Performance Appraisals – If Getting Rid of Them was Easy, Wouldn’t They be Gone?

Control through appraisalI  joined an interesting discussion at the Deming Institute official site on LinkedIn about performance appraisals. As expected in the Deming community no one spoke for the use of performance appraisals. However, a good list emerged of why organizations use them.

Here is what a contributor (John Schultz) defined as the reasons for why organizations have performance appraisals:

“When organizations are asked why performance appraisal is important. A variety of answers are put forward to bolster intentions and rationalize the scheme’s overriding purpose and legitimacy. These responses can be categorized accordingly:

• Improve performance. Give direction and focus to the workforce so quality, efficiency and effectiveness are increased with the ultimate goal of getting better organizational results.

• Enhance communication by providing routine feedback. Let the employee know how the organization is doing and how the individual is perceived as a contributor to organizational wellbeing.

• Provide a basis for compensation. Identify and respond to outstanding performance. Reward the most diligent employees with increases and bonuses so they and others will be motivated to continually do better.

• Assist staffing decisions by identifying those who are ready for promotion or layoff. It is thought that appraisal systems are fair enough and robust enough to provide rational information that will select employees for promotion or in many cases for layoff.

• Recognize and clarify training or education needs. Identify staffing and training needs, and assist employees with career development by recommending further education, instruction, tutoring, or mentoring.

• Create a paper trail that will legally document reasons for termination and defend against alleged unfair treatment. The appraisal system when properly administered should provide effective impartial and objective documentation that can serve as the foundation for employee removal or defend against perceived wrong doing.”

I believe this provides a pretty good summary of the majority of reasons for the existence of performance appraisals.

The question is “how to get rid of them?”

The short answer is to just get rid of them. However, this won’t happen unless you have an enlightened CEO like Robert Rodin of Marshall Industries. He got rid of them, but in a private reply to me he said it took a year of planning to accomplish.

Or Pluralsight where they really have never had them – but their attorneys wanted them. Funny thing, Dr. Deming had the same problem at Ford – the attorneys wouldn’t let them divest performance appraisals. Begs the question of having a great environment to work in vs. those that think they are protecting the organization.

I offer a different approach. I don’t believe that you can get the full benefit of Dr. Deming’s philosophy unless you do all the elements or with my method at least try them all. This is the subject of my ebook.

You don’t need to go cold turkey, but you can with the right leadership – some like Marshall Industries, Bama Companies and Pluralsight have accomplished this. However, for the rest of the organizations you can conduct a small scale pilot with a group of workers (and a couple managers) that can deliver end-to-end service to customers. You can design-out performance appraisals, bonuses, fear and use Dr. Deming’s principles as a guide. This gives you a chance to work through any issues that may arise. Performance using the Deming philosophy will improve along with morale, customer trust and management focus.

You can download the free ebook – The Service Cost Paradox.

What if you tried different design principles in your organization? Would you discover a better way to improve your service? The 95 Method is about giving you and your organization a method to help you answer these questions. You can start by downloading our free ebook or booking our on-site workshop. Tripp can be reached at [email protected]. Reach him on Twitter at or LinkedIn at

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Do You Work On or In the System?

Thomas Edison built the world's first large-sc...

Thomas Edison built the world’s first large-scale electrical supply network. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity to progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.” – Thomas Edison

One of my favorite quotes and part of it can be heard by Susan B. Anthony at Disney World’s American Adventure in EPCOT.

There are certain people that are satisfied working IN a system. The mantra of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rules their daily lives. Compliance and “getting by” makes for a pretty boring life. For some it is because they have nearly always been successful working IN the system. In education, we find Valedictorians fit this mold. Why would they want to change the education system? Or executives receiving big bonuses and pay, why would they change the system?

This creates a management paradox – or in this case a system paradox. Why would you look to improve something that seems to be making you money or moving you seemingly forward. Working IN the system can certainly have its rewards.

Fortunately or unfortunately, many of us don’t live by this creed. There has to be a better way – always. The constant struggle to find  the road to utopia can be exhausting and never-ending. After all, “always” and “never-ending” are a long time. Seems easier just to comply and fit-in rather than constantly seek better ways.

Those bent on finding a better way by working ON the system need to be able to “unfreeze” those satisfied with the status quo. This can be no small task. The battle is to be able to challenge beliefs and assumptions without tripping the cognitive dissonance alarms. Once those babies are set off, denial and resistance are soon to follow.

My latest research has me looking into the research done to date in the social sciences. I have found – not surprisingly – that there has to exist some curiosity or openness in an individual. This is individual and subjective to the person targeted for new perspectives.

An approach I use is to have someone look at their organization from a different perspective. A front-line view is often helpful as interactions with customers take place there. For all the reports and financial statements nothing can tell you more than looking at interactions between the customer-facing worker and the customer.  New perspectives are gained and can “unfreeze” your targeted audience.

The first chapter of my new eBook – The Service Cost Paradox – gives you a method to “melt” those stuck working IN the system. Once the person starts to question their system – there is no turning back – they are now working ON the system. The next natural step is to ask “why” the organization performs that way – this is the subject of Chapter 2.

Whether you or somebody you know is stuck IN the system – taking action to “unfreeze” your thinking can bring you to breakthrough improvement.

Down load my free eBook at Take a look at your organization as your customers see it – our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.” You will understand the customer view of your organization and take inventory of the assumptions, beliefs and perspectives that drive performance. Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organizational futurist. His company helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer. The 95 Method designs organizations to improve the comprehensive customer experience while improving culture and management effectiveness. Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for PEX and CallCenterIQ. Reach him on Twitter at or LinkedIn at

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