In the context of understanding the performance management systems and work practices operating within the agency and to identify areas of strength and weakness, a series of questions will be asked to elicit whether current performance processes within the agency are supporting the development of high performance.
Specific emphasis is being placed on uncovering how and why practices are effective or ineffective and identifying specific actions that can be enhanced (if effective) or addressed (if ineffective). This will enable analysis of the specific causal factors that support or impede high performance, rather than merely the effects or surface level manifestations of these issues. In doing so, the analysis will inform strategy development focused on addressing causal factors and, therefore, optimise the chance of achieving high performance over the long-term.
A broad set of questions have been prepared, covering all aspects of the Principles for High Performing Government framework. The Diagnostic line of questioning has been designed so that any number of questions can be asked to gain insight into the agency's performance environment. However, based on analysis of available agency data, some core question must be asked to all participants in order to gain unique insight where the data has indicated areas for improvement.
Part of the Diagnostic preparation in Phase 1 (see Diagnostic workflow table) is to determine, based on the core issues you wish to address by undertaking the Diagnostic, which are the questions that will be asked of all of the participants. This is also the time to consider if there are any questions missing that you would like to add in. Please bear in mind that questions should only be added in that are related to the performance management system in some way. For example, if the organisation thinks it is using performance management to encourage specific behaviours or changes these might be addressed in some way.
Questions 1–14 seek to identify whether the Principles are present in the Agency's current performance system, and if so, how effectively are they in achieving high performance.
Principle 1: Purpose and Clarity
1. What is High Performance for your context?
- Does your Agency have a shared understanding of what High Performance represents at the Agency, group and individual level? How does the Agency performance contribute to whole-of-government outcomes?
- How is this shared understanding of high performance cascaded through the Agency? What effect does it have for your group and you as an individual?
- Can you give examples of the work practices that support high performance in your Agency? What work practices impede the achievement of high performance? Why do these practices support or impede?
2. How are your role and performance expectations articulated to you? Are they articulated in a way that provides you with a clear role purpose?
3. Why can performance management be a challenge for your Agency?
4. What are the benefits (for employees/managers/Agency) of effective performance management?
Principle 2: Alignment and Integration
5. How clear is the Agency's strategic plan for employees?
- How effectively is the Agency's strategic plan translated into day-to-day activities for employees?
- Are senior management effective in engaging with employees and communicating higher-level goals for groups and individuals?
- How are individual performance agreements aligned to the Agency and group goals/objectives?
- What is done to ensure the achievement of this alignment?
- How does alignment, or lack of, impact performance? [for example, enabling or impeding the prioritisation of work and identification of what is most important].
6. To what extent is performance management integrated into the Agency's HR practices: e.g. job analysis and design, recruitment/selection, learning and development and workforce planning?
- What would an integrated HR system look like (i.e. where HR practices are integrated and complementary)?
- What evidence is there to demonstrate that management decisions (e.g. job design, L&D, workforce planning) inform or are informed by the performance management process? [For example, how does performance management inform /help your job design?]
- What are the structural, systemic or procedural enablers and/or impediments to achieving high performance (if any)?
Principle 3: Mutuality and Motivation
7. How extensively are employees involved in activities such as strategy development, target-setting, planning and setting accountability measures?
- How do employees demonstrate their understanding of high performance in their area?
8. How effective are managers in setting performance agreements and establishing clear performance expectations with staff?
- How competent are managers at differentiating between levels of performance?
- What tools support managers to do this?
- What is the role of employees in setting and reviewing performance expectations?
9. How are managers held to account for improving the performance of their staff?
- What work practices support or inhibit managerial accountability?
10. What accountability mechanisms are in place to ensure that underperformance is managed? Are these mechanisms used to ensure that underperformance is actively managed? What sanctions can or are applied if underperformance is not managed?.
11. What are some situations (other than a performance review) in which managers/ employees might have a performance conversation?
Principle 4: Adaptability and Progress
13. How does the Agency capture and track progress against high-level goals?
- How is progress demonstrated to employees?
14. What mechanisms are in place to enable employees to review their performance agreement in light of changes (either in terms of the task or the way the task needs to be undertaken)?
Foundation element: Capabilities
Questions 15–26 seek to identify whether the Foundation elements (enablers which underpin the Principles) are present and if so, how effective are they in achieving high performance within the Agency.
15. What tools do you use, or are available to you to use, to demonstrate the development needs of staff?
16. When have you seen feedback delivered well? What did the feedback provider do?
17. How aware is the Agency of the capabilities of its workforce and what is required into the future?
- How is data collected about necessary Agency capabilities (if relevant)?
18. What in particular makes the Agency effective (or ineffective) at developing the capabilities of employees?
19. What mechanisms are in place to ensure that leaders and managers model high performance behaviours and aspire to high performance outcomes in an ongoing manner?
- How does the Agency ensure that all managers: understand the goals for the future; are clear about the importance of the goals; and can formulate a compelling vision?
Foundation element: Evidence and Data
20. Are appropriate data and information used to make performance management decisions?
21. How is data and information used to inform strategic, management and HR decisions at the Agency, group and individual levels?
22. What evidence is used to differentiate between levels of performance?
23. What extra data could you use to inform decision-making and why do you think it would be useful?
Foundation element: Pragmatism
24. In terms of performance management what is working well in your Agency/Branch/Section and why?
25. What mechanisms are in place to ensure performance targets and plans are realistic (e.g. can be achieved with current/forecasted resources)?
26. If you could make one realistic, practical and implementable change to how your agency manages performance, what would it be?