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The Psychological Barriers to Performance Management: Or Why Isn't Everyone Jumping on the Performance-Management Bandwagon?

Robert D. Behn
Public Performance & Management Review
Vol. 26, No. 1 (Sep., 2002), pp. 5-25
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
DOI: 10.2307/3381295
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3381295
Page Count: 21
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The Psychological Barriers to Performance Management: Or Why Isn't Everyone Jumping on the Performance-Management Bandwagon?
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Abstract

Why has performance management failed to sweep the world? Why does it live more in rhetoric than reality? Possible explanations include those that are practical, political, managerial, and psychological. Seven psychological explanations, which reflect how people think about performance and results, create some significant barriers to their ability to focus on outcomes and value. Citizen thinking concentrates on personal results rather than societal results. Legislative thinking stresses where the inputs are immediately deployed rather than what outcomes might be eventually achieved. Public-employee thinking focuses on avoiding mistakes that will produce certain punishment rather than producing successes that might generate a little praise. Policy thinking emphasizes creating better policy rather than managing better within the existing policy framwork. Assistant-secretary thinking specializes in crafting new policy innovation rather than on improving the organization's capacity to perform. Distrustful thinking worries that "the big bargain"--more flexibility for more performance--will never produce any real flexibility. And big-picture thinking permits the enormity of the task to blind people to the opportunity to create meaningful improvement through a series of individually small but collectively significant wins. Overcoming these barriers will require a shift from performance management to performance leadership.

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