Apologies if I've missed this being brought up elsewhere - I searched, but didn't find it. Anyway, an interesting article which brings up what I would assume is a lot of the discomfort that many of us may have about the overall process of assessment, but which also stimulated considerable opposing thoughts in the resulting comment thread.

Certainly, the MT approach to performance reviews has improved my personal execution rather a million fold, but I can't help but wonder about a world without them (but still in the context of constant feedback and coaching).

Cheers, Bob

rwwh's picture
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I just skimmed the article, but I don't agree with most points. My two major objections are that:

1) Most of the article assumes a bad relationship. All of us probably agree that the performance review should not be the only contact between boss and direct report. If you only want to talk once per year, you could indeed allow bidirectionality in the suggested way.

2) The article looks as if it was written from the boss' viewpoint. This violates Mark's symmetry arguments: I have yet to meet a direct report that does not want to know what his boss thinks of him/her, but almost all bosses hate to give the performance reviews....

mcmahorj's picture

Rob, fair points...its interesting because this guy is kind of a big deal as he has an ongoing article in the WSJ. It appears that most would agree with you somewhat that his perspective appears to attempt to relieve some of the accountability that this system tries to put in place for the manager as well as the report.

Not to belabor the point, but if we accept your premise that the two way relationship is of course key, what is the [u]added[/u] value of the high-stakes discussion at the end of the year if you have been in a good system of the bilateral discussion and feedback you point to along the way?

TomW's picture
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[quote="mcmahorj"]Not to belabor the point, but if we accept your premise that the two way relationship is of course key, what is the [u]added[/u] value of the high-stakes discussion at the end of the year if you have been in a good system of the bilateral discussion and feedback you point to along the way?[/quote]

At that point, it's the closure of the year.

Most likely, at the beginning of the year, you set goals and targets for your team. All year, you've worked with them to meet those goals. The year-end is when you can talk about whether those measurable, time-based goals were met. After that, it's time to talk about goals for the next year.

I like to do this quarterly, so the only difference is that the year-end one talks about a pay raise from HR as well.

RobRedmond's picture

I used to be one of the people calling for the downfall of the performance review at the end of the year. That was because I had seen it done so badly year after year.

I insist on doing them with my folks now. It is each of my directs' opportunity to compile all of their accomplishments for the year on one page and parade them all at once - flags flying.

There is an impact that this has on the direct and the manager - to see the entire year's major accomplishments all at once - that I believe is in everyone's best interest.

* The manager is forced to acknowledge that more good happened than bad
* The direct must acknowledge the same
* It is an opportunity for the manager to say, "Dude. You did a lot. A LOT. I mean - WOW. It didn't seem like that much month to month, did it?"
* It is also an opportunity for the manager to say, "Looking at all of this, I have to say thank you. Thank you for all of this hard work and sacrifice. Thank you for these things you did that you didn't have to do just to get a paycheck.

My annual reviews with my people are very positive. I have them add accomplishments they forgot. I have them turn statements which are job description into accomplishments. I also run a training session for all of my team before they turn them in on MT Goals and how to turn those into accomplishments so they will write better annual reviews. I give them a template that Mark described. I do mine the same way with my boss.

It's basically an annual hotwash with future development on the bottom of the page.

If you set annual MT goals, and you measure performance, the end of the year review is going to be a walk on a red carpet for everyone, even if you cannot give out big money or exceptional scores to everyone - or even most.

And of course these are dropped into HR files with comments appended.

There are other suggestions I have for succeeding at annual reviews that will be on my blog next week.

Mark and Mike have sold me. The guys who think the annual review is a bad idea do not know how to do goal setting, performance measurement, feedback, one on ones, coaching, praise, and quarterly and annual reviews.

AManagerTool's picture


I just noticed you got your own BLOG...excellent!

*adds bookmark*

mcmahorj's picture

a thread dominated by Bobs!

Rob, I really loved the expression of the tone of your meetings...makes me think that if you've done your homework, it becomes a non-surprising review of the year's events, and some celebration of the accomplishments. As my company insists on spending some considerable time in documenting and discussing "areas of improvement" (ugh), I continue to search for good ways to incorporate that part of the discussion in an otherwise positive event.

The other part of your response that struck me as important is the implication of "separateness" of your feedback from your ability to connect that feedback to compensation based on the resources that your individual circumstances allow. For instance, you might consider providing very positive feedback on performance and behaviors despite knowing that your leverage in terms of merit raises and bonuses to be quite limited. My only modest experience is that with the really positive review comes expectations that sometimes are then hard to meet, but we continue to provide what we can.

Thanks for your thoughts - quite helpful.

jhack's picture


The book, "First, Break All The Rules" is about getting the most out of your people (and the futility of focusing on 'areas to improve.') I recommend it highly.

'Areas to improve' can be things you want to coach: the additional skills folks need to take their game to the next level. It can be positive and forward looking. Sorta like telling a great fastball pitcher with a good curve ball that this year, he should develop a decent (not necessarily great) slider, just to keep batters off balance.