Evaluating Performance: Focus on Vision or Tasks?

Susan Hall

IT Business Edge is revamping its performance review process to provide a clearer line of sight between each person's contribution and company goals. We're to each be evaluated based on job descriptions better aligned with company strategy. Or course, that means that first managers must write the job descriptions. That's all still in the works.


Workers and managers alike at most companies agree that performance evaluations suck and that anything that can help them suck less will surely be welcomed.


We've written about the whole "ditch performance reviews" mantra of Samuel A. Culbert, a professor in the Anderson School of Management at the University of California-Los Angeles and author of the book "Get Rid of the Performance Review! How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing-and Focus on What Really Matters." Culbert advocates that managers be held just as accountable for results as workers and he instead recommends regular conversations about goals and progress toward those goals.


Dan Rockwell in his Leadership Freak blog advocates ditching job descriptions as well. He writes:

Traditional job descriptions are a relic of a past age when jobs didn't evolve, society seemed stable, economies seemed predictable, and people were more inclined to do what they were told.

He prefers the term "vision description," a "preferred future" for the organization and individual. He writes:

Creating a vision description creates targets, fuels motivation, and transforms employment into a forward-facing, passion-driven activity. I think organizations and individuals would reach higher and go further focusing on vision rather than tasks.

That certainly sounds similar to Culbert's take.


This discussion on Workforce Management makes some valid points about performance appraisals, namely what are you trying to accomplish with them? Two answers are to provide a track record for stellar performers, to line them up for promotion, and also to create a paper trail of reviews on poor performers, a sort of legal CYA as they're being shown the door. But the question remains whether performance reviews are necessary at all.


Writes commenter Mike Morrison:

Appraisals were an HR invention to cover for poor management. If a manager sets goals, develops and manages results, then there is no need for an appraisal system at all. BUT are managers prepared to sack/dismiss non-performers? Are they going to develop before dismissing them?
Its a challenge - but I believe that on the whole HR-led appraisals should be removed in favor of a manager-driven approach. Our role is to ensure managers have the skills and abilities to do their job.... manage people!

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