Kindergarten Performance Management

When my parents passed away, the family had to clear out their house to prepare it for sale. My brother and his wife came across a stack of report cards for my K-12 education. The stack included my kindergarten report card.

When I thought about the “Personal and Social Growth” items on my kindergarten report card, I recognized the kinds of behaviors that should be exhibited throughout our lives, not just in kindergarten.

Across the report card, I found a dozen items that describe the behaviors that we learned to perform to a satisfactory level in kindergarten but many people have difficulty with as an adult. The following list contains the most applicable:

  1. Works and plays well with others
  2. Is learning to take turns and share
  3. Respects the rights and property of others
  4. Tries to be kind and courteous
  5. Takes turns in group discussions
  6. Listens
  7. Is willing to attempt new activities
  8. Tries to observe school safety rules
  9. Obeys quickly and cheerfully
  10. Expresses good ideas when speaking
  11. Finishes work that he begins
  12. Finds joy and satisfaction in work and play

I’ve tried to get this introduced as a better performance management system but I can’t get any organizations to adopt it. Nobody thinks that such “simple-minded thinking” could possibly be appropriate in a professional workplace. Sometimes, simple is good enough. Many people, who think that stiff and “professional” are the only answer at work, need to lighten up a bit. If they did, they would probably get a better grade in “finds joy and satisfaction in work and play.” Frankly, these “adults” haven’t mastered the basic skills from kindergarten. How can they be ready to move on to more advanced skills? Truth be known, most professionally developed performance-management systems have comparable items. They are just written in business jargon.

If we could get people in the workplace to get a “C” in each of these basic skills, we would work in a wonderful place. There’s a popular business-eze phrase: “Exhibit the behaviors needed in the future.” I’m sorry to say, I am a proponent of a model that sounds something like: “Exhibit the behaviors that you already learned when you were five. They will serve you well all the days of your life.”

A conversation with one of my colleagues gave me some interesting feedback. I described the principle of such a system and stressed how these items were on our kindergarten report card. She said, “Yes, but these weren’t on your first grade report card.” She was absolutely correct. To this day, I don’t understand why that changes anything. We only needed these skills while in kindergarten? No. They were supposed to set a base on which to build.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Mr. Czerniak retired after a successful career that culminated in fifteen years of experience as an internal consultant and “change agent.” He is currently an Expert-in-Residence at the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator and a volunteer at the Troy Historical Society and Historic Village and with the Michigan Floral Association.

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