The Annual Performance Review Needs to Look More Like a Huddle!

April 19, 2016

Guest blog by Bill Fitzgerald, Founder and Managing Partner, ExecCareers DC  

As I watched the NFL playoffs, I witnessed an example of performance management that makes more sense than what you see in most organizations. I’m not suggesting we should start wearing helmets and do more blocking and tackling; that’s not my point. What I am referring to is the huddle.

What occurs inside the huddle often determines the outcome of the game and is a great metaphor for what performance management looks like when it is done really well.

Unfortunately for most organizations, performance management is a huddle that occurs once a year. What we learn from watching football is that huddles are frequent, short and everyone must participate if the team is going to succeed. Huddles are where plans are outlined, where players give and receive feedback and where everyone gets clear on their role and the desired outcome. Huddles help individuals and teams perform better. Without frequent huddles, it’s almost impossible to win.

Imagine what would be possible if we started to think about performance management as a series of regular huddles. Employees would perform at a higher level because feedback would be timely and facilitate immediate changes in behavior and performance. We would no longer need an end-of-the-year report card because all that matters at that point is if we’ve won the game! 

When you think about the influence of technology and the rapid pace of change and innovation, how could something we do once a year, with a focus on the past, make any significant difference in the future? Almost by definition, what occurs during the annual performance appraisal meeting is too late to be meaningful. That’s why the annual performance appraisal has seemed like a complete waste of time to many employees and managers for years. And, the research from organizations like Adobe is starting to show that the traditional performance process, with their end of the year reviews and rankings, actually destroy value – so the time for change is long overdue.

It’s time to start doing something that will help your employees, and ultimately your organization, experience greater success. At the heart of this shift is a different way of operating that encourages regular huddles and a commitment to on-going feedback. Even the most highly paid professional football players, who are considered the best at their chosen profession, rely on huddles to make the next play more successful than the last.

It’s time we learn a valuable lesson from the NFL and start thinking about performance management as a series of regular huddles, and not an event that occurs once a year. The result will be an organization that is learning and improving at a faster rate. In the end, isn’t that what it takes to win in the marketplace?

Bill Fitzgerald is the Managing Partner/Founder of ExecCareers DC, Two Minute Feedback and FitzDrake Search.


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