Strategic 360s

Making feedback matter

Archive for January 2018

Strategic New Year!!

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2018 will be a seminal year for Strategic 360 Degree Feedback for several reasons.  To refresh your collective memories, in a previous post ( I defined it as having these characteristics:

  • The content must be derived from the organization’s strategy and values, which are unique to that organization. Often derived from the organization’s values, they can be explicit (the ones that hang on the wall) or implicit (which some people call “culture”). To me, “strategic” and “off-the-shelf” is an oxymoron and the two words cannot be used in the same sentence (though I just did).
  • Participation must be inclusive, i.e., a census of the leaders/managers in the organizational unit (e.g., total company, division, location, function, level). I say “leaders/managers” because a true 360 requires that subordinates are a rater group. One reason for this requirement is that I (and many others) believe 360’s, under the right circumstances, can be used to make personnel decisions and that usually requires comparing individuals, which, in turn, requires that everyone have available the same data. This requirement also enables us to use Strategic 360’s to create organizational change, as in “large scale change occurs when a lot of people change just a little.”
  • The process must be designed and implemented in such a way that the results are sufficiently reliable (we have already established content validity in requirement #1) that we can use them to make decisions about the leaders (as in #4). This is not an easy goal to achieve, even though benchmark studies continue to indicate that 360’s are the most commonly used form of assessment in both public and private sectors.
  • The results of Strategic 360’s are integrated with important talent management and development processes, such as leadership development and training, performance management, staffing (internal movement), succession planning, and high potential processes. Research indicates that properly implemented 360 results can not only more reliable (in a statistical meaning) than single-source ratings, but are also more fair to minorities, women, and older workers. Integration into HR systems also brings with it accountability, whether driven by the process or internally (self) driven because the leader knows that the results matter.

For this past year, I have teamed with Allan Church, John Fleenor and Dale Rose to recruit an all-star roster of practitioners in our field to contribute chapters for an edited book, The Handbook of Strategic 360 Feedback (Oxford University Press). Though a continuation of many of the themes covered in The Handbook of Multisource Feedback (Bracken, Timmreck, & Church, 2001), this Handbook will have more of a practitioner focus with several case studies and new trends in this field.

The four of us will also host a panel discussion at the Annual Conference of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) in Chicago on April 19 at Noon. Joined by Michael Campion and Janine Waclawksi (PepsiCo), we will present our learnings and observations from assembling the thirty-chapter volume.

The 3D Group and PepsiCo will also host another in our series of semi-annual meetings of the Strategic 360 Forum, a consortium of organizations that use 360 Feedback for strategic purposes and are interested in sharing best practices.  This full day meeting will be held in Chicago on April 17 with several Handbook contributors leading discussions on various topics. For more information, go to the 3D Group website (

Finally, Strategic 360 Feedback will continue to be the most powerful tool in our kit for reliably measuring leadership behaviors that form the basis for engagement, motivation, productivity and retention. Using 360’s, we can create culture change and develop leaders by defining, measuring, and holding leaders accountable for behaving consistently with organizational goals and values.

Have a Strategic New Year!

David Bracken