Major Consultancy Simplifies Performance Reviews



Everyone loves to hate performance evaluations, and with good reason: Research has shown them to be ineffective, unreliable and unsatisfactory for seemingly everyone involved. They consume way too much time, leave most workers deflated and feel increasingly out of step with reality.

…more than half the executives questioned (58%) believe that their current performance management approach drives neither employee engagement nor high performance. [Click here to see the survey.]



…conversations about year-end ratings are generally less valuable than conversations conducted in the moment about actual performance.



Three items correlated best with high performance for a team:

  1. I have the chance to use my strengths every day
  2. My coworkers are committed to doing quality work
  3. The mission of our company inspires me



It’s not the particular number we assign to a person that’s the problem; rather, it’s the fact that there is a single number. … we want our organizations to know us, and we want to know ourselves at work, and that can’t be compressed into a single number.

Reinventing Performance Management
Harvard Business Review

The new approach focuses, alternatively, on how to develop employees in the future given their current performance.


–What if you could replace performance evaluations
with four simple questions?

Deloitte has come up with them
(and two only need a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer).

By Jena McGregor in the Washington Post



More on this blog about improving employee evaluations



Manager: Let Employees Do It



 There’s this tendency to say to people: “I want you to get good results. But I also want to review you along the way, I want you to tell me how you’re getting those results and I want you to review all these processes and everything else.”

And what that does is, it turns experts into novices. The reason is that most expert knowledge is tacit knowledge. In order for me to permit you to use that passive knowledge, I can’t force you to make extremely explicit exactly what you’re doing.

So I need to be clear about what we’re trying to achieve and I need to share that with you; and then I need to let you go do it, and not impose all this monitoring on you along the way.

–Jeffrey Pfeffer
Stanford University
Strategy & Business 3Q1998




Terminate Performance Reviews



Knowledge@WhartonKnowledge at Wharton published a very well-done summary article on the problems with and alternatives to the traditional annual performance review. Here are my favorite excerpts.



“an overall performance management process — one that focuses on goal setting, feedback, coaching and clear statements of the company’s performance expectations — is absolutely critical” and indeed, is found in the highest-performing companies.

–Sibson Consulting/WorldatWork survey



Good managers provide feedback and direction that will help individuals achieve success. Bad managers don’t. They worry about (more…)

Performance Review Process: Needs Improvement



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 (more…)

Plain talk on good management from US government



I just OPM's John Berryread a talk by the head of the US government’s Office of Personnel Management, John Berry.  He provides a concise and cogent summary of the new management thinking that I hope will become a major influence in organizations around the world. This shift in management is, I believe, the result of two major trends. First, the crash of 2008 made it very clear that we had been placing too much emphasis and confidence in our top leaders while day-to-day quality of life for the rank-and-file stagnated or declined. Second, a huge wave of research in behavioral economics and positive psychology is shifting management practice toward methods that are tested and proven rather than anecdotal and heuristic.

Below are excerpts from the speech that illustrate some of my favorite points, the practices I emphasize with my own CEO executive coaching clients.

But don’t read my excerpts.

I recommend that leaders of organizations, particularly chief executives, read his entire speech by clicking here. Try to forget that he is speaking about government employees. Ignore references to the President and Congress. Imagine, instead, that you made this speech to your managers and employees. What would the impact be of making these changes in your own leadership style, in your company’s performance review process, in your day-to-day life?



Selected remarks of OPM Director John Berry
Interagency Resource Management Conference
Kellogg Conference Center

What if, when setting performance standards, we engaged our employees and got clear about expectations? What if we made sure performance standards were detailed, objective, aligned to agency mission and goals, and had employee buy-in – that they weren’t just dictated from on high?

Consider the four essential pieces of how we currently manage performance: (more…)

Why you need measurable goals and a frank coach



“People, quite literally, see themselves as more desirable than they actually are,” says Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. (Click here for another post on his research.) “When people rate themselves on any dimension that’s ambiguous – their managerial skills, their interpersonal skills, their grammar, or their test-taking ability – there’s zero correlation between their self-perception and their performance. When the picture is ambiguous, people give themselves the benefit of the doubt.” …

The researchers discovered this nearly universal self-distortion by photographing university students, then altering the digital images in tiny increments. Using the real photograph as the model, they created 10 other photos, five approximating an idealized version of the student’s face, and five approximating an unattractive version. When the students returned to the lab several weeks later they were asked to pick out their own face from the 10 other photos in the lineup.

The result? Two-thirds of the students selected a photo that was artificially enhanced by 20 per cent.

–Susan Pinker
in The Globe and Mail



Prompt, Precise Performance Reviews



Just Ask LeadershipJust Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions

Excerpted, by Art Kleiner in Strategy+Business, from chapter 2

Here’s how the process works. The day before meeting, your coworker brings you a list of five or six key objectives, detailing her progress on each. During the review on the following day, you simply assess the data and discuss how performance compares with objectives. Depending on the employee, this can be a short thirty-minute process, or take as long as two hours. [If you do this weekly or every day, as you might on a tight deadline or vital project, the meeting might last ten minutes. –Tony]

When an employee comes into your office, she should always bring a pen and paper and be required to take detailed minutes of the meeting. Once the meeting is over, the employee should make a photocopy of the minutes for your file. [This is a bit dated! Have the employee email a summary. For high value employees, use a (more…)