The Results – Activities – Systems & Structures (RASS) Model
Whether designing a new organization or diagnosing the performance of an existing one, there are three fundamental questions that must be answered: What is the organization trying to accomplish? What does the organization’s leaders want their employees to do in order to achieve these goals, i.e., the desired behaviors? And finally, are the organization’s business systems and structures aligned to drive the behavior? Business systems and structures include, but are not limited to, the hiring & staffing system, the training & development system, the measurement & reward/incentives systems, tools & processes, organizational structure, etc. The answers to these three questions comprise what I call a Results – Activities – Systems & Structures (RASS) model for performance improvement.
Step 1 – Results
What is your organization trying to accomplish? It is essential to differentiate between business results and accomplishments. It is common to hear a manager state the current sales targets as the desired results. Obviously they are desired outcomes, but NOT the results we are interested in. Among other problems, these types of business measures (e.g., volume and margin) are lagging indicators, after-the-fact, that do not enable a manager to evaluate progress and correct course if necessary.
Instead, the results that must be identified are the behavioral accomplishments of individuals, based on the organizations’ vision and go-to-market strategy. For example, ABC Co. wants to be viewed by customers as a strategic partner. ABC Co. management knows from experience that if a sales rep can establish such a relationship that opportunity and deals that lead to volume will follow. Subsequently, they want their sales reps to be regarded as trusted advisors. An individual accomplishment toward this end might be, “Establish a collaborative relationship with the CFO and his/her staff.”
Step 2 – Activities
What should your employees to do in order to achieve these goals, i.e., the desired behaviors? A good manager understands what their successful employees do to achieve their results. We need to identify the activities, or behaviors, that we want – not simply the end result. We must be able to articulate what we want these people to actually do (more of, less of…). These behaviors are referred to in HPT as “Performance Objectives.” Being able to articulate the desired observable, measurable, behaviors is a fundamental lesson of GE’s CAP process (See post “Overview of GE’s Change Acceleration Process” – 25 Jan 09). In my experience, management failure to identify and effectively communicate the desired behaviors is the root cause of numerous business problems – ineffective employee coaching programs for example.
Unfortunately, this step is frequently skipped – or done superficially. It is difficult and time-consuming to construct good performance objectives. But it is absolutely essential. So many business initiatives fail because leadership thinks their work is done after they communicate the high-level vision.
To continue the example above: In order to establish a collaborative relationship, ABC Co. wants the sales force to stay current on industry developments, and their target customers’ developments. They want sales reps to meet with CFO’s subordinates to learn the customers financials and their pressing challenges, and to share insights with them. They want a strategic account plan created for the top accounts in each territory. They also want sales reps to schedule and record meeting notes in their CRM tool. Additionally, ABC Co. wants managers to use reports from their CRM tool to manage sales and they want senior managers listen on those meetings periodically.
Step 3 – Systems & Structures
Are your organization’s business systems and structures aligned to drive the desired behavior? These systems exist to support the current state of your business. If you do not modify them to support your desired state, they will drive behavior to maintain the current state, that’s what they are supposed to do.
Ironically, you may find it’s fairly easy to do this once you identify the behaviors you want. It is virtually impossible to align your business systems and structures with those goals if you DON’T identify your performance objectives.
At this point, take your list of desired behaviors and systematically evaluate each of your business systems and structures against them. Have the behavioral expectations been communicated effectively by upper management? Is there accountability for the behavior? Are you hiring the right types of sales people? Is your training & development system preparing your employees properly? Does your measurement & reward/incentives systems drive the right behavior? “Most businesses are replete with undesirable behaviors that stem from disregarding the fundamental principles of organizational reward systems.” Is the CRM tool accessible and easy to use? You can use a simple tool like a force field analysis to get you started on this. Eventually you will want to use more rigorous criteria to evaluate your systems, like benchmarking of world-class organizations or best practices checklists provided by industry groups like SHRM or ASTD.
You are likely to find that your business systems present your employees with a confusing, contradictory set of instructions and incentives. Without clarity and consistency they are left to choose for themselves how to behave. You should not be surprised if what they actually do is not what you were hoping for.
 Kerr, S., Reward Systems – Does Yours Measure Up? (2009) Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.