Reinventing the performance review…

Its that time of year… mulled wine, Christmas songs in every store, and…. the dreaded annual review – as archaic an HR practice as one could possibly find!

A few years ago now I had the pleasure of listening to Ashley Goodall  SVP of Leadership and Team Intelligence at Cisco (formerly of Deloitte) speak about reinventing performance management and today, two years later I’m still wondering how many firms can honestly say they do this well!?  

The premise of Goodall’s initiatives to change the dreaded annual review process was that to fuel performance we first need to recognise it, and then truly see it, reliably. The challenge with this is naturally performance reviews are subjective, and if this is the case how do we generate reliable data, reliable information against which to measure performance?

Goodall’s response – look at what is happening in the best teams, the ones that are excelling, the ones with low turnover, the ones with higher productivity, as what we have truly been missing in the performance measurement paradigm is at the team level. In his words ‘we have missed teams in performance measurement, we do lots of individual stuff, and lots of organisational stuff’.

Think about your motivation, does it come from the actions you set following your traditional, staid review, a throwback to the days of mechanistic management techniques. I would suggest not. According to Goodall’s experiences at the time in Deloitte, the most powerful predictor of performance is when employees have the chance to use their skills every day. To you and I, as well as most employees, this means FULFILMENT! It trumps everything else.

From a motivation point of view fulfilment is closely followed by EXCITEMENT, being enthusiastic about the mission, and then ALIGNMENT, knowing what is expected of you. Given we want to make more teams like our best teams, if we look at what drives their performance and replicate these conditions then we might be going some way towards fuelling performance across other teams in the business.


So how do we do this? Goodall argues we should put all the data about the experiences and motivators of the team in the hands of the person who can do most about it – the team leaders! Their power to positively impact team productivity just by moving away from the past focussed feedback to forward focussed recognition took even Goodall by surprise in Deloitte when studies showed increased engagement across all teams in the pilot at the time.

Two years later I’m still thinking about his parting shot… ‘A career is doing your best work over and over again’. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all focus on what makes our best work our best work rather than the annual cycle of looking at what we didn’t do quite so well.

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