The APQC Blog

How Cisco is Rewriting the Rules on Performance Management

The 2016 Great Place to Work® Conference starts today in sunny San Diego and I'm thrilled that I'll be attending the conference! Last week I had the opportunity to interview one of the presenters--Ashley Goodall, Senior Vice President of Leadership and Team Intelligence, Cisco Systems, Inc. who will be speaking on Making People Leaders Your Biggest Bet. In this interview with Mr. Goodall, learn how Cisco is rewriting the rules on performance management and placing a big bet on teams and team leader excellence--all in order to create more teams like their best teams

You’re leading the implementation of a new performance management system at Cisco which recently removed performance ratings. How do you think this new system will help teams at Cisco?

By thinking about performance in the context of teams, it’s easier to understand what we are doing. So it’s important to ask, why are teams a focus for us at Cisco? As we look at where great outcomes for our customers occur, and where we create a great work experience for our people—both of these things happen predominately on teams. In order for Cisco to deliver complex technology solutions to customers, employees have to effectively team with one another. Additionally, a fundamental piece of working at Cisco is being on a number of different teams. For us, the notion of teams is central to the overall performance of our organization and the experience of what it’s like to work at Cisco. As a result, we’ve made a significant investment in teams and we will continue to invest in teams.

The rallying cry for all the work I’m leading at Cisco is this: how do we make more teams like our best teams? There are a number of actions to take to execute on this which can be dissected into three parts.

First, find all of the teams working within the organization. It sounds simple but before we can make more teams like our best teams, we need to be able to locate all teams. If you look at the typical human resource information system (HRIS) or organization chart, you’ll find a very dated representation of what’s actually going on. This is because the system takes time to reflect the reality of teams as changes occur. More importantly, the representation is actually incomplete because a lot of the work done is on project or cross-functional teams, or teams that cut across the boundaries in the org chart. Very few organizations, if any, have a technology platform that allows them to see all the different teams at any moment in time. The first thing we are doing at Cisco with our performance management technology is creating the ability to capture all of the teams. The technology will allow people to go into the system and create what we call “dynamic teams.”

We’ve actually found in the work we’ve done that there are 40 percent more teams out there than we knew existed. There’s a huge amount of work that’s going on in dynamic teams and of course that’s some of the most important work we do. So it’s not an inconsequential thing to be able to actually find all the teams in the organization.

Second, understand what’s special about the best teams. If you want more teams like your best teams, you better have a precise idea of what “best” looks like. To identify the characteristics of the best teams, we completed a large study across Cisco contrasting the best teams with average teams. We found that the number one characteristic of our best teams at Cisco is that team members feel like they get to do their best work highly frequently. That is, they get to play to their strengths every day. We now have a very clear sense of team excellence and what it is we plan to amplify across the organization.

Third, figure out how to make more teams like our best teams. Since we can now find all the teams in the organization and we know what’s special about the best teams, the last step is to make more teams like our best teams. There are three parts to this last piece which I’ll talk about in my presentation at the Great Place to Work® Conference, but at a high level:

  1. help team leaders understand their role in creating great teams;
  2. help intact teams work better together by utilizing technology and different learning approaches; and
  3. embed support for teams and their leaders in a technology platform


Click here to read the full interview with Mr. Goodall and learn his thoughts on:

  • the connection between psychological safety and team members doing their best work;
  • how organizations can gather richer data about their employees; and
  • the future of performance management systems.


Follow me on twitter: @haleyc_APQC.  I will be attending and blogging about the Great Place to Work® Conference which starts today in San Diego! The Great Place to Work® Conference is a premier event, where over 1,300 executives from around the country convene to network and learn from leaders at recognized Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For®. Attendees get a chance to hear what these companies are doing to create and sustain a great workplace culture. Read more: 2016 Great Place to Work® Conference Home.

Stay up-to-date with APQC’s upcoming research, webinars, and more by visiting the HCM expertise page.