It is generally believed that companies applying performance management practices outperform those that do not measure and manage their performance. Studies examining the link between performance management and performance improvement implicitly assume that performance management affects behavior of individuals in an organization, which then facilitates the achievement of organizational goals. This study takes a step towards understanding this implicit assumption. We investigate how performance management practices relate to improvement in performance by influencing behavior of individuals. We focus on operational performance management, i.e. the definition and use of performance measures on the shopfloor in production and distribution. We use a survey among 102 companies to identify the relations between performance management practices, shopfloor behavior and improvement in performance. We identified three independent clusters of operator behavior that positively correlate with performance improvement: "Understanding", "Motivation" and "Focus on Improvement". We show that 17 out of the 20 performance management practices found in literature have a significant and positive relation with one or more clusters of operator behavior. We furthermore found that there is a positive correlation between the number of performance management practices applied and performance improvement, suggesting that it is not only which practices are applied but also how many. Recommendations emerging from this study enable managers to identify which behavioral changes are desired to improve performance and to select those performance management practices that positively influence the desired behavior. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.