The Key Performance Equation Part 1: The Clear and Strategic Way to Improve any Performance

Check out this definition of “performance” from

“The fulfillment or accomplishment of a promise, contract, or other obligation according to its terms.

Part performance entails the completion of some portion of what either party to a contract has agreed to do. With respect to the sale of goods, the payment—or receipt and acceptance of goods—makes an oral sales contract, otherwise unenforceable because of the Statute of Frauds, enforceable in regard to goods for which payment has been made and accepted or which have been received and accepted.”

West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved

It’s gripping reading, isn’t it?

And we haven’t even touched on specific performance, substantial performance, future performance, non-performance, vicarious performance, defective performance, or tender of performance. And let’s just leave the UCC out of this, thank you. 

Lucky for you (and ME!), that’s not what this video is about.  (you can go back to reading stuff like that later)

What we’re talking about is performance in a much broader sense.  

At its most basic, performance is anything you do.  When you return emails, you are performing.  When you engage in a conversation with a colleague, you are performing.  When you write a brief, you are performing.  When you prioritize your responsibilities, you are performing. Performing is carrying out any action, task, or function—whatever you’re doing.  It could be related to your job—it could be sitting on the couch watching Netflix.

What I want to share with you today is a little known but extremely helpful formula for understanding how performance works.  It comes from Timothy Gallwey, whose performance training methodology began with tennis, golf, and music—and was later applied to organizations, businesses, and individuals in other professional sectors.

Gallwey developed what we’re going to call here the Key Performance Equation:

Performance EQUALS Potential MINUS Interference.  (Performance = Potential – Interference)

In other words, the success of my performance is a factor of my overall capacity for something MINUS any interference that blocks me from achieving my full capacity

This holds true for performance in any activity—from hitting a ball to solving a financial business problem to managing complex litigation.

I’m going to repeat the equation:

Performance EQUALS Potential MINUS Interference.  (Performance = Potential – Interference)

The simple genius of this equation is the way it allows me and you to 

  • evaluate past performances
  • intentionally prepare for future performances
  • and think strategically about how to improve present performances.

If we think of performance in terms of the Key Performance Equation, then if you want to increase your performance then EITHER you have to 

(1)  increase your potential OR 

(2)  decrease the interference OR

(3) both increase my potential AND decrease the interference

“GREAT,” you say, “But what does that mean and how am I supposed to do that?”

In our next three blog videos, we’re going to break it down by looking more at potential, at interference, and at a specific case study which demonstrates how someone would start to apply this equation to a typical workplace performance. 


West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved

Gallwey, Timothy.  The Inner Game of Work. Random House, New York. 2006.

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