Interesting NY Times opinion piece today that extends my recent posts on validity and performance management. It is entitled: Why Your Boss Is Wrong About You, By Samuel Culbert. In that article he states:
In my years studying (performance) reviews, I’ve learned that they are subjective evaluations that measure how “comfortable” a boss is with an employee, not how much an employee contributes to overall results.
Samuel Culbert in this statement leads us to believe the problem with performance reviews is their subjective nature. From a measurement perspective I believe this is incorrectly stated. The problem is one of validity, that performance measurements typically measure the bosses level of comfort with an employee, not their performance. Greater objectivity will not help us if comfort is still the construct being measured. Instead we must look at validity.
Culbert proposes a performance preview process as an alternative.
It’s something I call the performance preview. Instead of top-down reviews, both boss and subordinate are held responsible for setting goals and achieving results. . . . bosses are taught how to truly manage, and learn that it’s in their interest to listen to their subordinates to get the results . . . “Tell me your problems as they happen; we’re in it together and it’s my job to ensure results.” . . . . It encouraged supervisors to act as coaches and mentors. . . . But understand that the performance review makes it nearly impossible to have the kind of trusting relationships in the workplace that make improvement possible.
This preview process may be a good idea in and of itself, but it does not logically get at the root problem. Measurement within this new process can have just as many validity problems as the old process. This is why validity is important.
Two additional things I’m thinking:
Culbert doesn’t quite get there, but I sense he is looking at something like Action Analytics, measurement tied to real-time feedback that can support performance while performance is still in formation. Instead of measurement in the service of performance review it is measurement in the service of performance support.
The second thought is this. The central point in Culbert’s process is trust between an employee and a boss, that is, a management relationship. This is the central construct in successful management and it may be important to measure.
This leads me to an interesting final conclusion and maybe a management axiom:
In managing people, we management relationships, but support their performance.