Thursday, September 15, 2011

Collaboration Wins, Performance Reviews Lose

The chance to be on a winning team is a great motivator. No one wants weak players on their team, nor do they want to be perceived as the weak player that's picked last or left sitting on the bench. That's why creating the ability to collaborate within your company is a winning tactic. It gets people aligned and working together. They will create solutions that optimize the organization's performance. Cross-functional teams won't install systems that optimize one part of the company and kill another part. If they're focused on a common goal, working together will always be a winning move.

In corporate cultures where this is high, individual performance becomes harder to measure. It's harder to trace the source of good ideas because of the synergistic free-flow and bounce of brainstorming sessions--both formal and informal. It's also harder to measure the individual results when it's a team effort. Managers get evaluated on the efforts of the department. Individuals in high collaborative cultures get evaluated on the team's results. One company I know gave everyone on a team the same rating.

Performance reviews are reduced to two things for the individual: 1) how well are they relating to the others on the teams; 2) how dependable are they with regards to team project assignments, etc. If a person is weak on dependability, it will also affect their relations throughout the teams. He or she stops getting picked and they sit on the bench more.

As a manager, this is a coaching opportunity to find out why your person is sitting on the bench. No one wants to sit on the bench or be picked last. Your person is looking for help. If you wait till the performance review, they've lost and so have you. In the best cases, performance reviews merely become a piece of paper
that's filled out to satisfy someone's checklist.

At that point, it should be abolished. Moreover, individual performance reviews should be abolished to indicate that you want more collaboration rather than behavior and efforts that are highly visible for individual credit. This is a form of scuttling ships so you can't retreat.

The message is: "If you want to be a success here then you have to help the rest of the team(s) and the company succeed by joining in mutual efforts to add to the bottom line. If you're not on any cross-functional teams, then we'll help you but you have to be willing to put some effort in."

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