Ditching appraisals – Step 4 – What do you know already?

Your design team’s first job is to understand what they know about the existing process for staff appraisals.

You must conduct a systematic evaluation of the current system, why it is what it is, what came before it and why it was changed.  Creating this review of the system and its underlying principles and assumptions is critical to the success of anything that comes after it.

Image courtesy of sheelamohan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sheelamohan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Every workplace is subtly different, and it is up to you to answer the five questions that will give you the clarity you’ll need to progress.

What are the purposes, aims and objectives of the current appraisal system?

Care must be taken to avoid lengthy and unnecessary discussions about personal experiences of the appraisal process, and you need to keep the team focussed on getting the details of the intention of the process down on paper for all to see.  In doing this, you are allowing them to see the context of the part of the process on which you are focussing.

What does the current system deliver in terms of outcomes and experiences?
What are the features and characteristics of the current appraisal system?

Here, you’re looking for the team’s understanding and experience of the current process.  I feel that by asking these two questions together, you can capture more information than by asking them separately.  Encourage the team to think about this in different ways by changing the question to probe the team’s experiences.

You want to garner as much information about personal experiences in giving appraisals as well as receiving them.  What were the impacts of specific aspects of the current process?  What does the team associate with the current process?

You may get a long list of answers, and that’s good.  You should be able to group these answers into specific themes.  Hopefully, you’ll get a mixture of practical functions, such as ‘appraisal forms provided by HR‘ and ‘there are performance ratings or scales‘ and more feeling-based views like ‘causes apprehension‘, ‘focusses on weaknesses‘ etc.

The final questions address the purpose of the appraisal system.

What are the assumptions underlying the appraisal process and how are they linked to the outcomes and results of the process?

Here you trying to test the conventional wisdom that appraisals deliver what they’re intended to deliver.  You’re looking for the evidence that either supports the assumptions of raises concerns about the validity of the assumptions.

Again, one of the purposes of this step is to help some of the team to unlearn what they believe to be true.  You can use the material gathered here for wider communication when the time comes.

Now you’re well on the way to understanding the whys and wherefores of conventional wisdom on the use of performance appraisals.

Ready to move on to design yet?