Reviews, scheduled or ad hoc? Yes

Current review processIf I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: You need to be reading David Maister’s blog. It always gets me thinking. And, quite often, he hits on a topic that causes the folks here to descend upon his site like vultures. Only nice vultures. If there is such a thing. What’s an animal that acts like a vulture, only it’s nice? Anyone?

I’m sorry. Where was I?

Ah yes. There was another one of those posts today, entitled “The Three-Month Rule.” (Update: Link fixed.)
In it, Maister argues:

Plans and reviews ought to be conducted on a once-every-three-month cycle.

Claiming that a year is too long–and 30-days is too short–to be effective. To be truly worthwhile, he argues, these plans and reviews should follow a 90-day lifecycle, a three-month rule.

This has More than a living’s Toby Lucich, descending upon the post, honing in on the topic of reviews. Like a nice vulture. Raven. Kestrel? Whatever.

Toby writes:

The 3-month rule has merit when you are the person monitoring (i.e. manager), but not when you are the person doing the work (performer).

And there is the interesting distinction: perspective. The manager versus the managed. The boss versus the employee.

But you see, they’re both right. From their own perspectives.

The manager has the right to develop a predictable, scheduled review cycle for her employees. The employee has the right to receive immediate feedback from his peers and superiors without having to wait 90 days, one month, or two days.

But, you see, the real crux of the issue–as I see it–is “Who is in control?” And that, my friend, is neither the manager nor the employee.

From the manager’s perspective, immediate feedback and review is difficult to manage, at best. She doesn’t have the tools at her disposal to manage this process. The organization is not structured to support this kind of ad hoc review cycle. And even if the manager were able to thoroughly review each employee thirty seconds after a project completed, she wouldn’t be able to do anything with that information until the company said it was valuable.

The company controls the calendar.

From the employee’s perspective, the immediate feedback is something on which he can take immediate action. It has intrinsic value to the employee from a personal and professional level. Striking while the proverbial iron is hot. But it has little value from the perspective of the company. Again, in that ad hoc mode, the company is not structured to manage that type of feedback. They can’t do anything with it.

“Sure sure. That’s great. Come see us in a six months. During annual reviews.”

Why is this process so broken?

Oh, now you see it. Like it was coming up Broadway. Rick’s on his soapbox again to bang that drum.

It’s broken because the wrong party is in control of the situation.

The employee should be driving this process. Not the company. Not the manager. The employee. Another thing I’ll say a million times: the only constant is you, employee.

But the company needs to provide the structure for the employee to manage this process. That is the corporation’s contribution: giving the employee and the manager the ability to manage this process more effectively. Whenever it needs to occur.

Think I’m crazy? Think this “employee in charge of his/her own career” is an impossible dream? I’d love to hear it.

And, thank you, as always, David and Toby for keeping me thinking. And serving up softballs for my rants.

About Rick Turoczy

More than mildly obsessed with the Portland startup community. Founder and editor at Silicon Florist. Cofounder and general manager at PIE. Follow me on Twitter: @turoczy
This entry was posted in Accountability, Career, Corporate Culture, Goals, Kumquat, Review. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Reviews, scheduled or ad hoc? Yes

  1. Toby Lucich says:

    Good point, the issue of scheduling. My performance. My growth needs. My calendar.

    I totally walked past this critical difference. Glad you blogged it.

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