2012 Olympics … International Performance Management

There is nothing quite like the Olympics. I get swept up in the fever and the tide of emotions that pours out of each athlete. They train so hard for their entire life for this one moment and for some they will take the medal stand in full adoration of their nation. Yet for most others, they will have to wait an agonizing four more years before they take another shot at glory.

So it pained me to watch a flawed system rob one of gymnastic’s elite of an opportunity to compete for the all around title. Jordyn Wieber, the 2011 World Champion, has only lost twice in a competition since 2009, was left out of medal contention because of a rule that only allows the top two gymnasts from each country to advance to the finals. The look of shock, awe and disbelief that the 17 year old displayed when realizing her fate was hard to stomach. Her score placed her fourth out of 24, but it wasn’t enough given the rules. She was beat out by two teammates, both equally deserving the right to move on.

Headlines all over the world that morning were calling the system flawed and broken. Many feel that she was robbed. Only she would be the first of a few to be robbed by the system. This morning the outcry (rightfully so in my opinion) is over Aly Raisman losing the tie-breaker and being left off the medal stand. It’s a shame to see these young women have to suffer as a result of this flaw. There is already an outcry for the system to change. It doesn’t feel right and it doesn’t reward the top performers. In fact, in this case, it unjustly punishes an elite performer. However, this should not be allowed to upstage the crowning of America’s newest sweetheart, Gabby Douglas. Do your thing Gabby … write your name in the history books!

This system doesn’t only reside within gymnastics. Most of us face a similarly flawed system in our workplace. Our system and the injustices feel small in comparison to what Jordyn experienced. But, they are widespread and accepted. There has not been much of an outcry to change the status quo, but there are pockets of resistance emerging. I am talking specifically about our performance management system that requires managers to force rank individuals into a bell curve of 20-70-10. Only 20% of the people in an organization may be considered exceptional performers at any given time. It doesn’t feel right.

Let us look at an example. During the year, you are asked to rate your employees and then you are brought into a calibration session with your peers to place the “formal” tag on your employees. You have a team of 5. You have worked hard to recruit, train and develop your people. And they have responded by performing exceptionally. Trouble is only 1 by our current standards would be eligible for top billing. You sit in the meeting with your peers, you hear the names they offer up, and you know all 5 of your people outshine them. Trouble is, the calibration forces you to be quiet. You have exceeded your quota. Even if you argue and win, at best you get 2 of 5 into top billing. Injustice prevails, yet we continue to do this year in and year out. Maybe this Olympic failure will provide the catalyst for change … and hopefully before another four years has passed.

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