Should we call it something other than 360?

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One of the major trends for us over the past few years has been the inclusion of feedback from a range of people as part of the performance appraisal process.  From a software perspective we have an integrated system so it may be that we see more of this because competitor’s don’t have the same capability but it does look to be a broader trend in the market.

If we look back 10 years, 360 feedback was something quite specific.  There were strong arguments in research and practice that it worked best when it was developmental.  It was built around competencies and behaviours and was something quite different from appraisal.  We continue to consult, debrief, and provide the software for “360″ but is it the same as the performance appraisal activity?

Often, as short hand, 360 feedback is used to mean any feedback that is received from a range of people.  So, we too will refer to a client’s appraisal system making use of 360 feedback.  But, I wonder did we lose something in the merger?

Gaining input into the performance review process from a range of people often makes sense.  Organisational structures, geographical locations, team-based and project based working all mitigate against the manager having the full picture.  Yet, the feedback has a different context when it is linked to appraisal and particularly when it is linked directly or indirectly to remuneration.

There is something attractive in the idea of receiving developmental feedback – that you have asked for, wish to receive, understand the purpose of and all intend to be developmental.  You can set up systems, processes, people all geared to the leader/manager being well positioned to receive the feedback, accept it, and draw out actions and commit to them.  You can consider all of the recent neuroscience research on feedback and set the process up accordingly.

Appraisal/performance review is a valid process considering performance at work against goals, targets, business values, etc.  It is often structure to suit the organisation.  As I’ve said, gathering feedback from others on that performance makes sense but it is not what 360 feedback is in its most effective form.

The answer … do them both!  Gain feedback on performance annually however you see fit and in whatever way works best.  Gain developmental feedback for leaders separately at a different time of the year.  That way you have two conversations at different times of the year with a different focus.  Of course there will be overlap but better to have two highly meaningful conversations with overlap than miss out on the real benefits of 360 feedback.

 

Brendan

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A yogic insight into the annual review

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I go to yoga with my daughter most weeks.  I am the worst yoga practitioner in the country with other participants requesting my attendance to make them look good.  My toes remain resolutely distant from my hands.  What I have found useful though is the concentration on breathing.

Within the class we often focus on the breath and in particular on the pause between breathing in and breathing out and breathing in again.  Just by focusing on that pause it tends to stretch out, your breathing relaxes and you take longer and deeper breaths.  Now, I breathe every day.  Turns out I’m quite good at it – I can do it without even concentrating on it.  I can even do it in my sleep.  But by reflecting on my breathing I can breath better, learn how to control my breath when under duress (usually when cycling up a hill) and improve my general sense of well being.

It is becoming topical to argue against the annual review.  Arguing that you should be reviewing performance all of the time and so there is no need to do it annually.  I agree with the need for ongoing review discussions but I believe there is a great benefit for taking time out to take a deep breath, a bit of a pause and a think.  You may find that something you’ve been doing naturally all year improves  just from the exercise of reflection.

 

Brendan

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Trying to be honest in a review

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We’re setting our business goals for 2015 in the next few weeks.  Trying to assess priorities, build on a successful 2014, and get the focus right in 2015.  As a matter of course we do a “looking back” exercise.  Rather similar to a personal review session, we try to honestly review the year gone by.

Being honest can be quite difficult.  It is very easy to deceive oneself, to not see the truth hidden amongst the noise, or avoid difficult issues and potential decisions.  Some things help.  Here is what has come to work for us as a business – and would work equally well in a personal review.

  • Find useful facts and accept them.  You may think sales have increased on last year and your CRM may say they  have but have they?  Look in the accounts; what has been invoiced?!  Accept the facts and spend energy looking at what led to those facts rather than finding a nuanced point that explains one element of them.  Facts are often hard to come by and should be treasured.
  • Look impersonally at the events of the year.  This isn’t an excercise in working out who did what.  It is “what happened”.  We’re not after a human interest story and we are certainly not looking for who to blame for things that didn’t happen.  We want to impersonally review the year.  Did what we planned to do, happen?  If not, what happened?  If it did, what should we learn?  If it was just luck then be honest.  If it was genius then be honest about that as well.
  • Look for the trends and fish out the unusual.  Now, this is where you have to be very honest.  Is this year’s million pound deal a one-off or the start of a trend.  How are client numbers looking?  Are we retaining or not?  Are our customers happier with us this year than last?
  • Look the whole way back.  What happened in January is more likely to have had an impact on the year’s performance than the new idea you had in November.  Understanding what did and did not work over the year and honestly accounting for it helps everyone share the lessons and embed them.

Looking back is very healthy – it embeds organisational learning and saves you trying out the same experiments each year.  It has to be done honestly.

 

Brendan

 

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