Probably everyone accepts that a business rarely has the same priorities during an extended period when performance objectives apply, whether it’s 6 months, 12 months, or some other duration, right? Unless you’re in a very long-established business (and even then, departmental priorities can change focus over such durations), it’s likely that what priorities you understood (and negotiated with your manager) at the start of a performance period will morph over the course of that review period, and be out of date at the end of the review period.
This is all common sense. We know this. Yet we all seem to “live the lie” and pretend this is OK and fair for performance evaluation & review.
I don’t. I think performance reviews ought to reflect EXACTLY what one was asked to do, based on clear requests (delegation) and completion criteria.
I advocate instituting a system where task delegations are logged & clearly tracked, visible to all. There are many such applications that allow you to do this (SharePoint, Trac, issue trackers, Web2.0 project management apps, Project Server, etc, to name a few). Each item can document not only the specifics of the task, but also acceptance criteria and requested completion date, so that it’s clear whether the performance of that task met the conditions of the requestor.
When a task is completed, the original requestor can easily check MET EXPECTATIONS or DID NOT MEET EXPECTATIONS, a clear binary indication of how that task was performed. This would be difficult if the acceptance criteria were unclear, but an easy decision once an organization learns how to define clear acceptance criteria. (Clearly there are more nuances and details to be discussed in such a system, but the above presents my main point.)
When performance evaluation time comes, it’s now fairly easy to get objective data (evidence) whether performance has been of adequate quality and quantity. This eliminates a lot of subjectivity, by providing documented data for such performance appraisals. The nature of the delegations themselves will have captured the changing priorities of the business as they impact(ed) specific individual contributors.
This system would never eliminate judgment – you clearly want experienced managers to assess this data and how such a system (were it put into practice) is utilized. Also, you want to calibrate how this data is used, the granularity of tasking, the practice of indicating the final status (MET / DID NOT MEET), and how organizations learn to incorporate such a system into its operations.
“Selling” such a system to an organization’s management team (convincing the org to adopt this) may be a challenge, but when I’ve introduced this to organizations, team members easily and quickly see the fairness of such transparency. I contend transparency and fairness are good attributes for teams, and will also attract the kinds of people you want on your teams.