If you are looking to implement a 360 degree feedback process in 2010 then feel free to get our white paper on that subject. 360 feedback lends itself to guidance rather than rules – what works for you may not work for others. Our white paper is written as a series of checklists to allow you to be certain that you have considered all of the important points but not be constrained by a set of zealous rules!
If you are considering changing your performance appraisal process in 2010 can we humbly suggest you take a read of our "How to implement performance appraisals" white paper. It is written to provide high level assistance and get you off the ground.
One of our best projects of 2009 was a full 360 feedback process for a law firm. We worked with a consultant to the firm and helped end-to-end from design of the questionnaire through an on-line solution to debriefs and finally to present overall findings to the department heads.
During the project, the two sponsors within the firm had to take key decisions on how to implement the 360 feedback. I saw a key decision as "do we need someone (external) to debrief the report with each recipient?". This was certainly a big budgetary decision but it also required thought around what was the purpose of the 360.
The sponsors went for external debriefing which we then provided together with the consultant. I know they made the correct decision. The people involved in the 360 were all senior, many were unused to the process, many had never had feedback on their behaviours in this way before, and they all had great potential. The feedback sessions were nearly all challenging as the partners worked hard to understand the feedback and the implications. The client extracted amazing value out of the 360 by following it through rather than leaving the report, debriefing, and feedback to chance.
When reviewing the budget for a 360 feedback intervention I would encourage anyone to be very careful around how they ensure the report is delivered and reviewed. Money spent up until that point is all spent on preparing for that moment. Getting the report delivery and feedback right is crucial. For 360 feedback for a senior team I would wholeheartedly recommend external debriefers. For larger 360 feedback interventions then ensure that training programmes are in place for the people debriefing the report.
Most performance appraisal processes encourage participants to create SMART objectives (specific, measurable, accurate, realistic, timely). The idea came straight out of a belief in management by objectives – the belief that if you set stretch targets/goals for the year and monitor progress and reward success then the individual and organisation will move forward and achieve the strategic goals.
When you work on performance appraisals in a number of organisations, you find that not everyone can easily create SMART objectives. You often then find people forcing their day job into an objective structure to comply with the process. Nothing then follows from this process until the end of the year when the objective is reviewed. Even if there are regular 1-1 meetings throughout the year they will not refer to the objectives as they were not truly driving activity.
I believe that SMART objectives only work in situations that suit mid to long term targets or project based activity. For the many people for whom their role is repetitive and the requirement is to deliver consistent levels of quality or service creating an objective can be a trite activity. Performance appraisals remain valid for this group of people but more on a competency and activity based review than objective based.
If you are not going to manage someone against their objectives – then don’t set any.
I was recently working with a client who is considering how to gain feedback on the leadership team against a new set of leadership behaviours. As we discussed the best routes open to us, unsurprisingly, 360 degree feedback was looked at. A bunch of assumptions then flowed through – not just for the people at the meeting, but for the people who would be participants in the process.
Your perception of 360 degree feedback is, for the majority of people, going to be driven by experience. Those of us who work in the field will have experienced many different ways of getting feedback from a range of sources in many ways but for most people 360 feedback will be driven by how it was recently done "to" them.
The most common perception is of measurement and that measurement leading to a score – with charts, graphs, means, etc. That score is often then benchmarked in some way. But that doesn't have to be the way – indeed scoring in 360 at an individual level is difficult at best.
I started to reflect on what 360 feedback really is. At its essence, it is a route to collecting feedback from a range of sources (I guess to strictly be 360, then it has to be from direct reports, managers, self, and a peer group). There is no requirement for that to be ratings based – it just typically is.
It is quite possible that a group of people do not need or can not make use of a rating based 360. But seeking narrative feedback from a range of people may be exactly what would help them to reflect on their impact on others.
Before we make the leap from "it would be good to get observations from a range of people" to "and so we will get an average score from a range of people" we should at least pause and challenge that assumption. It doesn't have to be so.
We have spoken many times about when to share an individual’s 360 degree feedback report and have always stated a firm belief that this should happen in a face-to-face debrief.
I used the following analogy the other day to explain our thinking on this – If the report represents some kind of ‘True North’ for an individual, a balanced view of both the positive and the negative, then our role as a debriefer is to guide someone along that route heading North.
If they receive the report beforehand, they can travel off into the distance, veering away from True North very quickly, focusing on particular bits of feedback (usually the ‘negative’ feedback as they would see it), and ending up more and more remote from the balanced view which we wish to help them see.
This leads to a debrief session, where lots of energy and time is expended trying to pull them back to True North; it can be exhausting, and with limited time leave them some way off where they should be.
Better to guide them on their journey, inevitably they will veer left and right from True North, but only marginally, with your help to bring them back onto the path.
The image below was a hastily scribbled attempt to convey this on a flip chart, but it hopefully sums up the key reason to have a face-to-face debrief from the off.
We had a very enjoyable and productive 360 degree feedback seminar on Friday 11th; thanks again to all who attended and for those who had expressed an interest but unfortunately couldn’t make it.
A special thanks as well to our client, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, for providing their offices as a great venue near St.Katherines Dock, and for all their hospitality.
The session was very interactive, with lots of discussion and debate, coupled with a presentation by Brendan Walsh around our latest whitepaper on the topic.
The success of the session has spurred us on to want to run another one of these in the New Year, both for 360 degree feedback and for performance appraisals.
If you have interest in attending either of these future events then do let me know at email@example.com, and I will add your name to our advance notice list.
We’re now fully prepared for our seminar on "how to successfully implement 360 degree feedback". The seminar is running this Friday (11th December) morning in central London. Both John and I will be presenting and we have spaces remaining if you are interested.
To attend, please register on our website and we will get details of the venue over to you.
The session will be a mix of theory, principles and some practice. If you are involved in 360 feedback implementations in 2010 then come along.
I wrote a few weeks ago about a comment that had been written on my wife’s blog. The comment was highly encouraging and supportive. Continuing an odd theme of my family’s internet activities, I have an uncle with a photography website. In talking with him at the weekend I was struck again how reliant we are on positive feedback. The best feedback he gets is when someone purchases a photograph of his but more generally some comment or even taking the time to comment makes a massive difference. We have a picture of his on the office wall and a recent visitor commented upon it and I passed this compliment on.
Positive feedback can sometimes be harder to give – or harder to remember to give. Most of us focus on what can be improved and are never quite satisfied. Note to self though – positive feedback whether as part of 360 degree feedback or as part of general performance reviews is highly powerful.