Performance Appraisals – A Better Way?

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As Bruce points in a couple recent post (here and here), it is performance appraisal season.  Bruce provided many great points on how they are used for evil instead of good!  But we all aren’t as lucky as Deming and can’t just conscientiously object.  In reality most of our jobs require us to perform some type of annual evaluation.  What can you do to take the “jackassery” out of them and avoid crossing over to the dark side?

If you have direct reports you have a little more control over the situation, but even if you are just “managing” yourself there are some things you can attempt to build in to make it a positive experience.

One of the best things you can do is measure process items rather than the results of the process.  Examples might be to complete 25 five why’s this year, make 2 positive safety contacts per day, perform a daily 5S or standard work audit, or complete an A3 on a particular area.  If you are trying to gain stability in a process you might require training for all teammates and implementing SPC charting in that area.  These types of items are measuring the process you want to follow, not the results.  If you have selected the proper process to work on, hopefully with your value stream maps, and you improve that process the results will come.  If the results don’t come, its time to analyze why.  The good old PDCA!

Contrast this to some of the result measurements that are often made into requirements like Cpk at 1.67, OSHA rate below 2.5,  or inventory below $500,000.  My all time favorite (not) is putting an overall scrap percentage on an appraisals.  Often the metric is transformed with some type of “accounting magic” that is always changing with the dreaded standards!

Often times these results are not carefully planned and people do outrageous things to attain them for their review, regardless of whether it is healthy for the business.  How many times have we seen people drawing down the inventory at the end of the month for one day to meet their requirement?  What about the majority of the days in the month where there was more cash tied up?

I also like to add personal items into my appraisals.  My thought process is if it makes you a better person than you will also be a better employee.  I generally like to include something you want to accomplish outside of work like workouts per month,  run a 1/2 marathon, lead a small group at church, or volunteer at a local grade school.  Something that a person is passionate about and will help balance their work and personal life.  For you accountants and HR folks out there, a healthier person is also cheaper on the benefits end of things!

Another item that improves the mandatory performance evaluations is to perform them more often, say quarterly.  This does not replace the daily coaching that all of us need, but seems to keep the review more relevant to the current situation of the business.

One final point, don’t misunderstand that the process results like inventory levels and scrap percentages aren’t necessary.  I just don’t recommend them included in a performance review.  However, they are necessary interim targets on the way to your true north performance.  They need to drive your entire team in a direction but you also must follow the correct process in getting there.

I’d be very interested on items you have found to be successful at taking the evil out of the annual review……



10 Responses

  1. […] See the original post here: Performance Appraisals – A Better Way? « Lean Is Good […]

  2. Yes. Incentivize the use of the right processes. Be ready to teach and coach (or see to it that it is provided). If the right results don’t follow then ask why but don’t place blame on the person who applied the desired process. Reader @leanvsl suggested via twitter, in reply to this post, that maybe a better name is ‘conformance appraisal.’ I think that is a good idea. What do you think?

  3. Who CAN conscientiously object? There has to be some level of most organizations that can ‘push back’ on carrot and stick systems. Somebody can tell HR that external incentives don’t do any good in some cases and actually do harm in some cases. Maybe we should consider who those people are and if maybe each of us can do a little of that or influence others who can.

  4. Just think of all the effort that goes into bad performance appraisals for no value. There are countless stories of rating people, talk of bell shaped curves to fit people in, and of course the tie to money or not.

    Good managers never use the infrequent reivew as a measure of success. I think the real measure of success comes it two forms: surprise factor and promotion factor. What I mean is the appraisal process should be ongoing such there is never a surprise in goals or appraisal of those. Good managers also pride themselves in training and teaching their team so that they can be promoted to higher levels of responsibility.

    As you suggest managing the means to get the result is a better method to accomplish both of the above than just managing the result itself.

    Tim McMahon
    A Lean Journey

  5. […] Read Posts Performance Evals Are Bad – The Great Jackass FallacyPerformance Appraisals – A Better Way?The Great Jackass Fallacy – Dan Pink and W. Edwards DemingAbout the blogHurry Up and Wait! – Muri5S […]

  6. The key argument is one of engagement vs compliance. The measure of success for any performance appraisal approach should be that managers and employees actully want to do the reviews! Why? Because they are useful TO THEM!

  7. […] Fallacy,  Dan Pink’s & W. Edward’s Deming’s take on motivation,  Bryan suggests a better way, and competition among […]

  8. […] (Kent State CDC)Gemba Walks…Don't Forget to Teach!Undercover Boss – Going to the Gemba on CBSPerformance Appraisals – A Better Way?Performance Evals Are Bad – The Great Jackass FallacyLean Implementation – When to PullAbout Kim […]

  9. Performance appraisals are usually by your previous employers. It is just to prove your working preformance from your ex employer, it works just like a key performance indicator whether you had achieved the targets set by your employer and your working attitude when you were working with them.

    If you don’t have it, inform the interviewers and try to get testimonials from your ex employer if they can provide for you, normally the case once an employee leaves the company, he/she will get a testimonial letter automatically or by request.

  10. Performance Appraisals: Author Boldly Goes Where Management Consultants Fear to Tred. It’s amazing that such dinosaurs (performance review systems, not the people) are still around.. Yet despite the outcry against reviews, there’s nothing wrong with them that can’t be fixed by getting managers off of center stage. Top management can fix the basic problems the review system faces.
    Critics argue that performance reviews not only don’t accomplish what they’re supposed to do – that is, improve performance, enhance employee skills and achieve planned outcomes – they have unintended negative consequences. In many cases, unfortunately, that’s true. But it doesn’t have to be that way. What companies need to abolish is not performance review itself, but the idea that it’s a “management tool. Here are some practiced paradigms that must be discarded:
    Performance Review is designed, as the name suggests, in support of managers. If you believe this, your management is one of the roadblocks to exceptional performance. The most useful performance review support work relationships between employees (managers too are employees). Both parties need to address the question of how to best serve the goals and outcomes and align their work efforts.
    Performance review is a management tool. Managers are not necessarily the best qualified to assess their staff’s accomplishments. In fact, they may have a very limited or biased view. A more complete and accurate picture results when employees and managers seek feedback from a variety of customers, team leaders, professional peers, and others inside or from outside the unit.
    Performance reviews include judgments from a “higher authority”. Judgments produce compliant workers – people who are told what to do – not innovative ones. People hate performance reviews because most of them are fault-finding. How much better to ask, “What did we learn from this? What can we each do different the next time?”
    The manager is responsible for obtaining input from the employees. 21st century employees can’t assume a passive role in performance review, providing “tough-minded” self-assessments and valuable insights only on request. They must take the initiative, soliciting feedback from their managers and others. No risk taking to solicit the complete picture and no learning means no improvements.
    Managers should be trained in performance reviews, then prepare their employees for the process. If performance review is to be a productive partnership with employees taking the active role and both parties committed to exchanging knowledge and ideas, managers and employee need to be trained together.

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