senior leadership are not providing a clear vision to follow. Or perhaps they are setting a bad example for management behaviours or the manager has never had any management training. In these cases, underperformance becomes endemic.
We can take the simple acronym ‘CISS’ and apply it at multiple levels in the organisation. This will allow us to identify ways we could improve business performance. Take ‘Clarity’ for example, at an individual level we need to know what is expected of us in terms of our job role and objectives. As a line manager, we need to have clarity about how to manage people effectively. This includes being able to provide a clear link between an individual’s objectives and the overall business strategy. At a business level, we need to have a clear vision and goals and aligned metrics that help others realise how to deliver against these goals. It is a really simple but really effective concept to work with.
So whether you are trying to improve business performance or individual performance, remember to ‘chunk up’ the simple CISS acronym. This will help to get to the root of the problem and address poor performance at all levels of the business.