Monday, December 30, 2013

Value Your Values?

How about one last post to cap off 2013?

Since many of us will be returning to our jobs to either write and/or deliver annual performance appraisals, I thought it a timely subject

Let's get the big idea out of the way first. Yearly performance evaluations are an indescribable waste of time and energy.  If you don't understand why, go read the book Abolishing Performance Appraisals.  I'll include a link in the future.

Regardless, organizations are still addicted to this form of documentation and your employees have been trained to desire report cards since grammar school.  Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the practice is perpetuated simply because it's what we've always done.

Since relatively few organizations have managed to dispose of them - and kudos to those who have - I thought I'd write a brief post encouraging that managers and leaders alike take the time to think about values

Individual values
Team values
Organization values

If you're lucky, these elects are in alignment.  Unfortunately, I feel that this is still relatively scarce.  

In my experience, most metrics that are applied in annual performance appraisals are standardized, generalized and not consistently relevant.  Here are some examples:

Quality of Work and Productivity are almost always separated metrics.  In reality, These things are intertwined.  So what does that mean when someone does good work but takes  months to do what another employee can do in days - is that acceptable? What if another employee's productivity is very high, creating hundreds of lines of code or dozens of assets, all of which have to be rebuilt by a more competent team member?  In its current form, each employee would receive high marks in one category, low marks in another and ultimately be a failing member of your team. Would he or she understand your values after reviewing their scores?

Here are some other fun ones.  Teamwork.  Professionalism.  Everyone understands what these words mean, but I've rarely encountered two leaders who interpret them consistently. Now couple that with a scoring range, and please tell me how a 3 meaningfully differs from a 4.

So, what should you use instead?  Well, if you can't do away with the practice, It will depend on your organization.  Do you value your values?  Are your teams values understood but you continue to use different metrics for paperwork?  Isn't that a warning sign that something is severely amiss?

If you can, craft a review that uses more meaningful concepts which promote more dialog.

Contribution/Impact - rather than a rote list of what was done, a sincere evaluation of how an individual's contributions impact (or don't) your organization or team as a whole.  Or would you rather discuss a list of widgets and a full tracking sheet?  Do you value "getting things done" or getting done "things?"

Risk - do you value people who are willing to explore, prototype and experiment?  Careful, you have to be the kind of leader who is willing to endure as well as encourage failure.  If you can't, then your team will never stray from the well-worn path of what is already known.  Do you value risk or regimen?

Learning - what would happen if you evaluated growth?  Which is worthy of greater attention, an individual's point in time or the trajectory of a career?  Wouldn't your team benefit from someone who learned how others did their job rather than just incrementally growing in the components of their own?  Do you value cogs or machines?

Teaching.  Holy fuck, now we're talking.  Beyond learning, does your employee take the time to improve others.  Most managers muddle this kind of serious impact by combining it with Teamwork.  Let's get specific.  Do you value shared knowledge or are you destined to fail the bus test?

I could probably go on, but this post is already growing a little long and I'd rather provide food for thought than ladle out the whole buffet.  Here are some starters:
Leadership - evaluate everyone on this, not just Leads and Directors
Culture - is it possible for someone to drive your values, rather than just reflecting them?

Think about this. Think about your values. Then give people feedback based on that. 

And to hell with annual reviews.

No comments:

Post a Comment