Are You a Day Tripper?
I have recently been soliciting input (via this blog and LinkedIn) to the question of what can/should be the purpose/goals of a 360 process. One of my friends implied that I was “baiting the trap,” which I interpreted as suggesting that I was going to pounce on respondents that I don’t agree with. Maybe he is a little right in that I do have questions to ask about some of the input, but I hope it isn’t a “pounce.”
My main reason for asking the question of purpose is to create some fodder for discussion in our SIOP Pre-Conference Workshop in April. I do believe that there is no wrong answer to the question. I also believe that this is a very important topic because the purpose/goal statement should be the basis for all the design and implementation decisions. As a goal, it should also be the basis for determining whether the process is successful or not, i.e., meets those objectives. When we hear of 360 processes that are unsuccessful (i.e., aren’t supported/funded by management, are discontinued, create negative perceptions among stakeholders), I wonder if the problem started at the very beginning, that is, in defining the purpose and holding true to that statement.
I offered up my own definition of success:
“(To create) sustained, observed improvement in behaviors valued by the organization.”
I tried to make this a SMART goal, though I failed in terms of defining the time boundaries. Even so, I don’t recall anyone either agreeing or disagreeing with me. A number of people did submit their own purpose/goal statements, and I am VERY thankful for their input. By offering these alternatives, I have to assume that they disagree with mine. And that’s fine, of course.
A few of the proposals have similar themes, and include these offerings:
To provide people with feedback and information on development opportunities.
To gather information that can then be used to identify strengths that the individual can build on or weaknesses that they can address.
There were a number of other suggestions that I will discuss in future blogs, but I picked these two, in part, because they are quite common in my experience.
Some of you may know the Beatles song, Day Tripper (I am a huge Beatles fan) from 1965. Part of the lyrics include, “She’s a big teaser, she takes you half the way there.” (They don’t say what “there” is, probably just as well.) But that’s how I feel about these objective statements, i.e., they only take us half the way there. In this context, shouldn’t “there” be some indication of where the participants need to end up, such as behavior change, increased skills/capabilities, or something else that is observable and measurable?
These definitions seem to directly imply that our responsibility is to gather data and create awareness, and that is all. As noted earlier, this is a very common goal, either in statements or in observing how many 360 processes are run. At the risk of overgeneralizing, I have often felt that the Center for Creative Leadership is a proponent of this purpose in their recommendations to participants and clients, i.e., that the feedback belongs solely to the participant and it should not be shared/discussed with others. Many “development only” 360 systems seem to adhere to these definitions of purpose.
This person seems to recognize the problem but stops short of saying what needs to be done (i.e., how to create follow up without accountability):
To increase self-awareness in their role at the organization. 360-feedback can provide feedback on behavior that the individual was not aware of. I worked for a large organization that decided to implement 360. The breakdown of the program was the lack of follow-up on the feedback given. Using 360 for administrative decisions should not be done – it changes the entire focus of the program
So here are my questions for you Day Trippers out there:
- How do you measure success? (Is it just participant satisfaction?)
- How do you measure/state the return on investment (ROI)?
- Do you rely solely on the internal motivation of the participant to follow through?
- Should our responsibilities as practitioners stop at delivering feedback data? (e.g., provide a coach and wash our hands?)
I have been waiting 20 years for answers to these questions. I am sure they exist. Please enlighten me! Take me the rest of the way there.
©2010 David W. Bracken