Performance Management, Appraisals
and a Little Math

by Byron Kalies

Go along to any medium / large Organisation and offer to save them 1,000,000;

Ask them to give you three good reasons why they should keep their Performance Management System. If they can, ask them to put a cost of these benefits. Call this figure 'A'.

Then ask them to calculate how much time, money and effort goes into the upkeep of this system. Cost the number of hours it takes the staff, management, administrators, programmers to maintain this system. Call this figure 'B'.

Now do the math. If A > B keep the system. If A is not > B then stop running the system. It has been estimated that this can save Organisations 1,000,000.

Is it this simple? Maybe not, but it's a great place to start.

In general, Performance Management Systems, Appraisal Systems, whatever you'd like to call your system are, at best, not used as effectively as they could be in Organisations. They are too often seen as a hindrance to managers. They are brought out and dusted off from the bottom drawer once a year, briefly discussed with the best of intentions then put back in the drawer for another year.

It seems to be a symptom of an Organisation that the more unhappy the staff are the more structured and rigorous the Performance Management System is. You've worked for/ with people you've liked, trusted and respected, haven't you? I guess you didn't need a piece of paper at the end of the year to tell you how well you were doing in a range of competences.

If it were your own business would you give yourself a Performance Agreement? Of course not. So why impose this on others. For the vast majority of systems where there is little commitment for the system throughout the Organisation it's a chore. There is more time spent chasing people to follow the correct procedures than can be justified by any benefit.

These systems do work, but only where there is a genuine commitment from all levels to use it effectively. This can be carried out developmentally. You can be creative and ask your staff to write their own reports. They know how well they've done throughout the year. Again I hear that little voice saying; "But they'd give themselves top marks?" But would they? Would you? Of course not. You'd be harder on yourself than any manager.

Which is not to say that the manager has no role in this. They have an opinion as well, and they have the final decision - it's delegation not abdication. They will have their own standards and it's important they these are applied across the whole team.

This is not to say that you don't get much feedback on your performance throughout the year. You should gets a lot - constantly, not once in September and once in March. Ideally you get to have 360 degree feedback on your performance. You get feedback on how you can perform better. This isn't an appraisal - Try to separate evaluation from development. People are more likely to give honest feedback if they feel it will be used for developmental purposes rather than as a stick to beat someone with. Correctly managed the 360 degree feedback is a superb tool for doing this. However it needs to be extremely well managed. It's not an opportunity to settle scores, show off or make the other feel bad. It is a chance to help them. You will need to act as a sensitive facilitator in this. Look for the patterns. If one person out of the twelve gives incredibly harsh feedback in all areas this may be a hint that there may be a personality clash more than anything else. So handle it sensitively. If you can't acknowledge it and get someone else to do it.

So, if you can't abolish Performance management you can at least make it a useful tool. Be creative - hold team meetings to decide team objectives. However, the majority of the research seems to show that the most successful schemes separate salary review from appraisal - so treat them separately.

Byron Kalies is a Liverpool-based writer with 12 years' international experience as a management consultant. Recent publications include Across The Board (U.S.A.), Career Times (Hong Kong), CEO Refresher (Canada) of course, Guardian (U.K.), Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), MIS (U.K.), Management First (U.K.), Lifelong Learning (U.S.A.), Business Day (South Africa), Business Plus (Ireland). Book "25 Management Techniques in 90 Minutes" (Management Books 2000) published April 2005. He can be contacted through his web site at or emailed at .

Many more articles in Creative Leadership in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2006 by Byron Kalies. All rights reserved.

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