Making Performance Management Easier - The D E F T Model

Making Performance Management Easier – The D E F T Model

We present in this sort article a brief overview of the D E F T Model of Performance Management.  The components of the model are:

  • Dialogue
  • Expectations
  • Feedback
  • Timely Approach

Within this article we will treat each of the above components in turn.


Dialogue is at the heart of the Performance Management Process. The dialogue between each Manager and his/her direct report is the most critical part of successful management. The candour and honesty of this dialogue is at the core of successful Performance Management. The initial dialogue meeting is perhaps the most important part of our model of Performance Management; this is the first opportunity for the planning and goal achievement and personal development. It is vitally important because at this initial stage we would stress that Performance Management has very little to do with the completion of forms, be that online or in hard copy.  

Research suggests that approximately 50% of Performance Management systems are not effective. This is usually due to the fact that they are ‘form’ focused, what are called ‘tick and flick’ systems. This usually reflects the fact that the process is seen as an ‘add-on’ by Line Managers rather than an integral part of how they manage their own people. 

An effective system has, on the other hand, everything to do with creating a climate for meaningful dialogue between a leader and team member at the commencement of a Performance Management review period and during same. 

Some Managers suggest that within their busy jobs they do not have time for the level of dialogue required; we hope to be able to show that when Managers focus exclusively on dialogue we will be able to justify how beneficial it can be. 

However, every Manager must understand that his or her core role is to achieve results through and with people and to build the capability of each employee and the team; this may only be done through meaningful dialogue. 


Expectations about the requirements of the job are the principal subject matter for this dialogue between the Line Manager and his/her team member. Every effort should be made to clarify the expectations that each has in respect of the job that is required to be done. 

As hinted earlier when treating dialogue above, it is imperative that this process is essentially a jointly driven process; as we will show later, this will principally resolve around the establishment of the Key Result Areas for the job and the goals or objectives that are to be attained within each of those Key Result Areas. 

A Way of Looking at Expectations

Expectations must be totally clear in three distinct areas:

  1. What the individual is expected to personally achieve, the individual’s expected contribution at a strategic and functional level and commitments in the support of other team members – ‘THE WHAT’. 
  2. The behaviours both cultural and technical that the individual is to develop and demonstrate in order to achieve the above – ‘THE HOW’.
  3. The agreed coaching level and the actual support and resources (including training and development) that the Manager is going to deliver to empower the performer to achieve – 'THE SUPPORT’.


Feedback is an essential ingredient for a good Performance Management System. In its simplest terms it is an opportunity for both parties to explore how they believe the team member is performing against the expectations that have been earlier clarified; it also provides an opportunity for discussing progress with these expectations on a regular basis and for focusing on the personal development of the team member. 


Timely treatment of each of the above elements of the Performance Management System is crucial. Thus, the clarification of expectations should be undertaken at a meaningful time within the business cycle of the organisation. It is also important that feedback is not given a quick once-a-year setting but is an on-going, regular part of the dialogue that should take place between Team Leader and team member. If this is not happening on an on-going basis the Performance Management System will not be effective.  

Effective Performance Management is reflected in how we personally manage – it is not an ‘add-on’ form-filling exercise. If the Manager communicates effectively with the employee and plans the formal and informal dialogues, he/she will begin to manage through the Performance Management System process rather than add to the process as to how he/she manages. Effectively handled he/she can save valuable management time through this investment in plain, good management. 


In this very brief introductory, treatment of D E F T, we have not yet mentioned the importance of metrics within a good performance management system. It is probably already apparent to the reader that best practice goal setting will have both quantitative and qualitative measures, which again should be linked into the primary business metrics. This is one of the difficult aspects of a Performance Management System and we will give some attention to this in a later article.  


A final note that we must include in this initial treatment of D E F T is that at its optimum it is a top-down process. There is no more successful way of bedding down a Performance Management System in an organisation than by having all organisation members see that the system is alive and well at the senior management table.  

Another aspect of the top-down approach is that Senior and Middle Managers should champion the system in such a way that they are seen to be regularly and openly enthusiastic about how beneficial the Performance Management System is to the business. As mentioned earlier, this will be all the more meaningful if the clarification of expectations is clearly linked into business priorities. 

Even more important is the basic reality that where a Manager has seen his/her Manager carry out a worthwhile expectations dialogue, he/she is then more likely to have the confidence, competence and commitment to deliver an effective dialogue with his/her own team members – this process is a ‘modelling’ process.  

You can learn much more about the detail of this D E F T model in my book (written with Fergus Barry) – Performance Management: Developing People and Performance published by 


  • D E F T is the model for successful Performance Management – at its core are Dialogue, Expectations and Feedback. All must be completed in a Timely manner.  
  • Dialogue is at the heart of the process; it involves engaging and explaining the essentials for job/role success.
  • Candour and open communication are at the core of a successful Performance Management System.
  • Expectations – when clarified well through KRAs and goals, give motivational direction and provide the context for performance improvement in the period ahead. 
  • Feedback must be regular and focused on performance against expectations and also on skill/competency enhancement.
  • Timely treatment of each of the above elements is critical – Performance Management must become part of ‘How we Manage’ day by day, month by month…not just a ‘once-a-year’ exercise.
  • Performance Management must be a top-down process that delivers commitment to the process at all levels within the organisation. 
  • Senior Management in particular must model best practice dialogue, clarification of expectations and feedback as they carry out Performance Management with their teams and beyond. 

For more information on the D E F T Model and any other assistance you made need with HR issues, please give Frank Scott-Lennon at HRforSMEs a call on 01-2788980