Change Implementation Techniques for Laying a Foundation for New Ways

Technique 1.19 360 Evaluation

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"...Change is difficult at the best of times, but behavioral change is more difficult than anything else. Many things get in the way of the best intentions to do things differently. Behaviour is largely driven by habits ‐ and habits are hard to change. Some managers don't want to change. Some managers don't know how to change. Some managers don't think they need to change. Something was needed to bring objectivity to the process of deciding whether, and how, managers should change their style. Into this vacuum came a technique that is now almost universally known as 360‐degree feedback..."

Harry Onsman, 2004d

. This technique is a peer appraisal system to deliver and receive quality feedback that is based on the assumption that those best placed to judge the performance of others are those who work most closely with them; these include their staff, boss, peers, customers (external and internal) and other stakeholders with whom they deal. For example, a CEO would have the following stakeholders involved in the assessment: Board of Directors, external stakeholders, selected customers, his/her staff.

. The objective is to provide detailed feedback to staff and the process is accompanied by follow‐up coaching and counselling. It can be used to simply check that things are going smoothly, and/or identify areas that need improving.

. To maximize the benefits of the 360 degree process, there needs to be a high level of trust and openness within the organisation. Otherwise, cynicism can develop. Furthermore, the base data should be destroyed after the analysis is completed. The feedback is anonymous as the raters' perceptions are aggregated into an overall score

. Selection of raters, types of questions, use of feedback and administration of the assessment technique is not standardised. There are no rules governing the who, why, what and how of "giving staff the 360"

. The comparison of one's self‐perception with the perception of others and the deviations in findings are where the real value of the process lies. For example, it can help identify if there is a perception (real or otherwise) that some staff are receiving preferential treatment. This type of perception can be very destructive and expensive if not addressed

. It is a technique for facilitating feedback about behaviours that affect staff performance. The technique can be used for

personal development (focus on creating managers' awareness of the strengths and weaknesses so that they can commit to making changes in behaviour that will lead to improved managerial performance)

cultural change (as managerial behaviour is one of the few levers that organisations can pull to change culture, it can be used to align management behaviour with the preferred organisational culture. The feedback is the control mechanism designed to make sure that managers are adhering to the new ways of working)

performance evaluation and remuneration (remember: linking performance rewards with the results of the 360 degree feedback can be dangerous and have an adverse impact on the credibility of the technique)

promotion and succession planning (similar comments apply to this purpose, ie can have an adverse impact on the credibility of the technique if it is used for promotion and succession planning)

team development (everyone in the team gets feedback on the team issues, such as people's roles, work‐style and approach)

NB It is best that the 360 degree technique is used for personal development rather than professional/career advancement

Topics covered

. Some of the usual topics covered are

‐ personal responsibility and balance

‐ awareness of self and others

‐ team leadership and management

‐ motivation and change

‐ relationship and communications

‐ learning and development, etc


. The analysis is done on the answers given by different groups, such as superiors, colleagues, immediate staff, etc and by the staff member himself/herself. Comments are made on the differences between each group's average (including the staff member's) answers and the range of answers. Usually the staff member perceives himself/herself differently from how others perceive him/her. Based on the comments, staff members have to develop ways to handle the different perceptions

General Comments

"... peer appraisal is difficult because it has to be. Four inescapable paradoxes are embedded in the process

‐ paradox of roles: you cannot be both a peer and a judge

‐ the paradox of group performance: focusing on individuals puts the entire group at risk

‐ measurement paradox: the easier feedback is to gather, the harder it is to apply

‐ the paradox of rewards: when peer appraisal counts the most, it helps the least..."

Maury Peiperi, 2001

. As a self‐development technique, the sharing and discussions of the results is regarded as the most important aspect of the process. The open communication of people's perspectives of the individual prepares the environment for change, and allows staff the opportunity to address personal strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, there is a need to build a commitment to doing something with the feedback, ie include it in own personal development plan.

Some Critical Design Features

. Briefing
There needs to be a lot of communications about how the data collected will and will not be used; remember: the 360 degree is about improving an individual's own behaviours and relationships

. Survey content

Less than 70; included are both qualitative and quantitative items; written comments and particularly behavioral‐based survey content are considered essential; whether narrative answers or ticking boxes is preferable is debatable (ticking boxes is easy but not as specific as narrative)

. Selection of raters

A minimum of 3 from each group and a total of 9 raters, ie 4 staff, 4 peers and manager plus self) is the standard for keeping confidentiality of responses and anonymity of respondents (including boss and self); some organisations require manager approval of the rater list

. Feedback reports

Item detail with written comments appear to be most easily understood; simple statistics like mean and range are more easily understood than complex statistical analysis such as standard deviation; some individuals could have a problem with receiving honest feedback and feel threatened by it

. Development support

The greatest concern for 360 degree feedback programs is what happens after a person receives the feedback. One‐to‐one interviews and coaching can help staff understand, interpret and respond to the results. Furthermore, peer group pressure can be effective if supportive

. Utilization of data

The primary purpose of the 360‐degree feedback is development (personal more than professional); feedback needs to be implemented and sustained (normally for 3 months afterwards a noticeable difference can be observed). Care needs to be taken about how the results are utilized; if handled incorrectly, there will be lower program acceptance and effectiveness

. 360‐degree feedback‐program evaluation

Most popular is informal rather than formal evaluation to determine the program's effectiveness; the need to examine changes in participant's behaviour following feedback. As some staff will not understand why they have been rated, open communication is important. Need to reward and re‐enforce positive changes in performance and behaviour. Some relevant metrics include revenue growth, reduced staff turnover and absenteeism


. Its advantages are

good for handling "alpha" (males and females) and/or narcissists and/or office psychopaths. The alpha female are more macho than the males around them, ie the Margaret Thatcher types. Alpha males are estimated to cover around 70% of senior executives in USA and are characterized as

"...bold, self‐confident, and demanding. Alpha males get things done. But the traits that make them so productive can also drive their co‐walkers crazy..."

Kate Ludeman et al, 2004

The 360‐degree feedback provides both "hard‐boiled metrics" and "vivid verbatim comments" from colleagues about an alpha's strengths and weaknesses, ie it is a

"...wake‐up call for most alphas, providing undeniable proof that their behaviour doesn't work nearly as well as they think it does. That paves the way for a genuine commitment to change..."

Kate Ludeman et al, 2004

does not rely on a single supervisor as the sole source of information

feedback is more honest, ie closer to what others feel about the recipient because it is anonymous

‐ provides a balanced feedback which minimises the opportunity for conflict

‐ provides the organisation with better legal protection, ie with the growing emphasis on employee rights legislation, etc., it provides a formal appraisal on file that protects the organisation in event of subsequent disputes

‐ provides a consistent work record over time and helps avoid contentious situations

reduces staff turn‐over

improves staff satisfaction and morale


"... ‐ feedback on behaviour is an important stimulus for personal growth

the most effective leaders are those who think of themselves as learners and who welcome opportunities to improve

it requires special effort to get honest feedback from others because most organisations are ' feedback shy'..."

Harry Onsman, 2004d

Problems with 360 assessment

. Most people do not believe the findings of the 360 degree evaluation. For example, a HR executive with ten years' experience administering 360 degree feedback programs stated

"...7 out of 10 people are completely stunned by what they hear......When they get their feedback, they think I have mixed up the forms. They are convinced their colleagues must be talking about someone else......The that people generally overrate their performance on the job and their popularity..."

Jack Welsh et al, 2005

. People tend to resist criticism no matter how it is delivered. The recommended approach of constructive feedback assumes that if people receive the right information about what they are doing wrong and the best incentives are in place, they will change. It is claimed that this approach is inadequate as the brain's natural response is to push against the change suggested by the criticism. Apparently our brains are programmed to devise their own solutions. Thus, instead of delivering criticism, the most effective way is to encourage staff to work out their own answers to their problems. Furthermore, the personal relationship between the giver and receiver of criticism is critical, ie if there is a good relationship, the criticism will be better received.

. Extensive use of personality tests and training, such as 360 degree, to fit a desired culture means that part of what you once regarded as private is under scrutiny. This can create unnecessary stress as it often puts people under pressure to be different from their authentic selves, ie

"...they often feel as if they have to turn themselves into somebody else. They can lose connection with their past lives and experiences ‐ they almost get censored ..."

Amanda Sinclair as quoted by Fiona Smith 3008p

Disadvantages include

‐ sometimes 360 degree appraisal

"...exacerbates bureaucracy, heightens tensions, and consumes an enormous number of hours..."

Maury Peiperi, 2001

who owns the 360 report?

‐ need to make a distinction between 360 feedback and any remuneration review, ie the 360 is best employed as a performance technique to help with personal development more than professional/career development

‐ designed to be developmental and used to identify strengths and areas needing improvements but it can often become entangled with the evaluative appraisal process. This can create confusion and erode its usefulness as a development technique

‐ conflict between the roles of colleague and judge

‐ too much focus on the individual and not on the group, ie ignoring group dynamics

‐ uncertainty about which measures to use, ie short‐term vs. long‐term performance parameters, qualitative vs. quantitative measures, etc

‐ if participants detect that the system is unlikely to improve their performance or rewards, they are less likely to actively engage in the process

‐ the involvement of multiple constituents broadens the scope of information provided to the receiver, but more information does not necessarily yield better feedback

‐ while anonymous ratings are more honest than signed ratings, they may not be more valid

inaccurate, biased and self‐serving information will still make its way into feedback, and discrepancies amongst sources might arise

‐ as many people are involved and the violation of confidentiality cannot be controlled, this process can create fear.

‐ needs to be done more frequently than once a year, ie at a minimum, twice a year

‐ an excuse to push problem(s) and decision‐making (thus responsibility/accountability, etc) upwards

‐ sometimes no change follows the feedback; however, ideally the individual will be willing to discuss the feedback, which can then be acknowledged and acted on

"...‐ raters have different degrees of exposure to the recipient

the recipient may behave differently with different raters

raters perceive behaviours differently and bring different expectations to the rating process......Part of the value of the feedback process lies in exploring these differences and working out how to deal with them..."

Harry Onsman, 2004d

. Ideally, the 360 degree technique should not be used as part of the performance appraisal system, such things as bonuses, remuneration adjustment or promotions. If it is used as a selection technique, it loses its effectiveness as a deliverer of quality feedback

Example of Findings from 360 Analysis (average & range)

organisational development change management

Dilbert' comments

organisational development change management

(sources: J Ghorpade, 2000; Maury Peiperi, 2001; David Parmenter, 2002; Scott Adams, 1996; Kate Ludeman et al, 2004; Human Capital, 2004; Lawry Scandar, 2004; Jack Welch et al, 2005; Harry Onsman, 2004d; Catherine Fox, 2006g; Fiona Smith 3008p)


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