on staff appraisals

Last week I was late and sent out my newsletter “thoughts & coffee” at twelve, instead of six thirty in the morning. It did not accompany the lecturer’s breakfast ritual around a good mug of coffee, but was probably consumed (read) with an amazingly tasty espresso. There was no cheating involved and nobody got hurt. Why should I even care?

Well, I was not just late sending out my text. I was late for a beforemade promise (for my “customer”). I was also late for a result that should have been achieved or maintained for my company. This is why I should care!
But should I really really care?

 

KPIs, objectives vs. real value

Does it really mean that the actual delivery of weekly thoughts was out of the window, before the message was even sent out, just because it would reach the reader later than usual?
Wouldn’t that imply that me, or my enterprise, would appraise being on time much more than the actual delivery of ideas, the only product we sell? 

If a service, a performance, a product, or work in general is predominantly assessed by whether it is on time or not, means to only look at a very tiny part of it. I am by no means saying that being on time would not be important or that we would not care for it in the company. On the other hand, the importance of “punctuality” can and should always be put into context and severely challenged. The real value, quality, depth and interest of labour and its results are far more complex…

This is why I am regularly surprised about the foundations of key performance indicators, as well as the basic creation of personal objectives and their appraisals. These mostly well meaning factors are unfortunately and way too often detrimental to profound creation of interesting and complex « real value » in the long run.

 

The more you focus on the results, the slower the process.
The more you focus on the process, the faster the results.
Alexander Den Heijer


your salary is not your motivation

I am convinced that the management is accountable for creating the system that staff works in. This “basic rule” must be shared and repeated to managers and staff every single day. Additionally to it’s accountability, the management must also create a working environment where everybody is self-motivated (Dazsko, 2018). Motivation and the will to spend 10 hours a day in an office or in front of a screen (we are based on a distributed work model) is not obtained through objectives and bonuses, that should be the reward: A simple thank-you note in form of a payroll sheet at best.

If employees are, or even just feel, trapped in a poor system that has been developed by directors without systems knowledge, there is no hope that an individual can succeed without manipulating and distorting the numbers and the system for his or her own benefit. The system then produces a few winners, many losers, suboptimal results, and a poor morale (Dazko, 2018). Also, should the management be part of the many (the losers), while the critical underdogs are the few (winners), guess who’ll be let go first? Actions that only enforce suboptimal results, and a poor morale.

 

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accountability vs. responsability

In her book « Pivot, Disrupt, Transform », Maria Dazko mentions that being accountable and being responsible are two different concepts. They clearly must be applied and valued differently.
The management must be held accountable for the system that it creates and the system’s results. The staff is responsible for contributing its part to help the system deliver the best possible outcomes, without the need of bending the rules, the numbers or their very own personality.

« Each organization has two choices in dealing with the futile process of appraisal; Choice one is to appease everyone by continuing the practice, promoting the illusion that appraisal works, pretending not to notice the harmful side-effects and the unproductive time it takes to be done.

Choice two is to begin an organization-wide initiative of education in which you help people to understand why appraisal fails and then, together, work on strategies to replace appraisal, looking for genuinely new, innovative ways to actually deliver on the high hopes that were praised in appraisal (Coens and Jenkins, 2000). »

 

Enjoy your time to the fullest… it’s never too late!

References:
Dazko, M., Pivot, Disrupt, Transform, (2018), Barnes & Noble.
Coens, T., and Jenkins, M., Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why They Backfire and What to Do Instead, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Den Heijer, A., Nothing you dont already know. (2018), self-published.

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