BLUF: In an organisation that universally practices MT principles (particularly feedback and coaching), are performance reviews as practiced in a modern organisations necessary?  (as opposed to pay reviews or succession planning)

I rolled out quarterly mini-reviews to our company around 9 months ago, to force managers to communicate about performance in *some* way with their directs until I could get everyone on board with the MT trinity, and also to provide some objective data upon which to base pay reviews.

Now we've got feedback flowing around the organisation, we're doing a hot wash on our review process and I'm having trouble coming up with credible reasons for doing periodic performance reviews.  As far as I can see, a performance review in an MT organisation could be little more than a printout of every piece of feedback given, the values of periodic metrics that we collect and report on to employees, and a summary of coaching notes.

Do I have the right take on this?  Are there still benefits to performing periodic performance reviews in our company, and if so, what should they include and look like? Are the only elements of periodic, written, large-scale review in an MT organisation pay reviews and succession planning?

duplicate_account_MarkAus's picture

This probably a question for the MT folk, but here's my 2 cents...

First, I wouldn't use coaching or feedback notes as part of a formal performance review.  There's certain things you just don't want elevated up the organisational heirarchy.   The foundation of feedback and coaching is trust and the relationship between you and the direct -- If employees are fearful that their failures will count against them (and be taken out of context by those not intimately familiar with the situation), that will undermine the management trinity and be less effective for everyone.  

If feedback and coaching status is to form part of your performance review, I'd stick with reporting up a couple bullets on current status and next steps.   Rehashing past history usually doesn't do anything to help future performance.

Secondly, I see performance reviews as a formal opportunity to align company goals with individual targets.   I think you are right that performance reviews are all about metrics and measurement.   Organisations tend to recallibrate their goals throughout the year, so a regular review to make sure the work you are doing still aligns with corporate KPIs is useful.     What that looks like will vary depending on the organisation and the role the person has.

I do think your instinct that practicing good MT principles makes formal performance reviews FEEL irrelevant is correct.  (Too many companies use performance reviews to force managers to discuss performance with their directs - after all, once a year is better than nothing.)   If you are giving regular feedback about performance, then obviously you have corporate goals framing the performance you want.   The results of a performance review in a MT organisation should not come as a surprise to anyone in the org - so knowing the answer in advance, as it were, does make it feel unneccesary.

The difference, I presume, is that feedback and coaching tend to be about guiding an individual's specific performance.   Performance reviews are the place to sanity check corporate performance to individual roles and departments.

And even after all that, I still don't feel like I've cracked the question.  Can anyone else help?

Gareth's picture

We break our reviews down by What and How. What gives focus on measures - for example I've just completed my self-review and made reference to metrics used to measure contract performance. The How plays in with our company values and highlights how we are supporting them.




Mark's picture
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Of course they are.   Performance reviews are an organizational system, not a system for individual managers.  They exist to help the company's leadership record performance largely for succession planning purposes.  

Even in a company FULL of MT managers, were I the CEO, I would have everyone do an annual performance review.  If there were, say, only 100 managers in the firm, I would sit down with my HR chief and Division heads and find out who was good and who wasn't.  And I'd start playing chess with my folks, if you will, moving them to where they need to be, and where the firm needs them to be (not in that order).

I can't do THAT, which is a HUGE part of my role as CEO, without some sort of collection of performance data.

The annual review.

What we as managers do every DWMQ (day week month quarter) is what allows us to produce good evals quickly and with high credibility.  But those things we do NEVER take the place of reviews themselves.


mattpalmer's picture

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your thoughts.  It seems like a better term for what we're after is "performance reports", not "performance reviews".  The purpose is to communicate summary performance information up the organisation, rather than communicate it downwards, like we've been using it for.  The manager and direct could almost collaborate on the content to send up the chain, in a suitably enlightened and ego-free organisation (let me know if anyone ever finds one; my job application will be in the mail shortly thereafter).

The issue in my particular case may be one of scale.  We don't have 100 managers in the firm.  We've got 6, out of a total of around 45 employees.  I don't feel like we need to have a *formal* performance / succession planning reporting structure in place at our size.  We do need to be thinking about succession planning, and perhaps doing performance reports is the only way to get there, but I'd be inclined to start with the simpler "ready now/ready next/not ready" succession planning form that's regularly discussed on the casts.  I'm happy to be convinced otherwise, though.  Perhaps we do need to be doing formal performance reporting to the CEO on a periodic basis.  If so, what should be reported?

Anyone care to weigh in?

mattpalmer's picture

... I realise that the question I really *should* have asked was, "what should be in a performance review?", and that would have answered this question, too.