Measuring Output or Effectiveness?

From the Ask Tom mailbag-

You describe an evaluation process called the Personal Effectiveness Appraisal. How is that different from a Performance Review?

The Performance Review, or Annual Performance Appraisal judges the output of the person in the role related to goals or objectives. How close did the team member’s output come to the target? The problem with the Performance Appraisal, it places accountability in the wrong place.

The goal, or the target published in the Performance Appraisal is generally set by the manager. Team members may agree (enthusiastically or reluctantly), but it is the manager that signs off on the target. That target is the manager’s best judgement of what is reasonable based on the manager’s expectation of circumstances. These goals or targets are typically organized into Key Areas, so the role has an array of indicators (KPIs) on which to examine output. Because this method incorporates a series of comparative numbers, it is thought that this Performance Appraisal is “objective” in that the numbers don’t lie. The problem is, the basis for those numbers is still a manager’s judgement. Further, it is the manager that controls all the variables around those numbers, access to resources, number of people committed to the goal, budget allocated, tools, maintenance schedules, overtime permitted, supply chain interruption. It is the manager Elliott holds accountable for output.

The Personal Effectiveness Appraisal is different. Please understand it is still a manager’s judgement, but now the manager is looking at additional criteria. It is not that we put the manager’s targets aside, but the manager must now consider the team member’s effectiveness in the context of the circumstances during the appraisal period. A salesperson, in a fertile market might achieve the target output numbers by simply taking orders. A Performance Appraisal might judge the output as “exceeded expectations,” while an Effectiveness Appraisal might judge the behavior as mediocre.

A salesperson in a difficult market might fall short of the target in spite of extraordinary skill and effort. The Performance Appraisal might judge the output with a failing grade, while an Effectiveness Appraisal might yield a high five, perhaps a hug (if we are still allowed to hug in the workplace).

One thought on “Measuring Output or Effectiveness?

  1. Kendall Lott

    I like this direction very much…so much so that I have broken the tyranny of SMART measures in terms of personal performance. In establishing the methods Tom lays out, I have indicated outcomes in terms of “what types” and directionality (improve, decrease etc), but actual measures belong in the plan (strategy, or annual as appropriate)..they are “our measures.” Attempting to measure human performance at the individual level (particularly laden as it becomes with “moral” judgments about people (threatening their sense of competence and belonging), is fraught…measuring how we perceive they performed the necessary actions to make decisions and solve problems is less. And in the end it is the organization’s (as executed by the relevant manager) targets to hit. There are always exogenous factors (pandemic, wars, inflation). And its just a plan, not the definition of success.


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