Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The performance-review is not for rating how your team did

Image courtesy of apfelbaum

For many years, my daily work activity and my yearly performance-review were unrelated. I saw the performance-review as a task that needed to be completed for HR once or twice a year. A bit of paperwork.

Don't get me wrong. I've had good managers who were genuinely interested in me, my work and my progress. And I worked hard. I had some objectives at the beginning of the year. But these objectives did not drive my performance. They sat in a drawer or were saved in a folder somewhere on my computer. And I'd go scrambling looking for them the day before my review.

As would my managers I suspect.

This disconnect between what I did every day and my how my performance was rated and reviewed is not unusual. James Kilts, Jack Welsh and Larry Bossidy have all written about this at the companies they ran. Many individuals and their managers see the performance-review as an awkward chore to get out of the way, so they can all go back to the real work.

This is a mistake. The performance-review is not there to rate how the individuals on your team did. It is there to drive the performance you need now. The rating of the individual is just one aspect.

This difference seems subtle - but is critical. It is not a task to complete once or twice a year. It is a method of regularly monitoring an individual's progress. So you can both agree what bits need more focus or less focus. If you had a sales target, you wouldn't wait till November to look at the figures and decide what areas need more work. This is no different.

Which is why I believe in monthly performance reviews. Yep, formal performance-reviews every month where you both review objectives against agreed measures.

This allows the manager and individual to (1) discuss the previous month's performance, (2) understand what is working well and what needs more work (3) agree what will be done about the poorer performing areas and finally (4) let the individual know officially what their performance or rating has been for the month.

I've written before about the link between strategy and execution. Reviewing performance regularly is critical to execution. Monthly reviews are not difficult. They do require some prep work but I think it is worth it. The hard bit is putting the right measures in place. I'll write a post about this another time.


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