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"A" Levels, standards and changing goal posts

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So, its A Level results day. No doubt there will be the usual cry of "They're getting easier" (which has been going on since I did MY A Levels more than 20 years ago by the way), but whether they are or aren't is a side issue. The fact is, the students have worked hard to achieve the standards that were expected of them. they should be congratulated for that.

If (with hindsight) somebody somewhere declares the standards weren't high enough, that's NOT the fault of the students. 

A similar principle applies at work. It is up to individual employees to achieve the standards expected of them at work. They may need help and guidance from their managers (as students need help from their teachers), but its up to them to do it. Unfortunately, it is my experience that often results are lacking because the STANDARDS they are expected to achieve are either:

  1. Not clearly communicated - Employees do what they THINK is required, and only when it is too late do they find out if it was right or not.
  2. Not defined in the first place - Employees are expected to guess, leaving huge inconsistencies and managers in a constant state of fire-fighting.
  3. Set at the wrong level - What was good enough 10 years ago is unlikely to be good enough now. The world is becoming more competitive and we can no longer do the same things in the same way and expect to get the same level of success. Alternatively, if you set the bar too high, people will just 'drop out'.

So if your team isn't delivering what you think they should, check out the way that you define, communicate and support the goals and standards you set. Good performance management starts and ends with that clarity.

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