So we've moved away from moderation in performance appraisal in our organization. Over the years moderation seemed the best though not always perfect way to grade performance of people. It made sense to rank people with relative performance levels. There was a bell curve to be followed forcing supervisors to push people in defined performance bands. However, the most difficult part was to push people in lowest performance bands. It was imperative that we identify the top performers and the worst performers. Not every supervisor was able to rank people in the lowest performance band. And then supervisors used moderation as an excuse. It was easy for them to blame the moderation process. "You are good but I can't help it, moderation forces me to push you in the lowest performance band" was a common excuse. People weren't too happy. Why should a stupid system force one to be in the lowest performance band even when the supervisor believed that the performance was good?
Getting rid of moderation process seems to be a brilliant idea. Afterall, all I need to compete is with myself. My performance shouldn't be dependent on others. No more bell curve was liberating. Supervisors didn't need to spend endless hours force fitting people into performance bands.
But this liberation didn't come without challenges. Suddenly everyone was either the top performer or the worst performer depending on how the supervisor set goals. Given the difficulty of giving negative feedback, almost everyone ended up being a good performer even though business results showed otherwise.
When you do away with moderation, it is critical that goals need to be measurable and assignable to individual performance. Over time, our goal setting is getting better making performance evaluation more objective. We also need to get better at measurement. Data collection against goals is being improved. Evaluation against parameters are being optimized. But challenges remain. Not all goals are easily measurable. Team goals are hard to evaluate against specific individual performances. And then there are circumstances during the year that impact performance against goals that are hard to take into account.
While the process is getting better, I sometimes wonder if moderation in performance appraisal was better. It gave us ability to, well, moderate relative performance. I want the best of both worlds. No matter how objective performance evaluation is, I believe some subjectivity in performance evaluation is imperative to take into account circumstances during the year, to take into account the problems with goal setting that might have been there, to take into account the expectations from the individual that might not have been considered during goal setting for a role. I wonder if it is possible to have some sort of objective subjectivity in performance evaluation?
I feel there are many life management lessons to be learned from the series. What do you do when a peer becomes your boss? What do you do when a junior becomes your boss? How do you handle situations where you don’t get what you are aspiring for? How to build self-realization of own capabilities or the lack of them, for certain roles? How to fuel the hunger to continue to become better at what you are doing without worrying about the position within the organization structure? How to keep your ego aside in these situations and continue to focus on becoming better at your job?
It is hard to be in these professional situations. And painful too. It hurts our pride, our ego, when we are in these situations. It is interesting to see in the series how leaders provide clear feedback about capabilities and skills without getting personal. And the ability of the professionals in the series to take the feedback and deal with it on face value without making it personal.
I have seen some of these situations closely in my professional career. Some of these have been extremely painful and messy. As a leader I have messed up giving feedback for the fear of losing the person. As a professional, my ego has been hurt at my position in the organization. And so I strive to be the leader and professional like the characters in the series.
About two years ago I had pondered over the question of who is a better leader for business. Is it someone rooted in delivery and operations or someone with a sales background ( http://manishmo.blogspot.in/2011/01/delivery-led-or-sales-led.html)?
I think for a business to really grow, the leader has to be sales led. Having a sales oriented leader is all the more critical when the organization is in the business of service delivery. Perhaps in a products business where the product is evolving, a delivery oriented leader who is entrenched in product development and vision of the product might be better. But in most cases, it makes sense for the business to be sales led.