Daniel Pink on Alternatives to Annual Reviews
I saw a nice article by author Daniel Pink (most recently the author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us) called “Think Tank: Fix the workplace, not the workers.”
Without directly referencing Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Pink often writes about themes that are reminiscent of Dr. Deming's most important points – in this case, the problems with the annual performance review.
We're a few months away from performance review season, but it's worth thinking about now.
In his article, Dan writes about the “millennial” generation and their need for constant workplace feedback. Older generations often think that's weird, but Dan asks a great question:
The question we should be asking isn't “What's the matter with Millennials?” Instead, we ought ask: “What's the matter with the workplace?”
Why don't people get more continuous workplace feedback? Isn't it better to get feedback (positive or negative) sooner and in smaller batches so we can improve more quickly?
Dan highlights two key flaws with annual reviews:
First, it's annual. It's hard to get better at something if you receive feedback on your performance just once a year. Think about Rafael Nadal. His job happens to be to hit tennis balls back and forth across a court. Now imagine if Nadal played tennis for an entire season – and got feedback on his performance only once a year in a 45-minute meeting with his boss. Absurd, right?
Second, performance reviews are rarely authentic conversations. More often, they are the West's form of kabuki theatre – highly stylised rituals in which people recite predictable lines in a formulaic way and hope the experience ends very quickly.
So the problem isn't that the Millennials are wrong. The problem is that they're right. The workplace is one of the most feedback-deprived places in modern life.
Dan, in the article, highlights some ideas for what you could do differently, so check it out.
What do you think? Has your organization moved beyond the annual review? What dysfunctions do you dread in this upcoming cycle?
As Dr. Deming said, in regards to many things, the one substitute for the annual review? “Leadership!”
You owe it to your employees and, if in a hospital, you owe it to your patients!
p.s. I'm planning, tentatively, to do a Podcast interview with Dan on December 6, so let me know if you have any questions for him.
Here is the podcast that we eventually did:
Check it out!