This is the title of one of my favorite books on this topic, authored by Mary Jenkins and Tom Coens. Many people have strong opinions about how to do performance appraisals, what improvements we can make and whether they even work at all. One of the best management thinkers of our time said:
“(The annual review) nourishes short-term performance, annihilates long-term planning, builds fear, demolishes teamwork, nourishes rivalry and politics…It leaves people bitter, crushed, bruised, battered, desolate, despondent dejected, feeling inferior, some even depressed, unfit for work for weeks after receipt of rating; unable to comprehend why they are inferior. It is unfair, as it ascribes to the people in a group differences that may be caused totally by the system that they work in.”
– Dr. W. Edwards Deming
I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Deming. Another great management thinker of our time, Peter Scholtes, said all of the incentivized, reengineered, motivated, teamed-up and self-directed people you can muster cannot compensate for a dysfunctional system.
We typically have good intentions with our performance appraisal systems, but they rarely deliver what we want no matter what side of the table you are sitting on. In the end, improved individual performance does not lead to long-term improved organizational performance if the system is broken (that is, the process that people are in to get their work and objectives accomplished). But why do we turn to improve the people, rate them, inspire them, motivate them? Because we can only improve what we can see and people are tangible. If we can’t see our systems/processes, we can’t improve them. And if we can’t improve them, we have some amazing people trying to do the best they can with what we have given them.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic and want to hear Mary Jenkins lead a workshop about this book, there is a program being held at the end of April that will dive right into it: http://bit.ly/99WdLj