Big Ideas

Performance Leadership

A Q&A with Frank Buytendijk

By Monica Mehta

February 2009

Frank Buytendijk, a vice president and fellow in enterprise performance management (EPM) at Oracle, is one of the world’s leading experts in business intelligence and performance management. With 20 years of experience, he has worked as an implementation consultant, project manager, management consultant, business manager, industry analyst, and strategist.

In his book Performance Leadership: The Next Practices to Motivate Your People, Align Stakeholders, and Lead Your Industry (McGraw-Hill, 2008), Buytendijk asks a novel question: What would happen if we applied lessons in the field of personal development to performance management? He advances a new framework, called performance leadership, that challenges conventional wisdom on the best practices in performance management. Profit talked with Buytendijk about his radical new approach to improving performance.

Profit: You say that performance management is a contradiction in terms. Tell us more about that.

Buytendijk: A lot of organizations invest in performance management, but the way that they do it actually leads to opposite results. I believe that is because fundamentally we use the wrong model for performance management. In reality, performance comes from Venus and management from Mars. Performance is all about motivation, dedication, teamwork, and people, which are matters of the heart. Management is more associated with plans, procedures, rules, regulations, control, and accountability, which are matters of the mind. So performance management is a contradiction in terms, because there is a disconnect between matters of the mind and matters of the heart. And all we’re doing is minding the matters of the mind, not the heart. We need a different model.

Profit: And that’s the performance leadership framework?

Buytendijk: Yes. People make the difference between what constitutes management and what constitutes leadership. If you look at the definition of leadership, it is more about understanding why we change and creating inspiration and motivation, while management is about protecting the status quo. That is why I talk about performance leadership as the next step after performance management.

The ideas behind performance leadership are based on what would happen if we applied lessons in the field of personal development to performance management. Stephen R. Covey, who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that people should ideally develop on four dimensions. The physical dimension is needed to stay healthy and have energy for the other dimensions. The mental dimension helps us get ahead: Where are we now, where do we want to be, how do we get there? The social/emotional dimension helps us to develop ourselves as balanced people who are an asset to our environment. The spiritual dimension, lastly, helps us to think about what we stand for or, in other words, what we want to be remembered for.

These same four dimensions can be applied to organizations, because an organization is a living organism: it’s born, it grows up, and it dies. The physical dimension is comparable to managing day-to-day operations. These must be efficient to allow for appropriate management attention to improvement and innovation. The mental dimension dovetails with strategy, asking the same question: Where are you now, where do you want to be, how will you get there? But that is where performance management usually stops—that’s all we ask ourselves. If we look at the Covey parallel, we’re leaving half the dimensions on the table.

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