Don’t waste time on appraisals

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

I was talking to my client in his new office on the second floor of his new factory and HQ.

His business is growing fast. He explained that he was concerned that he hadn’t had time to “do all the HR things I should do” for the past couple of years.

Two years ago, business growth was being hampered by quality and delivery problems. His staff were avoiding answering the phone because they knew it would be an angry customer. Sales, Design and Operations were at loggerheads. The company did have, however, lots of HR stuff going on. Appraisals, reviews, training and so forth ran like clockwork and my client devoted a lot of his time to HR initiatives.

We spent a lot of time when I started working with him talking about structure and how to solve the customer service issues. He had an effective project manager (he called him “a Rottweiler”) but was nervouse about putting him in charge of operations “because he won’t look after people”. We agreed that the critical thing was to sort out operations and that the business could tolerate a few ruffled feathers for a year or two to achieve this. This approach was adopted more generally, with managers being asked to focus on their “one number” and far less attention being paid to side activities. Management meetings started to focus on performance and coaching, values and beliefs, strategy and vision.

Now the company (mostly) delivers what the customer wants when they want it. My client is spending his time (mostly) on strategy and growth. Staff attrition has not risen, productivity has. The reduction (elimination, really) of the HR machinery seems to have had no negative impact.

What do I take from this story?

      • Winning teams focus on a single simple goal.
      • Individuals need to be given a single simple goal – don’t distract them with non-essentials.
      • People are motivated by being part of a winning team, feeling that they contribute something important to that success, that they are good at what they do and that their contribution is recognised.
      • A caring boss with a failing team will have unhappy employees whilst a less-caring boss with a successful team will have happy employees.
      • Appraisals and formal reviews are no substitute for good management – and they don’t add anything to it. Either way, the benefit seems questionable.

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