Monday, June 18, 2012

Should We Dispatch With Annual Performance Reviews?

Q: What are the alternatives if we scrap the annual performance review?

- Torn in HR, warehouse/distribution, Virginia Beach, Virginia

A: The issue is not your performance-review system. It's probably a deficiency in coaching skills among your managers.

Keep the annual review, but add the following elements:

a) Launch a recurring training program to help managers develop coaching skills. If you don't do this, none of your other efforts really matter.

b) Work with your senior leaders to implement a system whereby managers are held accountable for ''one-on-one check-ins'' with all the employees they directly supervise. These sessions should occur at least once a month. Implementing this requirement forces your managers to practice and hone their own coaching skills.

c) Be prepared to serve as a coach to the coaches. They are going to need your help.

Coaching is the replacement for the annual performance review. In fact, the lack of coaching skill is the No. 1 reason for performance reviews. The one-on-one sessions should truly be of a check-in nature - no rating scales or other formal assessment measures. The manager schedules time for employees to discuss their own list of items.

Your managers are there to knock down barriers for employees as much as possible. Once each employee is done with his list, the manager uses the coaching skills to talk about which things are going well and refocus the employee's attention on potential areas for improvement.

[Source: Kris Dunn, HR Capitalist, Birmingham, Alabama]

The Empty Soap Box - Japanese Case Study

One of the most memorable case studies on Japanese management was the case of the empty soap box, which happened in one of Japan's biggest cosmetics companies. The company received a complaint that a consumer had bought a soap box that was empty.

Immediately the authorities isolated the problem to the assembly line, which transported all the packaged boxes of soap to the delivery department. For some reason, one soap box went through the assembly line empty.

Management asked its engineers to solve the problem. Post-haste, the engineers worked hard to devise an X-ray machine with high- resolution monitors manned by two people to watch all the soap boxes that passed through the line to make sure they were not empty.

No doubt, they worked hard and they worked fast but they spent whoopee amount to do so. But when a workman was posed with the same problem, did not get into complications of X-rays, etc but instead came out with another solution.

He bought a strong industrial electric fan and pointed it at the assembly line. He switched the fan on, and as each soap box passed the fan, it simply blew the empty boxes out of the line.

Moral of the story: Always look for simple solutions. Devise the simplest possible solution that solves the problem. So, learn to focus on solutions not on problems.

"If you look at what you do not have in life, you don't have anything; if you look at what you have in life, you have everything."