Strategic 360s

Making feedback matter

The “You” in Useless?

with one comment

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I received an interesting comment to one of my blog entries via the OrgVitality LinkedIn discussion site:

David, I have been through the 360 process a few times and have always come away with a few ego-stroking facts and a few interesting but mostly unusable ones that point out need for improvement. The tools and methods were largely suited to quantitative research but the sample size too small and too varied for any kind of generalization.
So my general take-home from 360 was “interesting but useless”.

I am in total agreement that too many 360 processes are “interesting but useless.” I sometimes put those in the category of “parlor games,” which might be described the same way.

I do not personally know this author, but I do appreciate his perspectives. Interestingly, my most recent blog was about treating problems (such as 360’s being “useless”) as opportunities for exploring solutions.  In fact, this person did offer up his own solution in his comment, but still feels that overall it is still useless.

So let’s consider some factors that might cause a 360 to be perceived as “useless,” and some possible solutions:

Problem: Feedback isn’t relevant

Solutions:  Use a custom designed instrument derived from organizational priorities (e.g., strategies, leadership competency model, values). Keep it short (no more than 50 items). Have follow up mini surveys that cover development priorities.

Problem: Feedback isn’t reliable/credible

Solutions: Ratee picks raters, with manager approval. Have sufficient number of raters to create reliable data, including all direct reports.

Problem: Feedback isn’t a priority

Solutions: Gain and communicate senior leadership support (and participation). Integrate feedback into HR processes (e.g., performance management, leadership development, succession planning). Conduct on a regular basis, like other HR processes.  Hold participants and their supervisors accountable.

One of the more difficult problems to solve is when awareness isn’t followed by acceptance. For some people, feedback is just wasted effort. Some people don’t want feedback (see our friend, the “hoss”). Some people don’t want to change and don’t see a need. If the system tolerates that attitude, then 360 probably is useless. But whether the “you” in useless is yourself or the organization, there are ways to solve that problem.

Any other observations??

©2010 David W. Bracken

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One Response

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  1. I agree that quantitative 360 feedback can often be useless and difficult for the participant to relate to. The use of standardiized instruments that are mapped to competencies, values etc. can prove valuable if the response items are very behavioral and specific. In the long run there is nothing like gathering feedback from interviews to get the individual’s attention through the use of anonymous quotes. It does, however, take an experienced interviewer to get beneath the surface during an interview to learn what the interviewee REALLY thinks.

    Stan Cooper

    December 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm


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