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Performance Plans

Over the past several years, there has been an increasing amount of scrutiny aimed at tourism organizations. Convention and visitor bureaus, destination marketing organizations, and in some cases even sports commissions have been put under the microscope. This is especially true when public funds are involved, such as hotel occupancy taxes. You only need to google any combination of terms that include hotel tax, misuse of funds, and convention bureau, and you can read about the numerous cases where a tourism bureau came under fire for how they used public funds. Many of these cases ended in staff departures and in some instances, criminal charges were filed.

Knowing this is the world our tourism leaders now have to operate within, we have to be extra careful in how we carry out our organization’s mission. One of the best ways to stay true to the goals of any organization (and to cover your you-know-what) is to put in place performance plans. And not just any plan, but a formal, transparent, specifically measurable one. We have been asked a lot about goal setting and performance plans recently, so we thought we would craft a case study for our readers on this topic. Here is a real life example of the depth we are talking about when it comes to performance measures.

During our time in Denver, we were fortunate to have a Fortune 500 company’s COO on our board. He was in charge of everything their company did worldwide, from the CEO to employee number 25,000. Keeping such a huge company on task can prove to be challenging, however the performance plans they put in place were specific, transparent, and measurable. With this board member’s help, we were able to borrow his company’s performance planning structure and import it into the Denver Sports Commission. What exactly did that look like?

Here is one example.

  • Denver Sports’ organizational plan was really my plan as the Executive Director. It covered 24 goals that were grouped into six different buckets. The larger buckets included number of events secured/held, fundraising, community outreach, professional development, staff management, and strategic initiatives.

  • The entire plan was transparent and accessible to the whole Denver Sports staff and also the board. Everyone could see it every day, and each person on the team knew what parts of the larger plan that they had some form of accountability and ownership.

  • From the larger plan, each team member had their own personal performance plan (or PPP). The larger plan “cascaded” down to each individual team member. For example, Denver Sports had a fundraising goal for the entire organization. Within this goal, several team members contributed towards it within their own programs, which was noted specifically in their PPPs. We had events we ran that generated revenue which fell under our events director, we had charitable type youth programs which fell to our community programs coordinator, and we had sponsorships and contributions which were part of my job as well as one other staff member. So everyone had a piece of the pie relating to revenue generation.

  • Each goal had three measurable outcomes: Above average, average, below average. Each of those outcomes had a specific number tied to it. For instance, our donor related fundraising outcomes were as follows: Above Average – More than $350,000, Average – $250,000 to $349,999, Below Average – Under $250,000

  • Each outcome had a specific numerical target, and each one had a weight assigned to it to calculate the company or individual’s performance at any point in time. By crafting such a specific plan, everyone on the team can be held accountable to their own scope of work and the organization can stay true to its mission throughout the year. This specificity also provides coverage when an elected official or media member wants to take you to task for how you are carrying out the organization’s mission.

  • The best part of putting a process like this in place comes at review time. Everyone in the organization knows what the goals were and should be able to score any individual or the team as a whole on where they landed at year end. The review process was supremely easy for us. Each staff member graded themselves against their PPP, I did my own grade for each person, then we sat down to compare notes. Again, nearly every item in the PPP has a numerical target, which strips out a lot of the emotional elements within the evaluation process.

While you may not have a large staff to allocate tasks to (or to “cascade” the plan down to), it is still imperative that your organization has a plan in place that is measurable and transparent. Having such a plan in place will not only give the entire team a defined road map for success, it also provides political cover should anyone question the organization’s activities. (Note: If you would like to see what a PPP like this looks like, email us and we can send you a sample).

Put a plan in place. Make it easily measurable. Ensure stakeholders and the team can all see it, touch it, and feel it. Refer to it daily. Stay the course.

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