4 Essential Books To Help Set Your Performance Management Objectives

Navigating the various tools, measurements and best practices in order to gear up your performance management to achieve your company objectives can seem like navigating a minefield while blindfolded. But it doesn’t have to be.

Check out these essential books and you can fire up your performance management tools to guarantee optimal results, hitting those ambitious goals which will push your business towards success.

Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter, Faster, Better follows up his best selling book The Power of Habit. Written for the general reader, this is an essential foundational text for anyone interested in improving their level of productivity and hitting their goals.

With chapters covering focus, motivation, teams and decision making, Duhigg breaks down the psychological foundations with reference to scientific studies and useful anecdotes in a clear, concise manner. Allowing the reader to understand just how easily these principles can be put into practice.

From a performance management perspective, the chapter on goal setting is a must-read. Outlining General Electric’s early experiences adopting SMART goals (goals which are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely), Duhigg goes onto stress the importance of pairing these with long term, ambitious stretch goals in order to push your company’s teams and employees to deliver the best possible results.

Combined with insights into how to build innovation and effective decision making into your thinking, it’s an essential book for establishing the right mindset needed to ensure your performance management is optimised in terms of productivity and being effectively geared towards hitting your objectives.

Measure What Matters – John Doerr (Portfolio/Penguin)

If Smarter, Faster, Better helps put you into a productive mindset, Measure What Matters provides you with the tools for achieving your goals. Written by legendary venture capitalist John Doerr, this is widely considered to be the gold standard of books when it comes to outlining the benefits of using objectives and key results to drive your company’s growth.

Doerr breaks down the fundamentals of OKRs, complimenting them with a variety of case studies from successful companies such as Adobe, Intel and The Gates Foundation. Key aspects of OKRs covered include how to use them to focus and commit to priorities, using them to align your teams and tracking for full accountability.

There’s a great deal of practical advise to be gleaned from Measure What Matters. Doerr explains how to set top level executive goals, and how cascading these both up and down the company helps ensure that your employees remain on track to achieve objectives. Scoring and assessing objectives is also explored, while his advise on continual performance management in the shape of conversations, feedback and recognition (CFRs) improves your chances of success.

Measure What Matters offers a concise guide to objectives and key results with a great deal of utility, helping you make the most out of your performance management system.

Work Rules! – Laszlo Bock (John Murray Publishers)

Laszlo Bock worked as Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations during a period when the company transformed into an economic powerhouse that dwarfs many countries, and his book Work Rules! offers readers a comprehensive overview of the management practices which helped them achieve their goals.

Bock explores everything from hiring the right talent and giving them the freedom to thrive (or, as he puts it, “letting the inmates run the asylum), to improving outcomes by emphasising personal growth and making the most of performance rating scales. The book provides a comprehensive overview of the cogs in Google’s corporate machinery, detailing a culture primed for setting and achieving ambitious goals.

Bock begins Work Rules! by stating, “The secrets of Google’s people success can be replicated in organizations large and small, by individuals and CEOs.” As both an insight into what drives success at Google and more broadly into some of the core principles and best practices of a top-performing corporation with a strong reputation for achieving its objectives, Work Rules! is essential reading.


Beyond Performance Management – Jeremy Hope and Steve Player (Harvard Business Review Press)

Having an effective performance management system is the first step towards setting and achieving ambitious objectives. But deciding which ones to choose which best suits your business from the multiple options is another matter. Jeremy Hope and Steve Player’s book, Beyond Performance Management, offers a comprehensive guide to the wide range of tools and how to implement the ones that best suit your business model.

Beyond Performance Management is aimed squarely at the professional, exploring in detail concepts such as enterprise risk management, lean practices for accounting, manufacturing and services, and other areas including investment management and sustainability. While the topics covered are diverse, there’s plenty of material here to help management professionals kick start their performance and improve their company’s chances of hitting their objectives.

Some of the key aspects of performance management covered include:

  • Strategic planning. Updating the traditional command-and-control model of management to adaptive planning, allowing for ambitious but realistic goals.
  • Balanced scorecards. How to link goals to measurable action plans, aligning the organization to its strategy.
  • Benchmarking. Comparing your company’s performance with the best-in-class results from competitors to improve processes, innovation and breakthrough thinking.

Hope and Player balance each of the aspects of the 40 performance management tools covered with detailed pros and cons, citing from a wide range of corporate leaders and academic studies to offer the reader the opportunity make an informed decision of which tools and best practices to apply to their own company.