MakingWaves Blog
  1. LRN Home
  2. About

Principled Performance Reflection Part II

Inspiring Principled Performance – The Results are In!

Several weeks ago, I blogged in this space about LRN’s “Principled Performance Reflection” process, which is known internally as our PPR process. As I wrote then, assessing performance is not enough in today’s world. We need to inspire principled performance through rigorous dialog and meaningful reflection on the “HOWs” of colleague behavior, and not just on “what” was produced during the past year.

At LRN, we have evolved away from some of the most challenging aspects of this process. Almost universally, for example, the traditional process of “rating” or “grading” colleague performance is tension-filled, stressful and a source of contention. (“My boss rated me this way, but he has no idea how hard I’m working or what I do for this place!”). Ratings imposed by a manager/supervisor/leader often are not as meaningful to a colleague as those leaders might think.

In rethinking this entire process, we decided, among other things, to extend trust to our colleagues and give them the freedom to rate themselves. By this I don’t mean self-ratings that are part of an overall picture that a manager or leader considers when determining a rating but, rather, as the sole determinant of the final rating. Colleagues are trusted to dig deep and reflect on their performance guided by direct feedback given to them by networks of colleagues, and a mentor whom they determined for themselves. This provides freedom from an imposed rating system to one in which you determine your own rating.

Of course, one risk was that colleagues would “game the system” and inflate their ratings, perhaps with the hope of raising their bonus payment or garnering a promotional salary increase. With a principle of not over-riding colleague self-determined ratings under any circumstances, we certainly ran that risk.

But at LRN, we believe that by extending trust companies will find that there is a “return on trust”. By taking risks and extending trust, often creativity and innovation is unleashed. This is the path towards change and progress.

So how did it turn out?

Well, I am pleased to report a few things. First, colleagues across the entire company and from all regions that we operate in, engaged with the process, completed their work on time, and submitted direct, meaningful feedback to their peers and about themselves. Second, by and large, our colleagues exercised true humility and created honest reflections about themselves. What emerged was a fairly traditional “bell curve” of ratings, one that aligned fairly closely with the results from previous years where colleague ratings were not self-determined. Here are the numbers in percentages:

2010 Plan Year:

DN: 1%, SM: 18%, FM: 65%, E: 16%

2011 Plan Year

DN: 0%, SM: 17%, FM: 71%, E: 12%

The ratings indicated above are:

“E: Exceeds Expectations”        

•      Consistently performed above and beyond responsibilities and expectations

•      Consistently creates extraordinary contributions to Mission

•      Manifests values and Leadership Framework

•      Strong active participation and accountability

“FM: Fully Meets Expectations”            

•      Consistently performed above and beyond responsibilities and expectations

•      Creates valuable contributions to Mission

•      Manifests values and Leadership Framework

•      Strong active participation and accountability

“SM: Sometimes Meets Expectations”             

•      Performed responsibilities and expectations

•      At times contributes to Mission

•      At times manifests values and Leadership Framework

•      Active participation and accountability

“DN: Does Not Meet Expectations”      

•      Consistently failed to perform responsibilities

•      For the most part, did not meet expectations of others

•      For the most part, did not actively participate nor demonstrate accountability

Were we pleased with these results? In most cases, absolutely! We created a process that honors our cultural model of “Self-Governance”. We extended trust to our colleagues and that trust was rewarded with honest, meaningful reflections. We eliminated much of the discomfort of previous processes and we reduced the time and energy traditionally spent by leaders in the organization agonizing over colleague ratings. Colleagues benefited from an open, collaborative process, as opposed to a process that is typically insulated, siloed and skewed to the opinion of one person.

Of course there were instances where leaders at the company would disagree with specific ratings submitted by some colleagues. As a company on a journey towards higher and better performance itself, we would have liked to see more colleagues taking greater accountability for the bigger picture at LRN. In 2011, LRN had many instances where we met or exceeded our own, and our Partner, expectations. But there are also examples where the company can, and should, be doing better. As a company on this journey, we might have expected a bell curve more skewed towards the “Sometimes Meets Expectations” side of the scale, for example. We would expect colleague ratings, in aggregate, to be more tightly aligned with the overall company performance. In time, this will happen. But our fear of across the board ratings inflation did not materialize and we did not find colleagues “gaming” the system. In fact, through dialog with mentors, a number of colleagues actually decided, on their own, to change their ratings before submitting the final ratings to the company.

For now, we celebrate the results of this first-time run through of our re-thought process.

As a next step in helping colleagues better understand how this process works, and the true value of collaboration with peers and mentors to assess and inspire performance, we plan to post all of our colleague self-determined ratings on our company intranet. I’ll blog about that in the near future.

And, as I previously blogged, our CEO engaged all colleagues in the company to submit feedback on his performance directly through this very same process. My next blog will uncover the results of that remarkable event!

Topics: HOW

About this blog

Thoughts about inspiring principled performance.

Subscribe to Email Updates