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Predictions for 2014

It is the beginning of another new year. This is the time when most “thought leaders” crawl out of the woodwork and start predicting trends – technology, culture, business, life – for the year and then disappear to return again at the start of the next year. So, in keeping with this tradition, here is my prediction for the corner office / workplace for 2014.

#1 Rise of big data:

Gone are the uncomplicated days when you could skip a day at the office citing ill health. Your manager will track you and your activities on the internet.

“You cannot come to my Wife’s jewelry exhibition because of stomach trouble and indigestion, eh? Well then, why does your foursquare profile say that you have just checked into the Lal Batti Gentlemen’s club?”

Your facebook posts, tweets, rediff comments, ‘find my iphone’ app, blogs on improving office productivity will all be used by your employer to assess the amount of work you have been doing, whether you are a ‘flight risk’, whether you have been dissing your manager, attitude towards the latest company vision statement etc. In short, no more privacy!

#2 Use of social media:

It will not just be the management who will be using social media to track your whereabouts. You will also start to leverage social media much more for your office work. If Wikipedia was the main source of all your project reports, then pretty soon you will start using linkedin, facebook, twitter to know more about the manager who is going to interview you for your next role.

“Hmmm…So, Ashish Patel calls himself a futurist on his linked in profile. His facebook posts indicate that he has just taken his family to Europe for a vacation. His tweets indicate that he is a strongly right-leaning social conservative who believes that homosexuality is a disease that can be cured by breathing deeply in and out!” – So, when you interview with him, you know exactly what to talk about and what not to talk about!

#3 New self-help and leadership articles:

The success of AAP in the Delhi elections will spawn a host of leadership articles that will teach you to be successful in the AAP way.

“Kejriwal led a motley bunch of crusaders, took on the might of the political establishment, communicated a vision of change to a frustrated citizenry and won! Well, your company can do the same, if you follow the 3C model of leadership (Command, Change, Create!)…”

There will be special leadership courses in leading B-schools such as IIPM, who will dare to think beyond the IIMs and provide courses in political management.

#4 Top 10 lists

Top 10 / 25  / n lists will continue to be popular. We will have a mid-year / quarterly / end-year review of the best and worst that 2014 has offered us and will be offering us. These articles will be followed by angry commenters questioning the parentage and ancestry of the authors. These commenters will, in turn, be questioned by another set of equally rabid commenters on their own attitude towards life.

#5 Corner office

The workplace will largely remain the same. Managers will delegate responsibility, peers will backstab you and subordinates will disappoint you with the quality of their deliverables. However, overall – most of you will climb the ladder and will be able to despise the workplace from a new vantage point. Soon, you will get to see things from your boss’s point of view and quickly realize that you have to do the same things that he / she did and which you criticized as a sub-ordinate.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any predictions for 2014? What do you think will be different about 2014 as compared to previous years?

Why Procurement Fails!

An edited and shorter version available here at Spend Matters.

In their book ‘Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson have developed several hypotheses to explain the reasons why poor countries are, well, poor! Their key hypotheses can be summarized as below:

  • Presence of extractive institutions / Lack of inclusive institutions
  • No tolerance or encouragement of ‘creative destruction’
  • Lack of resoluteness towards retaining inclusive institutions

Using economic and political history and detailed data, they have provided evidence of the impact of all the above reasons on the prosperity (or the lack of it) of countries and regions.

By now, you must be wondering what this has to do with procurement. To you, my dear friends, I say ‘Patience’! After reading the book and during one of the ‘dazed, hitting a productivity wall’ space-out sessions, I realized that these hypotheses can also be used to explain why some procurement departments do a stellar job of generating value for their companies, while others abjectly fail!.

Let me explain.

Presence of extractive institutions / lack of inclusive institutions:

Ever entered a ‘one-sided’ contract where you feel that you are being fleeced by the other party? Yes, I am talking about multi-year cell-phone contracts or credit card fee agreements. Well, the same holds true for many supply contracts that procurement signs up with suppliers. Many procurement professionals believe in extracting the most out of supplier relationships by beating down the unit price of goods and services. Suppliers are viewed as whipping posts to flog and extract savings. Suppliers, most often, sign up for these agreements in order to retain their incumbent position or to gain an entry into the buying organization’s business. However, what many procurement folks fail to realize is that such relationships, by nature of being ‘extractive’, cannot be sustainable. Very soon, suppliers realize that it doesn’t make business sense for them and start padding their invoices with ‘hidden costs’ or worse, by compromising on the quality of the goods or service.

A bio-technology company realized recently that the new suppliers providing them plastic components at 75% of current costs were, in fact, scrimping on quality control to reduce costs – resulting in higher in-plant rejection. Result – higher processing costs because of more material required to make up for the higher rejection rate. Pretty soon, the contract with this supplier was annulled and the company went back to their original contract – less extractive and ‘fairer’ to both parties.

No tolerance or encouragement of ‘creative destruction’

History has shown that the world has progressed primarily through unforeseen, non-linear, step jumps in technology and ideas – ‘creative destruction’. The transistor chip, internet, iphones and the Kardashian family are some of the examples of these jumps. However, most of these ideas must have been met with a lot of resistance in their organizations. The success of these ideas depend on challenging the status quo – hence the ‘destruction’ in the ‘creative destruction’! For example, there are apocryphal stories of Fred Smith getting a C for a paper he wrote about a business idea for overnight delivery of packages (the paper was implemented in the form of FedEx). The professor was of the opinion that nothing could challenge the dominance of USPS.

Suppliers are often the best positioned to come up with improvement ideas that can make the buying organization’s business more efficient and hence, cost-effective. In a way, they are like your annoying uncles and aunts who complain to your parents about all the things that you are doing wrong and how you can improve your life by emulating their offspring. But, these ideas (the supplier’s and not your relatives’!), taken in the right spirit can go a long way in improving your business processes.

The best procurement organizations realize this and actively encourage their suppliers to suggest ‘game-changing’ ideas that will transform their business. Unilever, for example, has joint process improvement workshops with their packaging suppliers. Some of the ideas developed in these workshops include doing away with packaging QA at the factory, redesigning of the packaging for bulk materials, use of higher strength corrugated for shipping cartons etc. Result: Unilever gets world-class packaging at competitive prices, while suppliers are able to leverage Unilever’s know-how to improve their competitiveness and become more successful.

Lack of resoluteness towards retaining inclusive institutions

Anyone who has dieted or followed a fitness regime will attest to the fact that it is very easy to quit – or as they say, ‘when the going gets tough, quit!’

Many organizations have attempted to setup joint process improvement teams with their suppliers. They have organized supplier conferences to solicit ideas from suppliers. But, these have been followed by half-hearted attempts to implement them with the result that many of the ideas don’t translate into results.

This is primarily due to lack of support for these ideas at all levels of the organization. Any such initiative needs to be supported by the top management, communicating a clear message to the organization and their partners that these approaches are strategic in nature and need to be taken seriously.

Fresh Meat!

‘We should get some patio furniture and a cooking grill!’, the wife suggested one lazy Sunday morning. Being a dutiful and conflict-averse husband, I agreed. Before one could say ‘Gurunath Meiyappan’, the furniture parts were lying in our backyard, waiting to be assembled. After spending the next 5 hours, trying to interpret the complex instructions, yelling at the kids to keep as far away as possible from the tools, swearing at self for dropping the hammer on the toe and generally criticizing the writing skills of whoever wrote the instruction manual (hell has a special ditch for them in the ninth circle! Ask Dan Brown, if you don’t believe me!), we managed to put together the patio furniture and the grill.

Exhausted but satisfied, I sat down on one of the patio chairs and instantly jumped up screaming. I had just sat on a cicada! Now those of you who are not from the US East coast may not know that the belt from North Carolina to Connecticut is swarming with Cicadas currently – these beastly insects come out of the ground every 17 years and generally drink tree- sap, mate with each other and die (in other words, it is like the spring break for insects in every backyard in the region). While harmless, they are huge and look creepy – see a sample below (Courtesy: Wikipedia)!

Cicada

Anyway, the cicadas and their once-in-17-year orgies reminded me about another annual swarm of organisms that are released into the corporate world around this time in summer. I am talking about the freshly minted graduates joining the corporate workforce. While we have seen advice targeted towards the graduates on ‘why they need to be nice to others’ and’ why they should follow their dreams’, I did not see a lot of material targeting the managers in companies and how they can manage this swarm of folks who are going to be part of their teams. So, here is my contribution towards filling this gap.

New graduates are people too!

Sneha was excited – this was her first day at work! She had already visited the website for her company, studied the Wikipedia entry for her industry and prepared a 20 point program for the CEO to implement to grow the company by double digits! As soon as she entered her workspace, Mohit – her manager – handed her a notepad and a pen and said “You are coming with me to the next meeting with our customer. You will be in the background taking down copious notes of all that is discussed. I don’t want you to speak, laugh, cough and if possible, breathe! In other words, you are going to be my recording machine. If anyone asks you anything, just nod and say ‘it depends’!”.  Her first 3 months at her job was spent in attending meetings, taking notes, getting printout copies for her manager and helping to setup the projector for meetings!

Most of us have had a similar experience as Sneha above! Do you want the fresh hire to have a similar experience? At least as their manager, you have the opportunity to give them a more meaningful role. They may not be able to contribute much, but give them more context about the work you want them to do and treat them with respect.

Make them part of the team!

For many of the graduates joining your company, this will be their first experience in a corporate setting. Their experience of an office environment will be based on viewings of ‘The Office’, ‘Rocket Singh’ and the perennial favorite – ‘Office Space’. So, it is natural that some of them look and feel disoriented without a clear idea of how they are expected to behave. Well, as a manager – make them feel a part of your team. Introduce them to your team, make them feel at home. Ask them if they need any help, answer their questions – some of these may be quite obvious! This will also help them settle down and become productive faster!

Listen to their ideas!

Fresh hires have the advantage of being fresh! They don’t have any past baggage and can question any ‘established practices’ without sounding stupid. Take advantage of this fresh outlook and involve them in discussions and meetings. It will not be uncommon for you to hear an innovative suggestion that was in a blind spot for the rest of the team. Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college to found facebook. Similarly, David Karp dropped out of High School to setup Tumblr. Who knows? One of the new hires in your team will pretty soon be setting up the next big thing! Another reason for you to be nice to them and listen to them!

What are your thoughts? What other ways can you make a new hire more welcome in your organization?

Productivity @ Work

‘Productivity improvement techniques’ is probably one of the most abused and meaningless phrases you can find floating around today – it ranks right up there with “We strongly condemn this attack…” and “Brown skinned individual suspected of being involved in …”! (OK, OK – I had to throw in those phrases just to prove that this article is current!)

There is an apocryphal story that a new manager decided to eliminate cubicle walls and get everyone to sit together in an open space and improved productivity two-fold. When this manager left for other opportunities a couple of years later, another manager decided to ‘cubiclize’ his office staff and productivity improved again by another two-fold. What happened here?

The question that most managers ask is “How do I improve my team’s productivity?” My opinion in this matter is that this is the wrong question. The right question will be – “How do I define my team’s productivity?” Answering this question will help you determine how to improve the productivity too!

Let us take an example to show what I mean. Consider an assembly line of workers fixing wheels on a ‘widget’. So, their productivity can be measured in terms of “number of wheels fixed on widgets per hour”. Pretty straightforward, right? However, consider a different situation where we are looking at a team of management consultants preparing a business plan for a retail start-up. Do we measure them by the speed with which they come up with the business plan? or do we measure them by the effectiveness of the business plan (and this can be seen only after implementation)? or do we measure them by the size of their final report? Things get complicated here!

Here is my approach towards this whole problem.

I will take a concept out of Taleb’s book – The Black Swan – and say that work can be divided into 2 categories – Scalable and Non-scalable. Scalable activities are where there is no natural cap on the output you can produce while non-scalable activities are where such limitations exist. Examples of non-scalable activities include the grunt work performed by management consultants, widget assembly work defined above, prostitution etc. These are activities that are limited by either time, effort or both that the practitioner can spend on doing those jobs. Scalable activities include activities such as writing thought-provoking blogposts such as this one (ahem!), generating ideas for books, creating music, blue sky thinking (this is what partners in consulting firms call brainstorming activities) etc. These are typically non-linear activities that depend on inspiration, serendipity and most of all, luck. The incremental effort is the same whether the idea is so ground-breaking as in “…building a practical large-scale system which can exploit additional information present in hypertext” or so dumb as Windows ME.

For the non-scalable activities, the approach is pretty straightforward – basically identify ways to increase the speed of the output. There is a lot of material available in the internet to address this, but one of the most useful one that I found is “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt.

Let us look at the more interesting scenario of scalable activities. As I said, scalable activities are non-linear and depend on inspiration, serendipity and a lot of luck. By its very nature, it cannot be controlled or be forced! Hence, the question should be – “How can I create an environment that can increase the possibility of generating better output?”

My thoughts below:

#1 No idea is a bad idea

You never know when an idea might strike you. You may be sleeping, in the bathroom or indulging in activities that cannot be mentioned here as I intend to retain the PG rating of this blog. Also, you never know what may be a good idea or a bad idea. Ideas that were dismissed as bad during Copernicus’ time (Earth revolves around the Sun) are accepted fact today. So, the trick is to note these down immediately so that you don’t lose it to bad memory. With tools such as Evernote being more accessible, this is quite easy. Re-examine these ideas frequently and who knows – one of them may actually change the world!

#2 Expand the boundaries of your social interaction

“Birds of a feather flock together”. In an office party, you will see people from the same school hanging out with each other. If not, you will see people working together in the same project hanging together. Cliques are pretty common in a corporate environment. While cliques have their own usefulness, the problem with this is that people of similar outlooks or backgrounds usually have similar ways of thinking. Do this the next time – when you are looking for ideas to solve a problem, go to someone who doesn’t have a similar background; Go to the office assistant or to your wife or to your kids and ask them for their opinion. You may even be surprised by some insightful ideas!

#3 Question your assumptions

Talking of kids, ever notice that they are the most creative people around? This is because they don’t make a lot of assumptions. They question everything and do not take anything for granted. Sometimes, imagined constraints or ‘sacred cows’ can result in unoriginal ideas. Questioning your own assumptions and testing the boundary conditions can generate very useful ideas. The flip side is also true, where you generate ideas or thoughts based on a lot of assumptions. As someone wisely said, “Assumption is the mother of a screw-up!”.

#4 Daydream!

A lot of time when you are grappling with a problem, you reach a dead-end. The best strategy to adopt in such situations is to stop thinking about the problem. Involve yourself in other activities and then come back to this problem at a later time. In fact, nothing is as therapeutic as just ‘spacing out’. Apparently this is how Kekule came up with the theory of the ring structure for Benzene. So, the next time you see me looking lost, it is me trying to solve an amazingly complex problem.

What are your thoughts on improving productivity? Are there any other methods that have or have not worked for you?

Hiring!

Christie was excited! She was finally meeting her dream date. After several weeks of reviews of profiles on an online dating site, she had shortlisted three candidates – who she believed were the best fit for her (After all the website had promised a cutting edge algorithm for finding the best profiles suitable for you!). After chatting with each of them using the online feature available on the dating site, she had finally narrowed her choice down to Paul. Several exchanges of emails later, she had decided that the time had come to move the relationship to the next level. Tonight she was finally going to meet him for dinner! She still couldn’t believe her luck that she had met someone as successful as Paul. He had started a popular online blog advising people about their career options and was currently negotiating a book deal with a few leading publishing houses; He was in his mid-thirties, with a full crop of hair, athletically built and with a wacky sense of humor. There was a knock on the door! ‘It must be Paul!’ – barely suppressing her excitement, Christie rushed downstairs to open the door, opened the door and involuntarily gasped as soon as she saw the person at the door…

Most companies have an experience roughly similar to that of Christie. They spend a lot of time and resources short-listing resumes, making potential candidates write essays about their life experiences and then have several rounds of interviews with multiple people to select the ‘best’ candidate. Only after the candidate joins the company, do they realize that maybe the person was not the ‘best’ after all! All that time and money spent in hiring them go down the drain, as they have to let go of this person and repeat the whole process over again.

Here are some thoughts on how companies can avoid hiring the ‘wrong person’!

#1 Be clear about what you are looking for

If you surf the net looking for recruiting tips or career advice, you will see many exhortations to be ‘clear about what you want to do with life’! Well, the same advice is applicable to company managers when they set out to recruit people. Define the expertise required, past work experience and minimum educational level clearly. Be very clear about the job description and responsibilities for the role for which the hiring is being done. The more accurately this is defined, the better the chances of finding the right person.

#2 Keep a budget in mind

Be very clear about the kind of salaries that are being expected for the role for which hiring is being done. Look at industry benchmarks, what the competition is paying for a similar role and then determine the maximum amount that you are prepared to offer to the selected candidate. Keep in mind that money is not the only motivator for people – many a times, people are willing to fore-go high salaries for greater responsibility or interesting work!

#3 Review the resume – but be aware of potential exaggerations

We have all been there and done that – padding our resumes. So, if we had been part of a team that was involved in implementing new payroll software at a textile company, we would have referred to it as ‘Led a cross-functional team of consultants to design and implement an incentive based compensation system for a leading fashion house’ . Well, now that you are on the other side of the table, you should remember that and accordingly try to identify what is the real essence of the experience being stated in the resume.

#4 Get multiple opinions on the candidate

Multiple rounds of interviews are typically conducted to get an assessment of a candidate across multiple dimensions. It is also used to get different people to weigh in with their impressions about the candidate. In addition, in this era of social media, you can also do a decently thorough background check on the candidate by looking at his / her profiles in the various social media websites. All these together should be used to determine whether it makes sense to hire the candidate.

#5 Make sure that he / she is the used to the company’s way of working

‘Company’s internal process maturity’ has been a much abused term. However, it is also a sadly neglected and misunderstood term. Imagine a person who is very process oriented and policy driven. He is used to work in a structured environment with clearly defined process steps for his activities. He knows exactly who will be providing him his work, what he needs to do with it and who should he pass it on to once he completes his portion. If this person were to be put in a startup environment and expected to be self-motivated and do all his work independently, you will soon have a disaster in your hands. The reverse situation is also as true where a person who has always independently managed his activities is suddenly expected to follow a set process (this will be a recipe for an office rebellion). In short, make sure that the person has the capability to adapt to the ‘work environment’ of the company.

Quitting your job!

In the beginning, there was nothing. Then, God created Man and other things (for more details, refer to the religious text that you agree with the most). Man did not have much to do in the beginning. He would begin his day with a lazy yawn, walk out of his cave with his club, bash the head in of the first animal he came across and enjoy a hearty breakfast. He would then lie on the forest floor and stare at the sky until it was lunch time. He will repeat the ‘breakfast process’ for lunch, followed by a few leisurely hours of cave drawings and then bashing heads again in the evening for his dinner. Finally, he would search for his female mates and club them unconscious and drag them into his cave for his night-time entertainment. Life was simple in those days!

However, one of the enterprising guys decided to discover fire while another one invented the wheel. Pretty soon, agriculture started and was followed by small and mid-sized businesses. One of the more self-righteous ones decided that it was easier for people to work together rather than alone and this gave birth to the first ‘organization’! Well, things have been going down-hill ever since then, as people started to get paid to be part of an organization and do their two cents of work. Also, since the organization heads did not want everyone to be equal but always be in a constant state of turmoil, decided to invent the organization hierarchy. One of the off-shoots of this was the development of designations or job titles.

Most of you who have spent at least 5 years in a company will now be comparing your job titles with that of your friends. You will spend hours browsing your friends’ linked–in profiles to see what they are doing now. You will embellish your own credentials – Call center representative will become ‘Customer Management Specialist (Voice)’ while a secretary will become an ‘Executive Assistant’. The other dimension that you will be comparing yourself with others will be the salary that you are able to bring home every month.

These factors have become so important that many MBA students use these two criteria to decide which company they will join at the completion of their studies! It is not surprising to see Banks and Consulting firms lapping up the brightest candidates each year – after all, you get paid big bucks and if you join a bank, you start as an ‘Assistant Vice President’! However, are these really that important?

Let me be honest here and say that I will not advise you to ‘follow-your-passions and not just look for high paying jobs’. Because, if I do, I will be bull-shitting you. As someone who also followed the time-tested approach of looking for the highest paying job, I feel that is the most logical thing to do. However, once you have spent a couple of years at your job and seen what it offers, it is time to take stock of your situation! If you are not enjoying your job, then it probably means that you need to look outside for alternatives (it could also mean that you are incompetent and suck at your job, but then that is the topic for another blog post).

However, never leave your job for the wrong reason. So, your company has decided to stop its ‘work from home’ policy? Now, you can no longer goof around in your pajamas and write your blog posts when you should be working instead (not based on my personal situation!). Is that a good reason for you to quit?

Well, here are a few reasons to avoid, while deciding whether you want to switch careers or not!

#1 You are not passionate about what you are doing!

No one can be passionate about anything 100% of the time. You may have started at your job being passionate about it, but life is all about doing mind-numbing things on a repeated basis. If you thought you loved wildlife photography, it will also mean that you will have to travel to extremely remote locations, spend days and nights in dangerous, mosquito-infested locations to take a photograph of a rare bird and then you may finally not get anything to show for your effort (and the pay will suck too!). There will be occasions when you want to pull out your hair, kick yourself for ever getting into that line of work and go back home to your cave! In such situations, what you should do is to see if are good at what you do and if you see yourself doing this sort of work 5 years down the line. If not, then time to move on.

#2 I am a manager while my friends from school are all Chief Officers or Vice Presidents

As I said earlier, titles are the inventions of a particularly nasty group of HR managers, intended to keep people divided and motivated to work their way up the organizational hierarchy. First of all, titles are not comparable. The head of the USD 13 Bn business conglomerate Sahara India is known as the ‘Managing Worker’. Similarly, you join commercial banks as the Assistant Vice President. So, if you are using that as the criteria for moving on from your job, do not do so! What you should focus on, is the content of your job and what will the new option offer you in terms of scope of work, learning opportunities and span of responsibilities.

#3 My salary is lower than that of my friends / colleagues

We have all been in this situation before. When we go to the B-school reunion, you notice that all your friends own 3 or 4 apartments in high rises in prime localities or drive luxury cars or both. Remember that salary is a payment for the kind of work that you put in. What you should compare is also the time they get to spend with their families, pursue their hobbies and interests and generally maintain a healthy lifestyle. These are all intangibles and may not seem worthwhile to you now, but these are the ones that will matter as you move on ahead in life.

#4 I want to do something on my own

You have the vague feeling that you probably should go out and set up your own business. I am not advocating that you give up those thoughts. By all means do so! But for your sakes, do the necessary research before you do so! Don’t just make fancy business plans and excel models predicting your business revenues for the next 25 years – talk to your potential customers, talk to people out there who are doing similar stuff to see whether your idea is indeed worthwhile. Making excel models is the easy part, but figuring out whether this idea makes sense is more important.

What are your thoughts on the above? Do you agree / disagree? Have you come up with any other reasons for quitting your jobs or looking for an alternative career?

Performance Review!

“It’s hard to believe that he beat 1,000,000 other sperms to the egg”

How many times has this thought flashed across your mind, as you sat down to provide your annual feedback to your team member? I certainly was reminded about it, when a friend asked me tips on how to provide effective feedback to your team. After quickly noting it down in my scratch-book and filing it away for future uses and impressing others with my smart comebacks, I sat down to think about the top 5 ways in which feedback can be provided effectively to anyone. So, here goes…

#5 – Define goals at the beginning of each task

The starting point for providing effective feedback goes much before the time when you will be sitting down with the recipient of the feedback. Feedback is always against a baseline. The recipient needs to be aware of what he or she was expected to do. Only then will the feedback be useful with respect to whether he or she did a good job, in your opinion. Imagine a situation where you have to sit down with your team member and with a heavy heart, tell him that he did a shoddy job of “preparing the user manual for the business valuation model that you had created”. But you will certainly be at a loss of words, when he comes back and tells you that his understanding of the task at hand was to “evaluate the model from a user’s point of view”. Can’t blame him, if at the end of the task, there was no sign of a user manual, right?

#4 – Be direct

One of the major irritants of any feedback session is when your manager is not being forthright with you. You walk into the room expecting a promotion and a pay hike, and the manager tells you that ‘in view of the continuing stress on the business fundamentals of the company and the economy as a whole, in spite of the path-breaking work that you did in delivering the software on time, I have to tell you that the we are going to take a rain-check, at this point of time, on your elevation to the next title as well as increasing your monthly compensation’! How does it make you feel? Wouldn’t it have been far better if he had been direct with you and said ‘We screwed up. You did a good job, but we can’t promote you this year!’

#3 – Provide actionable comments

The purpose of the feedback session is for the recipient to understand what he / she could have done better. If that is not being achieved through the feedback session, then the whole process is a complete failure. If I am told that my communication skills need to improve, I wouldn’t know where to begin to address the problem. However, if I am told that my power-point decks need to have a storyline following the pyramid principle, with clearly defined situation, complexity and action points to address the problem, it will be much more easier for me to understand what I need to work on!

#2 – Listen to what they have to say too!

There is always another side to every story. You need to give the recipient an opportunity to defend his / her performance. There could have been mitigating circumstances that explain his / her performance. Although the fact remains that the desired results were not achieved, let them know that you will give adequate consideration to the efforts made by them to achieve results. That is a great motivator and will encourage your team to do their best the next time.

#1 – Always define a plan for improvement and follow-up on it!

At the end of the performance review, you will need to identify the areas for improvement and how the person can address those areas. If you have been providing the same feedback every year without any improvement, maybe the fault is that there was never any stress on addressing those issues. You need to work with the recipient to help / him address those areas. If it is communication skills that are lacking, setup a training plan with them – define milestones for them for a period and then follow-up on their progress!

A performance review is a great way to sit down with your team and help them improve their performance. Only a high performing team can help you reach the corner office, after all!

What are your thoughts? What else will you recommend as part of providing an effective feedback?