For my third (and final) part of my blog postings on 360 Feedback, I am going to focus on the outcome of the feedback. It is important to get the feedback right, but it is also vital that the feedback receiver do something with this newfound information about themselves. Below are some thoughts on ensuring the best use of the data collected.
Spider graphics and other fancy cool looking charts are meaningless. People get lot in the interpretation. Give them what they need to know in a straight forward fashion. Don’t give them extraneous data points. One of the most common misinforming data points are ‘norm scores’. Nothing wrong with Norm, he was an interesting character on Cheers but norms don’t belong on the feedback report. Norms often mislead. The norm you want to achieve is a higher score then you have now. The only way of doing that is to demonstrate the behaviours, when given the opportunity, more frequently. When someone sees the norm score is lower then their score they can assume it doesn’t need attention, they are doing well. Yet, that might be the single most important behaviour to work on to more easily and successfully achieve their business objectives. Norms are misleading. We like them because we have always had our academic results report in normative terms of percentiles. We are in the top 5%. We need to break this bad habit of comparing ourselves to others and need to focus on improving our capabilities relative to ourselves, not others.
The Ultimate Purpose: A Development Plan
I often say all the process and all the data and even the report is meaningless, unless someone does something about their feedback to take personal responsibility to demonstrate the behaviour more frequently. Consequently the action plan that comes out of the feedback report is more important then the report itself. As a result the feedback receive has to wrestle with their own data. They have to internalize the gap between what they do and what they need to do are their own. Being told or shown the gap by a coach, consultant or computer print out that provides a development plan, especially the latter, will not have them struggle with the alignment of how demonstration of the desired behaviours more frequently will enable easier execution of the business objectives. Let them come to terms with the data and then hold them responsible to report back the action plan that grew out of their understanding with their direct manager. Then hold the individual and their manager accountable to execution of the development plan.
One thing has to be certain that none of the feedback providers will have career ending decisions taken too soon after the results are shared. If people feel the action was taken as a result of the feedback employees will never trust the feedback process again. Trust is the foundation for a honest and transparent process.
In short, is 360 feedback bad or just have a bad reputation? It has a bad reputation because of misuse of the results and lack of impact on the business. It has a bad reputation because it often doesn’t acknowledge the positive and how to make it more positive but rather focused people on what they should not be doing. Sometime organizations do it because people ask for 360 without it having a focus, a purpose. And of course the most important issue is people, even if they build an action plan, don’t follow up and managers never ask them what they learned from the feedback and follow up regularly on how they are taking action to demonstrate the behaviours more frequently. What do you think?