A few more bloggers got in on the appraisal conversation. Check out what
- Bren over at Slacker Managers has to say in his post, Performance appraisals bite? Check out the comments, too, there are several good ones.
- Rosa offers a second post with sage advice for those of you who are stuck with performance appraisals in, 5 Questions for Your Performance Appraisals.
- Dick, over at Come Gather Round offers his perspective about why we don’t stop using appraisals by sharing an interesting quote from his book.
Both Bren and Rosa write about how to make the best of it for those who are stuck with doing performance evaluations (both acknowledge that the idea of scrapping them is alluring).
Their point is well taken that many managers need to determine how to do the best they can with the tools they have been asked to use. But that is not my purpose for this series of posts. Perhaps I will join in on that conversation another day……
I don’t want to lose my focus, which is to discuss why scrapping appraisals is the way to go and strategies for improving and optimizing performance.
Let´s just say that you have convinced your company that using performance appraisals is not worth the time and energy involved.
Imagine a future without appraisal……… The fog has lifted and the sun beams down onto teams. It´s gonna be a swell day.
Well, not quite. Stopping appraisals is a great step, but it does not mean that things will miraculously be wonderful.
A systemic approach to performance and results:
(Caveat – This is a blog, not a book or seminar. Unless this series is to go on for months, I need to keep things broad. I have mentioned and linked to several great resources for more details on the topic and you can feel free to ask any specific questions. You might want to start with Abolishing Performance Appraisals, by Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins.)
Organizations are systems and therefore any performance strategy or initiative worth it´s salt will address the various aspects of the system. This is likely one reason why corporations don´t change. You cannot implement one program or process and call it good.
If you really want to optimize performance, you will want to infuse the system with aligned practices, beliefs, and projects. Here´s what I mean by "the system:"??
- Structure: How is the work divvied up?
- Culture: What are the shared assumptions and beliefs? How do people generally feel about working for the company?
- Processes: Which processes influence the system´s performance? How are processes evaluated and maintained?
- Practices: How do people go about doing their work?
- Goals: What are the goals (stated and unstated) of the organization? To what degree are organization goals and group goals in alignment? Organization metrics: How is success defined and measured? How do individuals and teams know whether their work is meeting the organization´s goals?
- Communication and decision making processes: How and by whom are decisions made?
- Use of technology: How is technology being used? How are technology solutions enabling or getting in the way of results?
- Work flow: What are the steps that work follows from beginning to end? Where does the work flow slow down or stall?
- Skills: How are individuals and teams trained? Are there skills gaps? To meet the organization´s goal, what new skills will need to be developed?
- Management practices: What assumptions about management determine practices and policies? How is performance managed?
When improving a system, it is important to crisply define the desired outcomes, then look at how each element of the system can best support the desired outcomes.
In its broadest form, the desired outcome is: The best possible performance and results
But that´s a bit too vague for me. We know a few things about performance and so I would break down this broad desired outcome into a few, more actionable, statements. For example:
- Hire and promote the right people.
- Improve the quality and frequency of business dialog throughout the organization.
- Create an environment of shared accountability and results orientation.
- Continuously improve individual and organizational capacity.
- Create an environment that enlivens intrinsic motivation and offers people opportunities to contribute.
- Ensure all employees are clear about the goals of the company and how their work supports them.
- Ensure that all employees know how things are going (this is really a subset of great dialog).
These desired outcomes are what I would focus on if I were a manager, leader, or HR pro.
I am sure there are a couple more. The goal, then is to design/redesign the system to deliver on these desired outcomes. As part of this, you will end up tweaking or improving several things. Here are just a few examples:
- Management practices – one-on-ones, coaching, selection, level of empowerment/delegation
- Communication processes – how decisions are made, forums for dialog and idea exchange
- How employees and managers are oriented
- How to create a high performance culture – what does it feel like to work here?
- HR practices – how do we promote the best people?
Note: You could take the "low road"?? approach and replace appraisals with a solid coaching practice, more management training about the factors that drive performance, and a practice of using regular one-on-ones (open, two-sided conversations). That would be TONS better than doing the appraisals. If you really want to align your organization for high performance, however, you will want to look at many aspects of the system. This does not need to be lengthy or costly, but should be thorough.
A quick diversion/theoretical question: Performance is very often a function of a team´s efforts (or several teams) and a reflection of the system"s alignment to support the goals. So why the focus on individual goals when most of the work we do is integrated? What are the pros and cons of individual goals? How might individual goals inadvertently get in the way of results and satisfaction. Something to think about…..
Wait a minute, what´s that? You have a question?
What about PAY?
Ahhh, yes, what to do about pay. Many people use this inadequate system to determine pay increases (merit, rankings, ratings, forced curves, and other schemes). Some of you have already separated pay from performance appraisals, and congratulations if you have. Your journey to freedom will be a bit easier.
Being Friday, it seems appropriate that tomorrow be the day I address pay. Stay tuned!