The LeanCor Way Series - Productive PDCA on Performance

performance-review

Where do you see yourself in two years, and do you see a path to get there? 

This was one of the open-ended questions in a December 2015 team member survey. One response that came back stood out to us:

“Do not know. The path is very cloudy. Pulled in many directions…”

We deemed this response as indicative of missing a strong, developmental approach for performance management. There was no structured format for guiding team members along their career at our company.

Raise your hand if your organization holds annual or bi-annual (which I think means twice a year, but no one really knows) performance reviews. 

Keep your hands raised if this adds any value for you aside from driving compensation decisions by management? 

I would speculate that not too many hands are left in the air. 

LeanCor used to be one of the companies in a long line of those that rely on annual performance evaluations to drive understanding for how team members are doing and where they are going.  And we learned that this process was highly ineffective due to these major factors:

  • An administrative burden by having leaders jog memories of events and outcomes from earlier in the year
  • Discussions that felt forced and awkward because many of them should have been had much sooner
  • No consistent follow-through on developmental actions and goals preventing team members from connecting this process to professional growth
  • Team members switching teams and cycling in and out through the course of the year, leading to poor hand-offs
  • Recency bias, or "the phenomenon of a person most easily remembering something that has happened recently, compared to remembering something that may have occurred a while back" (source)

Early in my career at LeanCor, we had a relatively informal process using a document called an A3I - the I standing for "individual."  The A3I process got its name by serving as a dialogue between supervisor and team member, and leveraging an A3 sheet of paper to serve as the agenda for projects within this context. It was a one-on-one touch point, more or less, designed for you to talk about work and have discussions around topics of interest for your career.  The upside in this setting came from the dedicated time for dialogue with your supervisor in which you totally had his/her ear.  The downside came from the sheer variability on the cadence, structure and quality of meetings across our young and inexperienced core of supervisors.

We knew that a different approach was necessary. Annual performance reviews weren't cutting it.  A3Is with inconsistent expectations weren't cutting it.  We needed something knew.

We have a saying within our lean leadership training that people don’t fear change, they fear the uncertainty associated with change.  As such, we carefully designed and implemented a new process that would serve as our platform for discussing performance and career growth with our team members. 

Leveraging a standardized, documented structure and a “freedom within a framework” approach for coaching for performance, we launched our team member scorecard process.  This process would leverage several core principles that we deemed critical to driving success in these discussions:

  1. Scorecard meetings would protect and preserve the one-on-one approach so that team members would have the full attention of their supervisor for the conversation.
  2. Scorecard meetings would happen at no less than once per month in order to allow for accurate and actionable performance dialogue that could leverage all the benefits of a good Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) process.
  3. Scorecard meetings would use a format that captures performance to all defined accountabilities for team member roles.
  4. Scorecard meetings would require leaders to define and assign clear improvement actions as a response to a team member's "below expectations" performance rating on accountabilities.
  5. Scorecard meetings would create a dedicated space for talking about team member growth, goals and development.
  6. Scorecard meetings would create emotional safety and confidence through clarity, alignment and coaching.

Launching this system had its challenges as we needed to change the paradigms of team members who were used to more ambiguity and less frequent conversations around actual performance and accountabilities. The model uses a simple green and red scoring system (“at expectations” or “below expectations”). Some people are scared that getting a "red" designation is threatening to their jobs, but we reassure them that our purpose is not punitive but to drive improvement. We've had to create buy-in that this would promote career health, learning and growth rather than being used as a tool for hand-slapping and reprimand. Our belief is that this solution is compatible with the culture of transparency and respect that we've worked to build.

Our scorecard system went "live" three years ago, and we are still learning how to best execute it. That said, several team members have leveraged this process as a promotion pathway, and even some departing team members referenced that they found value in this structure. Moreover, we hold team member surveys twice a year to gauge the scorecard's success that consistently receive positive and constructive feedback.  These indicators are a pleasant departure from our survey feedback four years ago.     

Performance management is all about getting the most out of our workforce by investment and engagement. When feedback is flowing, improvement is happening and a safe environment is present, team member advancement can be on track.

Hopefully the horizon is open for team members to find their professional paths at LeanCor. And if it isn’t, our leaders should surely hear about it sooner than our next survey cycle…

Where do you see yourself in two years, and do you see a path to get there? 

 

Posted by Clint McCrystal

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Training and Development Manager at LeanCor | I am an individual with many interests, and I like to leverage both my creative and analytical skills.

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