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Performance Model

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Dr. Richard W. Scholl
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An important part of any performance management system this process used to identify and diagnose the cause is of behavioral or performance problems. An effective behavioral diagnosis process starts with a clear identification of the problem. I have found that the most effective way of again if I specify a problem of a performance gap. Simply stated, a performance gap is the difference between desired or expected behavior, and actual or observed behavior. The articulation of expected behavior should be clearly linked to competitive strategy of an organization. A discussion of the process of developing performance expectations is beyond the scope of this WebNote, so we'll start with the assumption that the performance expectations are aligned with maintaining a competitive advantage. We will start with a discussion of a performance feedback and corrections system. To do this will start with the basic premises of a control system.

Control Theory Model of Performance improvement and behavioral change

Using the concept of a cybertnic control system, Klein (1989) developed a control theory-based model of self-regulation, motivation and responses to behavioral feedback. In this model, the discrepancy, or difference between a performance goal and behavioral feedback is the performance gap. This model suggests that individuals will modify their behavior in response to a discrepancy depending on levels of motivation, self-efficacy, and the existence or absence of strong behavioral schema.

Control Model

In a perfect world, performance management would be an individual self-regulatory process, whereby individuals continually seek feedback to determine the existence of a performance gap, and change their behavior in an effort to eliminate performance gaps. There are many barriers to this process in actual organizations including:

  1. Feedback errors- Individuals to not continually monitor the results of their actions. Sometimes feedback is difficult to obtain or evaluate. In many cases it is ambiguous.
  2. Discrepancy error (Problem Identification; Motivation)- Individuals vary greatly in their tolerances for discrepancies. There has to be some source of motivation directing the individual to reduce any discrepancy.
  3. Attribution error (Diagnosis)- There are many potential causes for most discrepancies. There is generally not a single behavioral change may correct the gap. Determining the appropriate behavior to change so often difficult.
  4. Ability (Self-efficacy)- Self-efficacy is the individual's belief in his or her ability to change the factor on which feedback is based, thus reducing the gap. When self-efficacy is low, there is generally no behavioral change even when the discrepancy has meaning for the individual.
  5. Cognitive schema- When a cognitive schema is being used, the link between the sensor and effect are short-circuited. A particular stimulus brings on a programs or scripted reaction from the effect door. The individual tends to be impervious to feedback and discrepancies.

In place of a self regulatory performance improvement system, most organizations develop an external control system to monitor performance, feedback performance data to individuals, and attempt to motivate corrective behavioral changes. An effective performance management system actually includes all the elements present in Klein's control model, and might look like this.


Process model of performance Diagnosis

As in many disciplines, the process of problem solving in terms of solving performance problems can be comprised of three major stages: Problem identification, diagnosis, and solution generation. This process can be expanded to include solution choice, development of an implementation plan, and monitoring and feedback of a plan, sections below will describe the first three stages of this process.

Problem Identification

In this stage you are attempting to define the focus group of individuals (e.g., managers, store clerks, assemblers, professors) whose behavior you which to change and the specific behavior or performance dimension you which to change. to start this process you need to the performance/behavioral gap. Here are the questions and steps to follow

  1. What is the competitive strategy of the organization in question? On what basis does this organizational compete?
  2. To implement this competitive strategy, what does this organization have to do well? What is its competitive advantage?
  3. What must each group of employees do well in order for this organization to remain competitive?(Define Expected Behavior)
  4. Describe the actual patterns of performance (behavior) exhibited by focal employee (Actual Behavior)
  5. Identify Gap. What is the difference between desired behavior and actual behavior? (This is you problem)
  6. Problem justification- Why is it important to solve this problem? What is likely to happen if the problem is not solved (Make sure this is something of concern to the person(s)/target you are attempting to influence).
  7. End your problem statement with a goal: (e.g., increase the frequency of service behaviors for store personal)
  8. Do not start diagnosis (root causes of the behavioral problem) in the problem identification stage.


In the diagnosis stage of your analysis, you are attempting to present and "sell" your mental model of causes of the problem.
  1. Start with the first level diagnosis, that is determining whether the cause of the performance Gap is:
    1. Motivation
    2. Resources
    3. Role Expectations, or
    4. Skills, Ability, Knowledge
  2. Often you must not only justify your diagnosis, but also eliminate other first level causes. This is especially true if your target believes that the cause is different from your diagnosis (e.g., the target believes that the cause of the Gap is low motivation, but you believe that the gap is caused by lack of ability).
  3. Sometimes the problem may be rooted in more than one of these causes.
  4. If you diagnosis the cause as resources, role expectations, or skills, after you explain why employees lack these, you can move on to the solution gneration stage.
  5. If you determine that the cause of the performance gap to be motivation, you must go deeper to diagnose the cause(s) of low motivation.  Here you will use various motivational models to assist you in your analysis.

Solution Generation

In this stage you present your plan for improvement. What do you intend to do to remove the performance gap? x
  1. Make sure your plan is clearly aimed at changing the behavior identified in the problem identification stage.
  2. Make sure your plan is consistent with the mental model you present in the diagnosis.
  3. Make sure your plan is feasible to implement .
  4. Make sure you have provided enough information about your plan so that the target can implement it. (e.g., Change the incentive system is not enough. What would a new incentive system look like?)


Klein, H. J. 1989. An integrated control theory model of work motivation. Academy of Management Review, 14: 150-172.