Merge's Blog

Tag Archives: performance measurement

A liquid metaphor about achieving goals

At this time of the year, there’s a lot of thought and conversation about setting and achieving goals, and as a result, I often blog on this topic, often finding metaphors in unusual places.  Like the time my unexpected encounter with a sea otter offered some insights.  Today’s musings … about drinking water.

It’s a lot easier to drink water when you have a glass

glasswater3Potable water … absolutely essential to survival, but unless it is contained – within a glass, a bowl, or even a cupped hand – almost impossible to drink.  Sure you could kneel and lap at a running stream just like other members of the animal kingdom, but it’s a lot easier if it is in a vessel of some sort.  Even animals appreciate drinking from an enclosed source such as a pond or a puddle.

If you are focusing on setting and achieving goals and targets for your professional and personal life, this liquid reality offers an apt metaphor.  Think of water as representing dreams and aspirations, the goals and objectives that you hope to accomplish over the next twelve months.  Just like a liquid takes less effort to drink when it is contained within a vessel, desired targets are easier to achieve when they are surrounded by a solid structure.  So what is this vessel that lets you move goals and aspirations from mere dreams to concrete reality?  The outer form of the vessel may differ from situation to situation, but it must always be constructed of three components – it must be specific, it must be measurable, and it must have a deadline.

Here is an example

Let’s say that one of your leadership objectives Continue reading

Again … here’s why the traditional performance review doesn’t work!

Earlier in January this year, the subject of one of my regular columns for The Globe & Mail was titled It’s time to get rid of the performance review.  In it, I made the case for why the “performance review”, long a staple in many organizations, was an archaic practice that no longer served any useful purpose.  So when a colleague and long-time reader of the blog forwarded me a link to this recent article in Harvard Business Review, not surprisingly, it caught my attention.

People Don’t Want to Be Compared with Others in Performance Reviews. They Want to Be Compared with Themselves

performance review

A quick summary of the article …

While you can read the entire article at the link above, here’s a Coles Notes version.  Essentially, in this paper, the authors compare two types of reference points in four studies on performance reviews containing data collected from 1,024 American and Dutch employees. Continue reading

Performance measurement – are you tracking the right metrics?

I have long been an advocate for performance measurement … as a way to motivate people (including myself) to get things done.  In fact, one of my leadership mantras is “What gets measured and publicized gets acted on!”  But if you’re going to make performance measurement work in a way that will create positive intended outcomes, then you have to make sure that you’re using the right benchmark.

It is better to have no timepiece than one that is wrong

performance measurementAn old mentor used to say to me: The worst kind of timepiece is the one that is wrong.  Think about it … if you don’t have a watch, then you are well aware that you don’t know the time.  So you know that you don’t know – conscious incompetence – and that is valuable information.  And then, if you really want to know what time it is, you’re going to find someone who has a watch, and ask.

But if you have a clock that is erratically fast or aimlessly slow (and you don’t realize that the problem exists), your natural inclination will be to accept the time you see at face value and assume that it is correct.  Which will, sooner or later, lead you into trouble. Continue reading

It’s time to get rid of the performance review!

Time to get rid of the performance reviewIs the performance review obsolete? Is it time to ditch this archaic exercise, which takes up valuable staff hours with no apparent gain? The answer is a resounding “yes” – and I make the case for getting rid of the performance review in my latest column for The Globe & Mail, which published today.  Here is a link to: It’s time to get rid of performance reviews

It no longer serves the intended purpose

Unfortunately, in many organizations today, reviews aren’t really designed to help employees grow; they’re designed to manage promotions and raises. The conversation tends to be more about “here is why you aren’t getting a raise” and less about “here’s how you can add value to the company and your career.” In other words, they’ve become the opposite of what they were intended to be.  If you add the antiquated practice of forced ranking, the result is more people who are disillusioned, disconnected and demoralized than before you started.

So … you know my opinion on this subject, but I’d love to know what you think.  The employee performance review – necessary evil or meaningless management practice?  The Globe has temporarily turned off commenting on articles while they resolve some technology issues, so you can’t comment directly on their site.  But I’d love to hear your thoughts right here on the blog.  Please share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you.

Sometimes, The Globe puts my columns behind their paywall. If that happens and you are unable to access the article directly through the link above, we have archived a pdf version at this link:

Forced ranking of employees is a foolish approach

It’s up!  After a short hiatus from writing for The Globe & Mail, my latest column is out in cyberspace, and this edition addresses a subject that is controversial in many of my client organizations, particularly larger ones — the topic of forced ranking of employee performance.  In Forced employee ranking is a foolish approach, I make the case for why bell-curving and forced numerical ranking have absolutely no place in high-performance workplaces.

G&M051016So … you know my opinion on this subject, but I’d love to know what you think.  Forced employee ranking – brilliant concept or stupid management practice?  If possible, please share your perspectives directly on the The Globe‘s site since your point of view will get a much wider audience than if you choose another alternative.  But I’m always open to hearing from you directly as well, so you can post your comments here on the blog, or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks) with your thoughts too.

And one last thing — do me a HUGE favour – help me get the word out … share the link with your staff and colleagues (easiest directly from The Globe’s site using the share icon at the very top of the article).  My objective is always to get conversations started, so the more people that react to this column means deeper and extended dialogue, which is always a good thing!  In advance, please accept my thanks for your help.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere:

Forced ranking is a foolish idea!

A few weeks ago, my blog post titled Ranking employees on a bell curve is a stupid practice! resulted a significant number of emails arriving on my desktop. Clearly this post got your attention! The vast majority who wrote were in agreement with me, and several went on to also talk about the practice of forced ranking. Forced ranking, in case you don’t know, is a “lighter” version of bell-curve ranking; it’s the process of comparing all your employees and putting them in order of best to worst. For the record, I think forced ranking is a foolish idea as well.

Let me be clear – I don’t have a problem with assessing an individual’s performance and recognizing that some employees are higher performers than others – I am certainly not a supporter of the “everyone is a winner” camp – but it’s the process of forcing every single person into a rank order that I find objectionable. My reason? Continue reading

Ranking employees on a bell curve is a stupid practice!

BellCurveAs regular readers of the blog know, I am a huge proponent of measuring performance as a way to achieve goals. In fact, I shared my own personal experience about this last year in Want to achieve your goals? The answer lies in performance measurement. And so I am always pleased when leaders in organizations measure and track performance as a way to motivate employees and celebrate successes. But there is one aspect of the performance review process (particularly in large organizations) that drives me absolutely nuts. It’s this requirement in many companies that managers and supervisors fit their employees into pre-set slots on a bell curve.

In case you’re not familiar with the concept, bell curving has its roots in the educational system where the objective is to minimize or eliminate the influence of variation between different instructors of the same course, ensuring that the students in any given class are assessed relative to their peers. At the end, a bell curve ensures a balanced and normal distribution of academic results. The problem is that this simply does not make sense in a work environment. It basically forces a manager to say that a certain percentage of his/her employees are sub-par. Repeatedly. Every year. Continue reading

Want to achieve your goals? The answer lies in performance measurement

There’s an old leadership adage – what gets measured gets done; in fact, I have long advocated an extended version – what gets measured and publicized gets acted on – which I blogged about back in November 2010.  Recently, I, at a personal level, became a living breathing example of this leadership principle of performance measurement in action.

Merge_June2_2013This is what I posted to my friends and family on my personal Facebook page on June 2 earlier this month:

Exactly one year ago today, June 2 2013, I weighed 33 lbs more than I do today!  Many of you have asked me HOW I achieved this. Just plain ol’ simple math. Output greater than input every single day, that’s it! Plus tracking help from my Fitbit and the associated app.

Those of you who have ever tried to lose weight know that it can be a very challenging effort.  In fact, I found this goal to be FAR FAR harder than any business goal I’ve ever tried to achieve.  But it was because I measured – steps walked every day, flights of stairs climbed, calories burned, calories eaten, weekly weight checks – that I was motivated to keep going.  Now granted, technology makes it a lot easier to keep track (that little Fitbit and its associated app are awesome!), but it was because I measured and publicized (within my Fitbit circle of friends) that I achieved this major milestone.

So what’s the message here for leaders?  Continue reading

Mastering the performance evaluation process – live audio event on February 8

If you mentally cringe when you think about the annual employee performance review process, then you can’t afford to miss this.  Many supervisors and managers see this process as a time-wasting form-filling activity, often accompanied by crushed egos, hurt feelings, resentment, and sometimes even anger. But it doesn’t have to be that way! In fact, the performance evaluation process, IF conducted properly, can not only be a tool to achieve departmental goals and organization results, BUT can also be a positive motivating force for employees. Really! No kidding!

Join me, Merge, for one fast-paced and content-rich hour in which you’ll learn in-depth tools and techniques on how to make the process perpetual and painless; you’ll learn how to make this work FOR you instead of AGAINST you.  And if you act by February 1, you can take advantage of early bird savings!

Click here to register now.

Here’s some of what you’ll learn:

  • A strategic four-step system to make the annual process perpetual and painless
  • One easy way to ensure that you NEVER again have “writer’s block” when it comes to the annual written performance review
  • The one critical factor that ensures commitment and buy-in from your employees when it comes to department goals and organizational results
  • Specific techniques and how-to steps to offer both positive and negative feedback
  • Simple tools to set goals, objectives and measurement criteria that employees understand and take ownership for
  • How the performance evaluation process is directly linked to employee motivation (and how you can make it work for you)

Join me on February 8, 2012 at 11 AM MST. Early bird pricing in effect ONLY until this Wednesday February 1!

Click here to register, or for more information.

What do you hate most about the performance evaluation process?

Do you mentally cringe when you think about the annual employee performance review process? If so, you’re not alone. Many supervisors and managers see it as a time-wasting form-filling activity, often accompanied by crushed egos, hurt feelings, resentment, and sometimes even anger. But it doesn’t have to be that way! In fact, the performance evaluation process, IF conducted properly, can not only be a tool to achieve departmental goals and organization results, BUT can also be a positive motivating force for employees. Really! No kidding!

It’s exactly this frustration that so many leaders face that prompted the topic of my next live Audio Conference.  On Wednesday February 8, I’ll be leading Mastering the Performance Evaluation Process – You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure; and I’ll be opening the lines for questions. So tell me — what is your biggest challenge when it comes to the employee performance evaluation process?  What specifically causes you the greatest amount of frustration? Go to to ask your question and I’ll answer as many as I can on February 8.

And while you’re at, be sure to download a copy of my free article titled Effective Evaluations – Tips for conducting performance evaluations.  Just click on the link on the bottom left of the screen.