Leading change and tackling performance management apathy (in a public authority)

4 minute read

I am a HR professional at the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) and attended the Oxford High Performance Leadership Programme in 2018. Here I reflect on the challenge that led me to the programme and the impact the learning had on me personally and professionally.


Looking for personal and organisational change

I have been involved in performance management for much of my career and I wanted to accelerate my knowledge and expertise in this area. At the same time, we were working on the development of a new performance management process at UNRA. Much of this development was being done in a very manual way. Progress and engagement with the process were both slow. I was convinced there was a better, more automatic way of rolling this out - but I needed to work out how this could be done. To do this I wanted to learn from others and experience the best practice examples of high-performance leadership.


Why Oxford and the High Performance Leadership Programme?

Finding a programme that combined the latest academic research with global insights on how to embed high-performance leadership was important to me. From a personal perspective, I also wanted to acquire skills and expertise that could be practically and quickly applied.

The Oxford programme stood out for three reasons:

  • it attracts leaders from all over the world
  • the issues it covered resonated with me personally and were relevant to the challenges we were facing as an organisation
  • it is Oxford – it has a reputation that conveys insights and wisdom that can help you make a significant impact.

A key aspect of the programme for me was understanding your personal leadership style and how that can help to address the challenges within your organisation. I was very conscious that I needed to develop and change my personal approach to performance management. If I could do that, I could make a bigger impact with the organisation to influence others and make things happen.


Impactful change

The theme of change management was especially impactful for me. I was able to relate the programme sessions to our need at UNRA to speed up and better implement our new performance management process. The programme highlighted that we were not moving forward or backwards – we were suffering from inertia and needed to make changes. After the programme, before I even took the flight back home, I knew exactly what I needed to do. One of the good takeaways from this programme is that you leave with a clear roadmap. It energises you, you come back with clarity, you know what communications you need to make and who you need on your side. So, once I arrived back in the office, I was not in the thinking phase - I was in the implementation phase.


Personal promotion and adoption of the performance management process

Since the programme, the performance management process has been rolled out across UNRA and its 1,200 employees. Adoption of the process has moved from about 50% of staff to over 98%. I have also moved to a senior management level and now head up the performance management stream across the whole organisation.


The Oxford programme has really proved a good return on investment. On a personal note, it has really helped me grow. I now consider myself a high-performance coach – it has given me both confidence and knowledge, which I am able to use myself and help others in and outside the organisation. The things that I learnt are what leaders are grappling with every single day. It's about what causes inertia in organisations and can lead initiatives to fail. But you just need someone to come in, nudge you and give you the support you need, to give you the push you're looking for.


The future?

The new performance evaluation process is working well, but we are still learning and experimenting with new ways to improve it. We’ve been able to get most staff to participate and we've embarked on a lot of coaching along with setting goals and being clear on targets, ensuring it is all aligned to the corporate strategy. It is happening in a more automatic way and in that sense the Oxford programme has helped deliver real value. For me personally there is so much I have gained from the programme. As a leader, you need to be clear about the direction you are taking. That clarity is improved by being aware of the latest best practice. Benchmarking yourself and learning from other leaders is so valuable, and it is something that the Oxford High Performance Leadership Programme delivers on.