Revolution is in the air around the world. People everywhere are fed up with having arbitrary power exercised over them, with impractical limits placed on their everyday actions, with living in constant fear that someone in power will frown at them and destroy their livelihood without warning or objective justification. This global revolution differs from the Marxist model of the dispossessed and disaffected rising up from poverty to overthrow the business class. This time, educated professionals are actively engaged in the resistance. As a result, people long accustomed to wielding authority and position are rapidly changing the way they run things. Suddenly, leaders in many countries are peacefully giving up some of their power in hopes of participating in a new, more prosperous and humane community.


I am not talking about foreign countries. I am talking about where you work.


For as long as I have been in the business world employees have been mystified and upset by the performance review process. The managers conducting the reviews find them arbitrary, uncomfortable, and a favorite object of procrastination. The human resources departments struggling to administer the programs continually seek ways to make them more prompt, easy, equitable, legally defensible, automated, etc. No one involved in the process — not the executives, not the supervisors, not the HR professionals, not the employees being reviewed — no one likes the way we have been doing it. Yet we keep doing it.


Here are some dispatches from the front lines of the revolution now underway. New ideas are changing how companies manage, develop, promote, and compensate their people.



Instead of top-down reviews, both boss and subordinate are held responsible for setting goals and achieving results. No longer will only the subordinate be held accountable for the often arbitrary metrics that the boss creates. Instead, bosses are taught how to truly manage, and learn that it’s in their interest to listen to their subordinates to get the results the taxpayer is counting on.

Instead of the bosses merely handing out A’s and C’s, they work to make sure everyone can earn an A. And the word goes out:


No more after-the-fact disappointments.
Tell me your problems as they happen;
we’re in it together and
it’s my job to ensure results.


–Samuel A. Culbert
Anderson School of Management UCLA
in The New York Times
Author of Get Rid of the Performance Review!
How Companies Can Stop Intimidating,
Start Managing — and Focus on What Really Matters.




Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains.


One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they.

–Jean Jacques Rousseau
The Social Contract
Or Principles of Political Right



Graphic from Atlassian's human resources system



Performance reviews represent just one skirmish in the war against the unhealthy and artificial power dynamic that is a legacy of the industrial era. Australian software company Atlassian has given this staple of corporate life a new look.

By Polly LaBarre
Contributor to Fortune/CNN


[Atlassian has implemented a] performance review model built on continuous coaching with a strong basis in the science of motivation and engagement … recasting the performance review as an ongoing conversation set inside regular working relationships.

1. Rip apart the traditional performance review. Replace it with a series of monthly one-on-one meetings with a rotating agenda of “check-ins” and scrap ratings and the distribution curve

2. Replace individual performance bonuses with top-market salaries, an organizational bonus, and stock options

3. Redesign the review into “bite-sized chunks” of guided coaching conversations. Focus on strengths. [Catch people doing something right.]

4. Provide honest feedback without ratings: highlight instances of exceptional performance (and note frequency on a continuum of “never to always”); ask the question “How often have you stretched yourself?”

5. Provide peer feedback and rewards



Judge not, that ye be not judged.


For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.


And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?


Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

The Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 7



Graphic from Atlassian's human resources system


Atlassian’s Big Experiment with Performance Reviews

by Joris Luijke
President of Atlassian



We ended up engaging an executive coach who trained our managers in how to have a good coaching 1:1s.

Instead of performance incentives that don’t work, our model has shifted to encourage desired behaviours through better coaching. Also, a Kudos model where every staff member can recognise great performance of co-workers without their manager’s approval has been implemented to supplement this new performance model.



Is this all hopelessly blue sky and radical, an obscure deviation at the fringes? Probably not:

Atlassian Wins a 2011 Human Capital Institute (HCI) M-prize

Atlassian named one of the
Best 25 Small-Medium Companies to Work For

by the Great Place to Work Institute.

Atlassian won the HR leader
Award for Innovation in Recruitment and Retention
and the
Fairfax FEMA Recruitment

award for best on-site HR.



See also Plain talk on good management from US government from the head of human resources for the largest employer on earth, Uncle Sam.