Performance management for politicians – What party leaders can learn from HR

Performance management for politicians – What party leaders can learn from HR

Political bod
As the General Election date gets closer, we are hearing a lot of promises from the various party leaders. Whether promising to tackle immigration, reduce the deficit, save the NHS or create thousands of new jobs – its big talk. The thing is, its big talk we are all pretty familiar with.

We’ve heard all this before and things are still far from perfect, so its obvious politicians aren’t fully delivering on all their big manifesto ideas. 

We think they could benefit (or at least we, the general population could benefit!) from applying a bit of HR wisdom and best practise to their manifesto proposals. 

If manifestos were written with SMART goal setting principals in mind, those big promises would be specific, allocated to the right government department and would ensure individual accountability. 

This post in the Guardian reports on the Tory election manifesto points from 2010, and tracks whether or not they were met. Some of the manifesto promises have clearly missed the smart goal principle, making it difficult to know the extent to which they were successful.

For example, the goal outlines below are not specific enough, meaning they are both difficult to implement, and difficult to track in terms of success. 

“New border police force.

Not met – It is not clear what was meant by this but the UK Border Agency was folded into the Home Office in 2012 without gaining any new powers”

Source: The Guardian

This goal was clearly not thought through in terms of the resources involved or the departments that should be involved. Also, the goal itself is too vague; its meaning has not been clearly communicated or understood. It needed to consider being more specific and achievable - no thought was given to the amalgamation of the UK border agency and the home office, and no further attempt was made to take this up again.

“Sure Start scheme to be refocused on poorest families.

Partially met – More than 400 Sure Start centres were cut during the first two years alone of the coalition. It is not clear that this meant support has “refocused” on the poorest”.

Source: The Guardian

Again, the meaning of this goal has not been specified clearly enough to make its success measurable. The term ‘poorest families’ is vague, and there is nothing to define ‘refocused’, meaning we are unable to gauge whether the cuts have been undertaken to achieve the aims of the goal, or whether these have been implemented with another agenda in mind. 

Goals that are vague, overarching and not allocated responsibly are difficult to track and even more difficult to achieve. For example, when a party leader says they will ‘create more jobs’, we need to apply SMART principals, or there is no way to track the success of this goal. 

The SMART principle: 

Specific – How many more jobs will be created?
Measurable – How many jobs currently exist and in what sectors, and how many more do you aim to add in each sector?
Achievable – How do you aim to create more jobs? What is the need and what are the skills gaps you are aiming to bridge?
Relevant – Is this goal addressing an existing problem that needs to be solved?
Time bound – When will we see the target you set reached? Are there sensible markers (sub goals) in place to monitor progress is happening at the expected rate?

By applying these principles to each point in the party manifesto, politicians would be forced to think carefully before declaring sweeping promises that make great headlines and may impress the public for long enough to get their vote, but that after the hype of electioneering is over, fall short.

Applying SMART goal principles in your organisation works in the same way. Set individual goals and targets for your teams that adhere to the SMART principles, and you can avoid the political spin doctoring too.

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