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Johnnie Sorrentino

"Sam Culbert is a crusty and very wise professor from UCLA...". Yup, I agree. After reading Sam's excuse for a good article about performance reviews, I agree; he is crusty. Has this fossil just stepped out of the 1960's or is his senile mind locked there, stuck and can't get out. After years of constant work and improvement on a performance planning system that was interlocked with business planning and profit planning with two global firms in the 1980's and 1990's, I had an organization that was 100% satisfied with the system that we had in place and were dynamically changing to adapt to the workplace and more important adapt to our customer environments, needs and wants.

I simply see this as another example of "do as I say and not as I do because I say what I say because I don't have the capability or culpability to do what I say." With today's challenging economy, the WSJ is suffering from a serious drought of good news...well from any news at all for that matter, so publishing this article is simply like bad breath - and as everyone knows, bad breath is better than no breath. "If its not fun, it's not worth doing."

Dave Polacheck

Great to see all of this pressure being placed on a process that is broken in so many organizations. There's missing piece in the recent chain of blog critiques of the typical performance review. In most companies it is purely transactional, meaning it's a single interaction between employee and manager, after which HR scurries around trying to track down the paper trail for their files. To me this is the primary flaw. Where I've seen this process provide something of value is when the performance review is an early step in a bigger process, and it's followed by each manager reviewing their team with their manager (and HR if they're able to operate at this level).

Herein lies the accountability for the manager to put thought into a career plan, be able to thoughtfully speak about each of their employees' contributions, aspirations, etc. If a manager can't provide meaningful leadership then they are stripped naked in these reviews and in the end it becomes as much an assessment of their leadership as a search for talent within the organization. A manager who can't intelligently (and specifically) justify their ratings and comments about about their team, who doesn't churn out talent to the broader organization, who's views of their employees appear to ignore feedback from others (yes I'm a fan of NON-anonymous multi-rater mechanisms), show themselves unworthy of their leadership role. The company that's willing to reward, promote or remove managers based on how they demonstrate their leadership in this way is one that's getting something out of this process.

That being said this is and always will be a HUMAN process, and therefore has wide variability. No matter what practices we put in place we will have them applied well in pockets, poorly in others, and the majority somewhere in the middle. The best practices I've seen have a common thread of visibility -- ensuring that no performance review is solely a private interaction between 2 people and instead that the review process becomes part of every managers' performance.

Wally Bock

I agree that the performance evaluation system is broken. And I'm for scrapping the current system. But Culbert's "solution" merely changes the form and the jargon. For any system of regular, formal performance evaluation to work effectively and fairly, it must be based on the only evaluations that matter: the ones done by supervisors with their team members several times a day. That's not happening now because we don't select people for supervisory roles based on their ability and willingness to supervise. We make matters worse by not teaching them the simple techniques of frequent supervisory conversations. We don't evaluate them on that part of the job or, for the most part, support them in learning it or carrying it out. Until and unless we do that, no significant changes are really possible.


When projects get into trouble, the project cannot afford to wait to fix the problems. They need to do an immediate analysis, not who's to be blamed but what went wrong and why, produce a plan how to fix the problem, and implement the learning throughout the organisation. This means immediate feedback from Managers and peers, and having the focus on fixing the system, not blaming the person. What troubles me is HR's blind faith in how performance reviews will improve operations in a company. Sometimes I feel that HR itself is the problem.


Didn't Peter Drucker figure this out (along with everything else) in his essay on Management by Objectives? =)

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