Humanizing performance management (Part 1)

About a month ago, I was given a challenge to develop a system that could ‘manage’ performance in a company with start-up spirit. 

The challenger explained to me how the commonly practiced Performance Management System (PMS) couldn’t be implemented. She firstly described the project-based team arrangements that caused someone to have a minimum of two bosses at the same time. She then continued by explaining how everyone’s targets can be significantly changed within a month. To add to these, she described the maturity level of the leaders who are relatively young and mostly millennials. 

Yes…she got me thinking!

I am quite familiar with the terms Key Performance Indicators, Balanced Score Card, calibration, normalization, formal ranking and the like. But when I got the grip of how things are run in this organisation, I knew instantly that most of my past experience needs a lot of adjustment if it were to be rolled out here. 

To help you picture how the business is run in this organisation, I will tell you a bit about the culture: 

  • Don’t like bureaucracy (hate forms and long meetings)
  • Do things fast (a decision can be made through WhatsApp)
  • Consistently have to do things differently (due to the fact that challenges we face haven’t been faced by many outside the company)
  • Trust others a lot (independence and flexibility are core in leading a bunch of smart youngsters)
  • Data driven (all we said must be based on data and strong analytics)

    Having all these information, I started my research on how most ‘up-to-date’ organisation are doing their performance management. So I studied Google, Facebook, GE, Deloitte, Accenture, and some other companies who are well known for their innovation. I tried to check other start-ups as well, but not much literature are available. Maybe they are still trying to figure out how to best do this like we are.

    I will tell you what I found out on the 2nd part. But to give you a hint, they are still doing Performance Management…just in a different form. 


    Being kind yet still driving for results 

    Being an A-type person, it is not easy for me to be patient. Most of the time I forgot to enjoy the process of getting somewhere. All I can think of is when can I complete the project so I can start another project.

    I knew I missed to notice lots of things during the process, but I thought it’s OK as long as I give outstanding deliverables. Apparently it was not OK.

    Most of the time I pushed and I pushed people to finish their job as soon as possible. I ignored their feeling of distress and at the end I felt like I had to do it all over again because their work was not satisfactory compared to my standard. And I wondered why on earth would someone send a submission that is not ‘great’.

    One day, my ex-boss called me. It was time for performance review. As expected, my targets were all exceeding expectation and he was very grateful for that. Then he moved to HOW I delivered those targets. One word from him that put me in total shocked: “arrogant”.

    The funny thing was he was shocked to see me shocked. He knew me well enough to be sure that I myself know that I tend to be direct…even blunt. He asked me how come I was surprised with his feedback. I remember telling him that I knew I am blunt, but I never thought that people would see me as an arrogant person.

    He then told me that the way I cut people sentences, and my facial expression when I disregarded what they said were actually pretty bad. I also remember that I told him something like this: “I knew what they said can’t be implemented, so it doesn’t make sense to continue to go through that path. I saw 3-5 steps ahead how what they said won’t be a reality if what was expected from us was greatness.”

    He said a very simple thing in return to my in-shock defense: “Why didn’t you tell them what you saw in your head then? That would make them understand why what they said didn’t make sense and that would be the first step for them to know how to improve themselves.”

    I then sat in quiet in front of him for a while. He continued: “You can still deliver while being kind to others, you know?”

    I nodded in agreement.

    In that moment, I knew I wasn’t trying hard enough to grew my team, to encouraged them to share their thoughts. So I slapped myself (just in my mind, though) and made a promise that I will try to be nicer and kinder to anyone whom I talk to.

    It was a promise I still keep.

    Why am I doing this?

    try my best to make other people’s life a bit easier

    A couple of weeks ago, a colleague of mine shared her thoughts with me. She said: “I don’t believe ‘inspire others’ as an act. I believe ‘inspire others’ as a result of all the things that we did right.” Since then I questioned myself…what have I done that might trigger others to do good and better themselves?

    I felt very sad to face the fact that I couldn’t find the answer to my own question. So I engaged my self in thinking about it deeper. Until one day (which was a couple of days ago) I realize that it was worthless trying to answer the question. Because all I can do is to try my best to make other people’s life a bit easier.

    I always believe that as a human being, my purpose is simply to be useful…be it at work, at home, at community or at any other places.

    Hereto, this started…simple stories of how I try my best.


    LiKuDe is the acronym of the name bestowed upon me by my parents.

    Talking about them, I want to share how I appreciate the way they raised me so I became who I am now.

    My father was a soldier who travelled across the country during his service in the army. He always took his kids with him. I went to 5 elementary schools in 5 different cities. Now that I think about it, it makes sense that I never have many close friends. I am so used to keep my circle to the person who sat next to me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind this. I am as happy as I can be. Those who are close to me I keep them dearly until today.

    Back to my father…he is the one who thought me about honour, commitment, consistency, and persistence. His forward thinking trained me to consider the history behind everything to understand why something happens today and what it would possibly look like in the future.

    My mom, on the other hand, thought me to be mindful of other’s feeling. How we should treat others the way we want them to treat us. She also thought me how two very different person could teamed up and complement each other.

    They both showed me how to trust others and support them to grow in their own way. In real life, I saw my older sister became a dedicated housewife right after her graduation. I watched my youngest sister as musician and lecturer. And I watched myself being freed to make my decision to pursued a master degree abroad and became a career woman.

    Marvelously, at the same time, they let me know that they are not perfect and that I should always try to learn from others about the many things that they both don’t know.

    So, here I am now…LiKuDe.