Performance Reviews – a subset of the Feedback and Follow-up Process
I’ve been reading Ted’s perspectives on performance reviews on his
blog at cynicalsoftwaremanagement.blogspot.com. We both are
suggesting that there’s a place for performance reviews to be approached in a discussion environment as an alternative to numerically defined rating of skills.
We have some differences about how much the review should be
focused on personal goals (Ted), versus focused on personal impact on company goals (Me). But this morning, I’d like to introduce another thought about performance reviews and rating, and perhaps upset the apple cart a bit more.
Here’s what I notice, reviews of any behavior don’t have much staying power with the majority of people unless there is consistent follow-up on the items or points reviewed. You probably notice the same.
This seems to fit into what Confusis wrote centuries ago, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” If you think of this in terms of reviews, it means reviews, even discussions, are of relatively low value unless there is follow-up on specifics so that the “doing” stuff is in play and reviewed.
In fact I think we get overwhelmed with feedback pretty quickly.
I wonder if we don’t lose the ability to tie feedback (performance
review) into “OK, what am I going to do next, do differently…”
within three to six data points.
Stay with me, this gets more interesting. What if skill ratings
and other forms of feedback are a poor replacement for
active follow-up in terms of the ability to drive “doing” or
As an example, if I ask you to better organize and layout
your projects so that we improve visibility – one would think it
would be best for the company to have you “doing” that before
the end of the week, if not starting the same day. Wouldn’t
you be more likely to do it if you knew someone was going to
follow-up on Friday at 1pm? You might even be more diligent
if you knew follow-up was at 3pm and you wouldn’t be leaving
the office until it was all in place.
Now compare that with no follow-up, but another review in
anywhere between 3 and 12 months later. Which do you think
would have the most impact on your performance?
That is the idea behind performance reviews isn’t, e.g. that they
have a positive impact on performance? Don’t confuse doing
performance reviews with active follow-up… on specifics.
Performance Reviews work best when they set the stage for
immediate follow-up on action items. Without follow-up,
whether the performance review is a skill rating or a discussion,
the positive effect tails off quickly in time. Performance reviews
are really only a subset of the primary improvement
process of obtaining feedback and following-up on changes
in light of that feedback, with follow-up ultimately being more
important than feedback in fostering improvement.