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Preposterously Unacceptable

October 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Unless they’re cosmetic tweaks, all proposed alternatives to the unassailable and revered Annual Performance Review (APR) will always be auto-stamped as preposterously unacceptable by the powers that be. It has to be that way, cuz expecting the wolf who’s guarding the hen house to voluntarily give up his post is a slam dunk losing proposition. Nevertheless, let’s look at one of these preposterously unacceptable alternatives just for fun.

Sam Culbert, in “Get Rid Of The Performance Review“, proposes deep-sixing the laughable APR ritual and replacing the stinker with the (crappily named) “performance preview” (PP). The first major feature of the PP is that salary actions are severed from the process. They’re independently determined according to a more objective set of criteria (perhaps like how Joel Spolsky does it at Fog Creek Software). Removing the salary sledgehammer from the hand of the formerly omnipotent manager increases the chance that a straight-talking, two-way conversation regarding individual and organizational improvement will occur.

Mr. Culbert’s face-to-face PP, which can be called into being whenever either side “feels” it should happen, is predicated on both sides answering simple questions like these:

  • What have I been doing recently that helps you and the organization perform better?
  • What have I been doing recently that isn’t working for you and the organization?
  • What can I do in the near future to help you and the organization improve?

Notice that thesw are questions to be answered by both sides – as opposed to one way, judgmental assertions made by the boss “on behalf of the borg” to the subordinate. There are also no formal forms or checklists to be signed and squirreled away in Hoover files to be brandished later for compliance coercion.

This blog post barely scratches the surface of Mr. Culbert’s PP process, but hopefully it’ll spur you to buy his book and learn more about this HR anti-christ. On second thought, don’t do it. If you’re a DICkster, it might bum you out since you’ll vividly realize that you’re helpless and you can’t “fight city hall“. If you’re in the hallowed guild of management (especially the unconsciously evil HR echelon), because of its preposterous unacceptability, it might send shivers up your spine and/or piss you off.

Note: Instead of “Performance Preview” (PP), BD00 would’ve called it something like “I Help, You Help” (IHYH).

It’s The Relationships, Stupid

October 10, 2012 2 comments

If you read Sam Culbert’s book rant against the taken-for-granted and unassailable “annual performance review” process, you’d think he is an anti-hierarchy revolutionary deserving to be crushed. But the dude is not:

Hierarchical structure, in the form of an organization chart, serves many constructive purposes. By showing the chain of command, it allows everyone to see who is responsible for what, how organization units are being deployed, and, most importantly, who should be accountable for bottom-line results. In contrast, I can’t think of a single constructive purpose served by hierarchical relationships— that is, those in which the boss gets to dominate all conversations.

Culbert, Samuel A. (2010-04-01). Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing–and Focus on What Really Matters (Business Plus) (pp. 128-129). Hachette Book Group. Kindle Edition.  – Sam Culbert

In a man-made conceptual hierarchical breakdown of a tree’s “parts“, the relationships between the parts have nothing to do whatsoever with their “position” in the hierarchy. A tree’s components miraculously work together in synchronous harmony to manifest and share its beauty as a whole with all of nature – including us (perhaps undeserving) humans. Leaves aren’t pitted against leaves for the purpose of gaining more hierarchical status in the “minds” of the other tree parts. The trunk doesn’t perceive itself as “more important and deserving” than the “lowly” branches. The roots don’t talk about the topmost branches in a derogatory manner, nor vice versa.

He Said, He Thought, He Said, He Thought

September 30, 2012 3 comments

In “Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing–and Focus on What Really Matters“, Sam Culbert provides several, made-up, boss-subordinate exchanges to make his case for jettisoning the archaic, 1900’s “annual performance review“. For your reading pleasure, I lifted one of these depressingly funny exchanges out of the book and transformed it into a derivation of Chris Argyris’s terrific LHS-RHS format. It’s long, and it took me a bazillion years to recreate it on this stupid-arse blawg; so please read the freakin’ thing.

Did you notice how both the boss and the subordinate suffered from the ordeal? But of course, you don’t have to worry about experiencing similar torture because the “annual performance review” at your institution is different. Even better, your org has moved into the 21st century by implementing an alternative, more equitable and civilized way of gauging performance and giving raises.

In his hard-hitting and straight-talking book, Mr. Culbert, a UCLA management school professor and industry consultant firebrand (he’s got street cred!), really skewers C-level management. He fires his most devastating salvos at evil HR departments for sustaining the “annual performance review” disaster that sucks the motivation out of everybody within reach. And yes, he does provide viable alternatives (that won’t ever be implemented in established, status-quo-loving borgs) to HR’s beloved “annual performance review“. Buy and read the book to find out what they are.

Note: Thanks Elisabeth, for steering me toward Mr. Culbert’s blasphemous work. It has helped to reinforce my entrenched UCB and the self-righteous illusion that “I’m 100% right“. But wait! I’m not allowed to be right.

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