“Development Only” Reprised: What is accountability?
Author note: I have been getting feedback that my blogs are too lengthy. I am going to strive to respond to that feedback and make them more concise.
The debate/discussion of the use of 360 results will be a recurring theme in this blog. In my earlier offering, “There is no such thing as ‘development only’,” I questioned what “development only” means and what organizations are implying when they use that label. I also proposed that many organizations that use that label are disingenuous, either accidentally (blinders on) or intentionally.
I was looking more closely at the 3D Group (www.3dgroup.net) 2009 benchmark study of 51 organizations that I referenced in that blog (being the best benchmark data that I am aware of). One question in the survey asked: “Is feedback used for administrative purposes only, development only, or administrative and development purposes?” The results were:
Administrative Only 0%
Development Only 68%
Administrative and Development 32%
For starters, these data confirm that it is extremely unusual (if ever) for organizations to use 360 and not have a developmental focus. In fact, 81% also noted that the focus is primarily development even if used for other purposes.
But let’s consider some other insights that the data offer:
59% say that participants are held accountable for behavior change
57% report that results are required to be shared with managers (bosses)
So answer me this: How do we hold employees “accountable” in a “development only” process? To me, accountability means rewards for compliance and consequences for nonperformance. If those consequences are not “administrative” (e.g., reflected in performance reviews and/or access to development), then what are they? Making them feel bad?
I also have consistently maintained that the manager (boss) is a representative of the organization, and once the feedback is shared with the manager, the organization is then a co-owner. And to suggest that the manager will not be influenced by the feedback in future decisions is to deny the reality of human nature. Suggesting that managers should not use the feedback only creates inconsistency and unfairness (and legal exposure). In following up with the 3D Group, they believe that “sharing” ranged from giving the report to providing a summary generated either by the organization or the participant. Saying that the manager should only receive a summary report or (even worse) a summary generated by the participant only compounds the façade.
So, to be clear, sharing the report with the manager is a best practice in my view, with explicit directions (and training ideally) on how it should be used. The manager is (or should be) in the best position to fully understand the context of the feedback and to help the participant get the resources he/she needs to act on the feedback.
It is best practice to hold 360 participants accountable and to involve their managers in the process. Just don’t call it “development only” when you do.
©2010 David W. Bracken