I believe in having the courage to disrupt a process that no longer provides value. I feel it is critical to ask "Why?" (here are the 5 whys) to get to the root of a problem. We need to ask "Why?" more often in Extension, otherwise we are doomed. Going along to get along and keep on keepin' on is not an innovative strategy. Drake Baer recently reported how Adobe abolished the annual performance review in 2012. I was inspired by the story of how Donna Morris went against all corporate orthodoxy by replacing Adobe's annual review system with check-ins. Here's what I learned:
In 2002, Donna Morris joined Adobe as a senior director of global talent management and quickly recognized the annual performance review was no longer a resource.
Bear in mind, the annual performance review have been law for federal employees since 1950, which led to a nationwide precedent of annual performance reviews ever since. Overcoming such bureacracy in a large corporation is a major task, it took years, but Donna succeeded. Is there any hope for Extension?
But just one year before the Adobe buried the annual review, it declared itself as the organization that 'enables creativity.' In doing so it recognized that it's HR system was outmoded and had to change. Here are the three reasons why Adobe no longer recognizes the annual performance review as a resource:
So what was Donna's solution? Replace the annual review with regular check-ins that allow Adobe to have a relaxed process that serves (and not distracts) people in doing their best work. Wow, that's so chill (and sounds too good to be true)! Want to know more?
The check-in is informal. It is a regular and on-going process that starts at the beginning of the year and is tied to expectations. At the beginning of the year, an outline of priorities is created. A manager checks in periodically to learn about the employees progress. Often times employees are the ones driving the discussions, explaining what they should or should not be accountable for. Essentially, setting mutual expectations; a to-do list for the year.
I absolutely love the disruptive check-in system Adobe's leadership has adopted. It supports their belief in being an organization that enables creativity and believes people are it's most important asset. It's company values are in alignment with its policies. Such is the essence of a strong culture.
People should not live in fear of their next performance review. People are most effective when they know where they stand. Save the surprises for Christmas.
Wouldn't it be better if you received feedback on your performance against mutual expectations in real time? What if the person "checking-in" on you actually cared about you and wanted to see you succeed? Adobe understands the value of this. Adobe's leaders don’t want to be the cops during annual review season. They're more concerned about helping their employees exceed expectations and profit as a company.
Bottom line: If it doesn't add value, stop doing it.
Paul Hill, Ph.D.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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