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I'm quiet late in replying but still, since I feel as strongly on the subject as you do, here are my thoughts:

The performance evaluation in its current avataar is quiet a regressive policy in most organizations that I have been in or heard about. It either does exactly the opposite of what it's supposed to do, or encourages people to 'showcase' performance instead of putting some real effort when required.

I think we should keep it simple and only then will it be effective.

The performance evaluation must be for must be for two things - the employee and the working environment encompassing the colleagues and the company in general

When I would have an organization of my own, I would design it something like this. The 1st 2 questions focus on employee's performance and the last 2 questions focus on the organization:

1. Situations where you feel you excelled yourself.

2. Situations you feel you could have handled better.

3. Situations you feel should not have arisen at all and your views on how can this be avoided in future

4. Situations where you felt the organization was unfair to you and how do you feel you should be rewarded



There is a great "Dilbert" from 03/25/11 (look it up on the site).

"The One Minute Manager" has the best framework for performance reviews I have seen. Meet five minutes a week with each report to go over progress of projects and towards goals. Note successes achieved. AT the end of the year you have an accurate and detailed performance review. Nobody is surprised. And you do not wait a year to tell someone they have been heading the wrong direction.


I work in disability services where we used 'strength based' approaches for client services, and 'person centred planning' for service recipients to set out what they want. But for staff, none of this; we use a 'what have you done wrong' approach.
We instituted a formal performance system a couple of years ago but it seems to have died through lack of interest and lack of real benefit to anyone.
When it comes to it, performance is the manager's responsibilty, not staff's. If staff are underperforming, it's the manager's problem: wrong systems? wrong work climate? wrong work allocation? wrong work methods? All in management's court.
There's also 'wrong people' which is a recruitment problem. To avoid this I'd suggest a structured recruitment system where you set out the capabilities you seek, tell the person the details of the role, ask for applications that demonstrate how a person meets the capability requirements (that is, not just a cv), interview based on the capabilities, and not 'fluff'.
After that, the manager should be in close contact with staff and be able to work with them to develop their strengths and shore up their weaknesses.



We just started "real" performance evaluations a couple years ago - when we got our first "real" HR person. They are real now because they have a numerical value associated with them and a final score that determines if employees get a cost of living raise - you have to score better than "meeting expectations" (more than 3.0) or 2) and/or if you also get a merit salary adjustment (only if you score 5 out of 5 on every metric). Bonuses are now determined if your final score on the Corporate Value matrix is higher than 4 out of 5. The message here is that you have to "exceed expectations" to get a COLA adjustment or a bonus.

In the past we conducted annual evaluations (without scores) of our direct reports that went in their files. If the company was giving out COLAs - you got one, if not you didn't get one. Had nothing to do with your evaluation, only with how the owners were feeling. For some reason I could give my direct reports COLAs, but COLAs for managers and executives stopped for 12 years (I was told that we made enough and didn't need COLAs). That lasted until we got a real HR lady, now we get a COLA if we get a good score.

The last evaluation I had by the owner of the company a couple years ago was interesting - he got up to answer his cell phone five different times during the course of my review. After the last call he never came back and left me sitting there until I realized he wasn't coming back - it was at the point in the evaluation process where we talked about getting a raise. When I asked his secretary where he went, she said he left for home. I guess my evaluation was over.

The sad thing about our new performance reviews is that we now have a bunch of managers who feel that they have to report on the failings of their DRs not their achievements, because that is what is expected of them.

I was transferred to our HQ office last year and prominently displayed your "No Asshole Rule" book and Sam Culbert's performance eval book on my desk for all to see. Interesting affect - my boss and other execs would stop talking when they saw the books and never ask me about them.

Peter Stucki

I find myself thinking of Marcus Buckingham's work with the Gallup organization. His thesis was that you should focus on your strengths and manage the consequences of your weaknesses. What ye olde Perfomance Review does wrong is focus on the *weaknesses*, give lip-service to the strengths, and ignore consequences of successes that don't fit into the boss's tunnel vision view.

I have a more moderate proposal and a more radical one:
The moderate proposal that uses Buckingham's Strength-Centric approach:

1) Take a scientifically validated strengths test. The Harvard CareerLeader is a good one, as you will also get evaluated anonymously by six of your chosen peers.
There are others, but they *must* be validated and reviewed with an *independent* person. E.g. HR or your boss conflicts of interest and a "dual role" set of issues make them singularly *anti*-objective.

Decouple the Performance Review from Pay. It totally muddies the waters! (More on that later in my "Modest Proposal" further down.)
Instead, Pay should be based on giving everyone in the firm a serious reward budget ( = firm reward pool/nr employees)reward budget that they get to dole out to *others* in the organization.
So, if you help others, you're likely to get rewarded.
This overcomes the *fundamental* problem of Performance Review: you want people to *work together*, but at the same time the reward pool is fixed -- one's gain is another's loss. You can't have Win/Win in a Zero-Sum Game!

The Bosses (multiples) only help when the Lone (Autistic?) Genius who never talks to anyone but pulls amazing rabbits out of his/her hat, to properly reward those loners.

Now my "Modest Proposal": Run your firm like a pirate ship!

Adopt the Pirate Ship Crew approach.
Pirates were rather democratic.
They determined democratically how much of the spoils the Captain got and how much each crew member. It was remarkably equitable without a lot of formal rules.
I propose that sharing the "spoils" of a firm should be done by having each member get a budget that they dole *all* (they don't keep the money) out to the others (see above)including the leaders. Leaders who fail to deliver, don't get a monetary "vote of confidence" and are asked to leave the firm.

The Captain of a pirate ship advertizes his/her venture. Crews wander the docks and pick which ship to join. Bad Captains usually get no crew at all -- or has to agree to pay the crews a *lot* more of the proportion of the spoils.

For a firm, managers are entrepreneurs/venture capitalists: they advertise an interesting venture. Everyone in the firm is free to move and join that venture/project.
Bad managers don't get "crews", or they have to pay their crews a lot more out of their share. A manager who repeatedly can't find a crew is asked to leave the firm.

On pirate ships, crews pick each other. Bad crew members don't get to join, or they have to be willing to work for a lot less.
A firm gets to vet new joiners.
Employees are vetted by others for a project. Bad employees don't get to join. Repeatedly getting rejected means they are asked to leave.

Why this should work?
Essentially people are betting with their time. They form a Prediction Market of sorts. The human mind has separate, 5x more effective circuitry to win bets than it has for wishful thinking.

The system is "self-organizing" like an ant hive. Simple rules, like not joining a Bad Captain, or having a Bad Crewperson join, naturally select for success.
Sharing the spoils by giving serious cash atta-boys/girls means that those whom many as seeing as valuable will get many cash "votes of confidence".

A Danish firm tried this. I just can't remember the name.
At Arthur D. Little, we had "de-tuned" variation of this that worked very well. Of course, those Bad Captains alas did outnumber the Good Captains and eventually abolished the system of self-organization.

Kevin Rutkowski

My favorite evaluation form had just 2 questions. To the best of my memory, they were:

1) What are 3 things that this employee did well this year? Please include specific examples to back up your statements.

2) What are 3 things that this employee could improve on next year? Please include specific examples to back up your statements.

I think they were worded a little differently than that, but that caputres the general idea. I found the feedback that I received to be very helpful.


My dad is my management inspiration and first mentor.

He worked in a university and he had to use the forms, but he used a different process.

During the time of performance evaluations he would invite each person in and ask this question about everyone in the department (including him, their boss and the receptionist)

Do you want to keep working with this person? Why or why not.

Afterwards he would fill in the evaluations (he didn't turn them in for people he didn't supervise, but he did fill out drafts for managers because he considered protecting people from paperwork as much as possible to be one of his jobs) and usually did a very detailed job, but most of the information (and more that might not have ended up on the forms) came from asking that one question.

He said the key was asking everyone and asking everyone the same question.

People who worked for my father have told me (unprompted) that they remember the evaluation process fondly.


This is not exactly a 'performance evaluation form', but my company, Calibre Apps, has developed an app for managing your goal-setting and performance appraisal processes, called Engage.

It allows you to set goals, and gather feedback on them as often as you like, and from whoever you like.
In addition to goal-specific feedback, it allows you to do an overall performance review (every 3 or 6 months, or whenever you choose to do it!) based on all the feedback that's been gathered since the previous review. It also keeps a record of all previous reviews that's easily accessible.

Here is a link with some more information about the features and how it works:


I once participated in a 360 performance evaluation that consisted of only three question: What should he start doing, what should he stop doing and what should he continue doing.

Not sure this satisfies HR folk but it's great for feedback. I've started administering it to my students mid-way through each semester.


One Page Talent Management, by Marc Effron and Miriam Ort, describes a good, simple form. More importantly, they describe an effective approach to managing the value-complexity tradeoff in designing systems.

Willem Scheepers

Bob, within the Investors in People framework, 'improving business performance' (well known in The UK as well as Western Europe), one of the forms that can be applied is as simple as effective. See attached file.
Kind regards.

EDM Machines

During our last round of performance evals, I raised the question... Other companies have evaluations from their employees for the management team, why don't we do that? It didn't go so well. Most of management was replaced and I was given a raise and promoted to management.


We use a self evaluation form with questions asking - did you accomplish the goals you set last year?

What projects did you enjoy most and why?

What personal accomplishments stand out the most in the last year?

What are some strengths that you’ve been able to apply to your job in the last year?

List some areas where you have room for improvement What are some areas where you feel your performance can be improved?

What can reviewers and others do to help you reach these goals?

What are some areas where you want to use strengths more?

What other goals do you have for yourself in the coming year?

Those are not exact (most are longer) but you get the idea.

You are right that it is not about the form it is about the conversation.

Can't say it's a form - but a new approach. Rypple (recently acquired by Salesforce, founded by Stanford GSBers) takes the "check-in" gesture and turns it towards performance feedback. I did an overview for GigaOM using some of Jeff Pfeffer's quotes:


The one I created for my company is a simple word doc with an employee input page and a mangaer section:
Employee Input:
1. Objectives (set during onboarding processor the prior year)
2. Accomplishments
3. What could have been better
4. Maximizing your ptential
5. Your suggested obejectives for next period.

Manager Section:

1. Accomplishments
2. What could have been done better
3. Manager suggested Objectives
4. Summary comments

Final Employee Objectives - agreed upon (This is done in a sort of ven diagram that shows the connection between company, department and individual objectives)
Sign Off.

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