Friday 4 August 2017

Just in case you haven't yet ditched performance appraisals

The following is from my Changing What's Normal book published in June 2011. You can download a copy of the book with my compliments by scrolling down here.

Sparkenation 47.
Appraisals are dead;
just not buried yet


Whilst working in the United Kingdom in February 2008, I was surprised at the amount of media concerning performance appraisals. One article in particular, in the Sunday Times of 24th February, grabbed my attention with the sub headline reading “Managers need to be trained better in carrying out annual staff performance reviews …” The article went on to quote a recent survey by Investors in People which found that a third of employees think appraisals are a waste of time.

I have never been a fan of appraisals because I have rarely met an employee who enjoyed having one!

To leave a performance review for a year in the modern world is poor practice. Every 90 days is the norm for organisations which are changing what’s normal and where the key is the informal feedback exchange that occurs daily. This means that the formal review is about celebrating performance and agreeing on the performance plan for the next 90 days. 

In the past year, I have found that, because of the speed of change, a formal performance review every 30 days is also common. On the 8th of November 2010 I posed a question to my LinkedIn connections: “How often are employees you know having formal performance reviews?” More than 50% answered “annually”. Very few answered “quarterly” or better.

Changing what’s normal

One firm conclusion that I make after 20 years of helping my clients to develop and grow performance leadership and management systems that actually lead to performance improvement is that human beings do not want to be appraised; they want to be appreciated.

People also want to be held to account when their performance is less than it was planned that it would be.

To leave appreciation or being held to account for a year is an insult to humanity.

It is not training for managers in how to complete annual reviews that is needed. What is needed, and desperately in most quarters, is a complete rethink and redesign, and in some cases a complete relearning, about the essentials of effective performance leadership and management.

In my view, regardless of the system used, or the sophistication or otherwise of it, the essentials are:

✓ regular celebration of performance✓ personal and business performance plans that arealigned with the strategy and execution plan of the organisation
✓ daily appreciation of people
✓ holding people to account when appropriate or as the following technique illustrates helping people to hold themselves to account.

Possible actions:

All of us have aspirations, and the greatest way I know to achieve them is to have a performance plan created with performance partners which is aligned with something greater than ourselves, and for other people to appreciate us when we do well and to help us hold ourselves to account when we perform less than we desire.

The great leaders who are changing what’s normal, in my experience, are those who ask great questions. The poor leaders I witness are stuck in the status quo of giving answers.

I designed the ‘Double A Technique’ around asking great questions.

Effective use of the technique assumes employees buy into and own your strategy, particularly their piece of the execution plan, i.e. their personal and business performance plan.

The ‘Double A Technique’ can be downloaded in the vault that is a companion to the Changing What's Normal book which you can download by scrolling down here.

If you are an employee help your boss to ask great questions by asking them great questions yourself.

Do your work.

The Double A Technique

Ask: “How are things going?”
When you get a positive response:
Ask: “How does that make you feel?”
(be quiet and pay attention)
Then say, Great, Brilliant or whatever is appropriate.
Then ask: “Any other areas I can help you with?”
(be quiet and pay attention)

When you get a negative response
Ask: “What happened?” (be quiet and pay attention)
Then Ask: “What do you need to do to get back on track?”
(be quiet and pay attention)
Then Ask: “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
(be quiet and pay attention)
Finally, Ask: “Anything else?”
(be quiet and pay attention)

You can use this technique any time you meet informally with anyone with whom you have goal congruence and their permission to be their performance partner.

In the video below I demonstrate the use of The Double A Technique.

Here's a direct link to the video if it's not loading for you.

Many of the world's most well known and respected organisations have recently upgraded their performance review system. Here are a few examples:




General Electric


There is a very interesting time line in a Harvard Business Review article titled 'The Performance Management Revolution' which you can read here.

Part of the timeline above was the so-called 'War on Talent' which I totally disagree with. My thoughts are here.

Should you need any further convincing please read this short article by the folk at Impraise 'Annual Appraisals Are Dead: 5 Reasons Why.'

The present and future of performance reviews is covered in the following line from this article "Talk to your people. Don’t wait. Do it now, and never stop."

and then this HUMAN RESOURCES ISN’T ABOUT HUMANS by Karen Wickre.

Finally I love the following insight from Cynthia Maxwell in this article:

“This is not a performance evaluation. This is a performing evaluation. The question is: how I can get you more into your work, not get more work out of you?"

Is it your turn to upgrade how you review performance with your people and therefore improve well-being and performance?

Maybe it's time to review how you see people full stop!

Should you like some help please contact me on +61 418 807 898.

Be remarkable.

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