I know that my colleague, Brendan, has picked up on this very issue, but I thought I would add my own metaphor which I shared with a client the other day, when they expressed an interest in having ‘averages’ for the ratings.
They perceived that this would make life easy for the reader and for managers trying to get a quick handle on how someone is ‘performing’ against a certain competency.
However, as we talked about what the purpose of the 360 degree feedback was, which we agreed was to provide an individual with some detailed feedback that would help them change & improve, then he could see that averaging wouldn’t help in this regard.
I attempted to illustrate my point with the story of 3 mathematicians off hunting in the woods one day looking for pheasant – as they saw one nearby, the first mathematician took aim, fired and missed just to the left of the bird. The second mathematician then took aim, fired and missed just to the right of the bird.
At that point, the third mathematician put his gun down, and exclaimed "Well done gentlemen! On average, I think we hit it!".
As well as getting a mild laugh(!), my client agreed that averaging just doesn’t give you the real story…..