Hat tip to the WSJ for their review of the new book Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing–and Focus on What Really Matters.
Dr. Deming criticized the annual performance review decades ago and it's always nice to see someone else carrying the mantle. Another noted leader sharing this message was Dr. Stephen Covey, who criticized annual reviews as an outdated “industrial age” practice when he spoke at the recent Shingo Prize conference.
Yes, there are alternatives to the annual review. As Dr. Deming might have said, we invented that practice (and we invented management) so we can change it. It's not a rule of nature that says you MUST do annual reviews. Nick Sarillo, who I wrote about here and recently visited, doesn't do them.
From the WSJ review:
This corporate sham is one of the most insidious, most damaging, and yet most ubiquitous of corporate activities,” he says early in “Get Rid of the Performance Review!” “How could something so obviously destructive, so universally despised, continue to plague our workplaces?”
I hope Culbert is able to provide evidence, sort of like Daniel Pink did in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I assume the book consists of more than Culbert giving what might be viewed as opinion that annual review cycles are harmful.
The WSJ review says that Culbert states the annual review is a blame-ridden practice and one that, I might add, is very batchy and non-continuous:
The essence of his argument is simple: In reality your job performance is reviewed every day; there should be no need for an annual review. The trouble, he says, is that too often managers, knowing that they're expected to produce a performance review, withhold feedback when it is most neededâ€”at the moment when an employee makes a wrong step or even does something swellâ€”and instead stores it up for review time. The sense that perceived misdeeds are been compiled for a year-end blamefest is counterproductive and destroys morale.
An insidious cousin of the annual review is the “forced ranking” system where managers are forced to give the demoralizing news along the lines of “I wanted to give you a higher score (and a higher raise), but management only allows X of you to have a certain score.” This kills teamwork and pits employees against each other. That's just one dysfunction of the annual review, as is often practiced.
As the WSJ states, feedback should be a continuous process. This seems to be what Dr. Deming advocated too. This 2006 HBR article (“What's to Be Done About Performance Reviews?“) has a comment from a reader that states:
I too largely agree with Deming: reviews should be continuous and there should be no surprises. If employees are our most valuable asset (and of course they are), reviews should not just be a sporadic or once-a-year thing. It is always amazing to see how some organizations pay so little attention to their employees — far less than they would a less-valuable material asset.
Agreed. So we're getting more and more articles and books attempting to discredit this practice. Who is taking a leadership role to eliminate the annual review and to teach managers about alternatives?
Previous posts of mine on this topic:
- Lessons from a “Like Lean” Millionaire (2010)
- Professor Channels Dr. Deming and Writes “Get Rid of the Annual Review” (2008)
- Are Annual Reviews Killing Your Morale? (2007)
- Performance Appraisal Problems (2006)
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