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Establishing Meaningful and Objective Performance Criteria
by Linda Finkle

Jane and Bob understand that establishing criteria for successful performance is key to ensure that they get the performance they want. Yet they've found that their colleagues in other departments don't set up criteria from the get-go.


Managers often do not know how to establish meaningful criteria for job performance, let alone extras like training and development.

To establish performance criteria, Jane and Bob ask themselves, "What are the conditions for satisfaction? How will we know the project, task, training, development was successful? How will we know the work has been completed and done satisfactorily?¨

For example, when Jane and Bob send Roy for training, how will they know if Roy's training gives them a good ROI? What do they need Roy to learn, absorb, or implement because of the training he took? (And Jane and Bob know that if they can't determine what the outcome should be, they shouldn't send Roy to this training.)

What factors do we include in objective criteria?

You've seen these before, and they should start becoming second nature:

1. Time line - all objectives must include a by-when date

2. Specifics - what you're looking for - specific to the task and conditions of satisfaction

3. Metrics - all objectives need to be measurable

For example, Angelina is the Accounting Manager and needs the current month closed by the 5th of the following month. The time line is meeting the deadline of the 5th of the month (that one is easy), but now Angelina must decide what the conditions of satisfaction are. For this task, two conditions are (1) all data recorded, and (2) zero mistakes. So if her department meets the deadline, but the information is incorrect or incomplete, the conditions of satisfaction have not been met. Just having an objective of meeting the 5th of the month deadline is not enough.

Meatless Objectives

Often we create objectives that have no meat to them because they are arbitrary, open to interpretation by others, and have no true measurement to them. Let's discuss some examples of arbitrary objectives and measurable objectives.

Arbitrary and open to interpretation:

1. Update the database by the end of the month.

2. Develop your people, I'd like to see some of them moving into leadership roles down the road.

3. Create a marketing plan.

4. Yes, you can hire two people for your group.

5. Write a quarterly plan for your department and give it to me by early June.

Measurable and specific examples:

1. The database needs to be updated by the end of the month. This database must include all information from the other three databases, the data scrubbed for accuracy, and you must do it with your current staff.

2. The organization needs to be constantly looking at succession planning. For this to happen, you as a manager need to be working on developing your people into leaders. Let's discuss specifics of who you think has potential and in what areas, and how you propose strengthening their skills.

3. Create a marketing plan for the web site, which is nothing more than an online brochure. You have $50K for this project. I'd like a specific plan of what you propose we do, what is the expected ROI on each of our options, and the costs. And I'd like this completed by July 31.

4. You want to hire two people for your group. While I'm not opposed to the idea, here's what I need from you: job descriptions, a plan for interviewing and hiring (for instance, do you intend to use a recruiting firm and what is the cost), and milestones for them for the first 30, 60, and 90 days of their employment. Also, how do you intend to train them or 'bring them up to speed' on the organization's ways of doing things?

5. By June 5 write a plan for your department for the time frame July - September. Included in your plan should be specific objectives and goals for you, your team, and individuals. Since your area is customer service, how are you measuring customer service (as an example)?

Final thoughts from Jane and Bob

Don't leave performance to chance and then be disappointed. Be crystal clear about what you want, by when, and the conditions of satisfaction. If you are not clear about these things, other people won't be clear, and you'll be opening yourself to frustration, disappointment, delays, and morale issues.

About the Author

Linda Finkle, CEO of INCEDO GROUP, works with innovative leaders around the world who understand that business needs a new organizational growth style. These innovative leaders know that powerful cross-functional communication is the highest priority and the strongest strategy for building organizational effectiveness. To find out more, visit:


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