A technique is disclosed for optimizing performance of a pump-turbine unit while operating normally in the pumping mode by identifying gate positions resulting in optimization of certain parameters of interest. Influences of gate positions on the optimized parameters is determined and used to evaluate the combined effect of the gate position on the parameters. Weighting coefficients may be used to alter the relative importance of each parameter in the gate position ultimately selected. Gate positions are optimized for each location in a multi-dimensional virtual cam matrix as conditions defining the locations are encountered. A parameter error or evaluation routine is provided for evaluating the consistency of monitored parameter values and for identifying trends that may require reconfiguration of the virtual cam matrix or alterations in the optimization routine, such as changes in the weighting of various parameters. The technique may be used to identify gate positions for one parameter of interest, such as pumping efficiency, or a number of parameters simultaneously to improve productivity of the facility and avoid or delay maintenance costs caused by degradation influenced by gate settings.