Monday, 3 November 2008

Support for 360 degree feedback


   I don't normally like to write about my consultancy support in this blog, but I guess the purpose of the last couple of posts and the survey that supports it, has been to raise interest in this area, so it seems perhaps overly reserved not to mention my perspectives on 360° feedback, and my services in this area too.

I've used various 360° tools for some time and remain convinced that they add significant value to a performance management process.

Firstly, a rounded view of performance is always going to be better than a ‘top down’ one, and so this helps deal with some of the issues raised in the recent WSJ article.

But going, beyond this, 360° feedback also helps encourages an open, feedback culture.  Of course, there's lots more that can be done in this area too, and I've often thought another useful management innovation would be the use of a freephone number of probably a web system which people could use to give feedback on anyone's behaviour real-time (a bit like the lorries that ask people to give feedback on their driving perhaps: ?).

But I think the greatest value of 360° feedback comes from its focus on ‘soft’ issues (e.g. management behaviours) which are not easily measured in other ways.  And for this to add value, the approach needs to be introduced carefully and appropriately - eg don't introduce it now to give more focus to behaviours so that you can cut salary increases, or to find out who you can sack!  Do introduce it, if you want to start putting more investment into your leaders and other talent groups to prepare for the next upswing.

In addition, to ensure uptake within the organisation, the focus needs to be as much on the education and communication before the process and the follow up afterwards, as on the feedback process itself.  And this is where my role tends to focus, as well as helping update competency systems, develop questions, providing feedback and coaching around action plans etc.

And the tool I recommend, if my clients don't have their own, is from Couraud - you can find more information here, or there's also a link from the side bar of my blog.

I like the tool for a number of reasons, but in particular because of the way that it combines both quantitative and qualitative feedback about observable behaviours. Any good tool is going to ask a number of quantitative questions about relevant behaviours and to also gather qualitative comments that allow the respondent to pick out any particular areas they wish to comment on.  But this one, also adds some interpretation to the comments, which I think adds a lot of value to it.