Sales performance management: Balancing hierarchy with reality

Sales Performance Management

By Sathee Brent,

Corporate hierarchies are in a peculiar state of flux. Tried-and-true methods of establishing corporate ladders are being questioned like never before, and the entrance of millennials withdifferent ideas about how any human environment should function into the workforce is compelling - or is it forcing? - many organizations to take a good, long look at the status quo.

While there are certainly well-reasoned arguments and difficult-to-answer questions on both sides of the hierarchy debate, it's important to not to let the discussion overshadow the work you have to do. Investing in workplace technologies and tactics that put employee performance to the test enable you to make informed decisions about your organizational strategies. Sales performance management software can help you address concerns about organizational hierarchies withlessons learned from sales realities.

The reality about hierarchy
Perspective is important, and it's something that often dwindles in our hypermediated, shiny-new-thing approach to information consumption. When it comes to stories about company hierarchies, you likely only encounter a small, self-selecting group of organizations. For every enterprise profiled for its success in innovatively approaching eliminating conventional manager-employee relationships or doing away with job titles, there are many companies that attempt these strategies and fail - you just don't hear about them anywhere near as often.

Likewise, the idea of a traditional corporate hierarchy is well-ingrained at this point, so an enterprise that rides its strictly delineated responsibilities and management efforts to success probably doesn't garner front page news for its buttoned-up model. Basing decisions off of a few highly-publicized successes can end up giving you the wrong idea, business theorist Jeffery Pfeffer explained to Quartz.

"There's this belief that we are all living in some postmodernist, egalitarian, merit-based paradise and that everything is different in companies now," Pfeffer stated."But in reality, it's not."

If the structure of corporate hierarchies is dissolved, something would have to take its place. The worry is not that workplaces will devolve into anarchy without the presence of a person with"Manager" on his or her door. It's that the practical and personal advantages of chains of command - networking, new opportunities, professional development and job security among them - depend, to some extent, on having a pecking order that everyone understands. A company can likely live without titles. But without systems and strategies that can retain the pragmatic aspects of hierarchies, an enterprise could soon find itself adrift. 

"[There is] little evidence to suggest that [traditional] processes are time or place dependent or that they aren't reasonable foundations upon which to construct theories of management and organizations," Pfeffer observed.

Using sales performance management to build a bridge
While some argue about the validity of a nonhierarchical corporate workplace, there are certainly benefits to relinquishing the more militant aspects of the pecking order. Depending on the approach, this structure can stunt creativity, discourage collaboration and cause workers to feel as if their above-and-beyond efforts will never receive due recognition or compensation. Ultimately, a successful organization needs fluidity in its hierarchy, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst said in a recent interview with

"[It's like] thermometers and thermostats: thermostat sets the temperature; a thermometer reflects the temperature," Whitehurst reasoned. "You need the thermostats on your side because they set the temperature. Informal thought leaders are thermostats. Unfortunately most companies jam the leaders in instead of letting them emerge."

The value of a tool such as sales performance management software is that it can be leveraged to combine conventional forms of sales hierarchies with more merit-based considerations. It keeps the basic structure - and thus, the advantages - of enterprise teams in place, but also allows employees to explore and innovate. It can be used to measure employee performance in both areas, and to subsequently reward them for their efforts within both aspects of the hybrid system.

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Sathee Brent