John sent me over a link to an article from Australia where a consultant/coach lambasts anonymous 360 degree feedback. You can read the article here – be warned, he is unusually angry!
We often read highly principled articles on 360 feedback (and for that matter performance appraisals). The implication of such articles is that there is a right way and no other way. And, if you are incapable of performing the process in the right way then you should be ashamed of the muddled thinking you are now following.
Here is the way we approach it.
Feedback is a good thing. If you already have truly open feedback between all parties through strong, regular, meaningful conversations then the only reason to run 360 feedback is to provide a consistent structure and there is no need for anonymity at all. We have a client who names all respondents on the feedback.
If, however, you have imperfect leaders and an imperfect culture then the feedback process should meet your organisation where it currently stands. From there, it can move forward as feedback becomes a more natural and open process. For some organisations this requires high anonymity and careful 360 debriefs that support the recipient in accepting the feedback in a positive light and deciding how best to act upon that feedback. This may not be a perfect, textbook, 360 process. Indeed it contains some flaws. However, it is the feedback process that the organisation and recipients are ready for. It is the process with the best chance of success and it is the one that can be built upon the future with anonymity reduced as all participants gain confidence.
Through careful consideration of questionnaire design, process, reporting, and handling of debriefs we can support an organisation in delivering the feedback process it is ready for. Surely better to do that, than dismiss the process because it isn’t textbook perfect?