We need a Performance IMPROVEMENT system, not a performance RATING System. Most traditional systems are designed to look backwards and document and rate PAST performance. Since we cannot change the past, our focus should be on taking actions to optimize current and future performance. In 2006, I authored a book called PERFORMANCE CONVERSATIONS: An Alternative To Appraisals. The idea of this work is that dialogue is the foundation to good performance management through the use of feedback and coaching. The methodology I propose is to schedule periodic feedback sessions where the manager and employee come together like coach and athlete to partner toward great performance. These meetings are non-evaluative. The focus is on addressing three questions: 1) "What is going WELL?," with the goal of REPLICATING good performance; 2) "What is NOT going WELL?," with the goal of adjusting or CORRECTING issues; and 3) What ELSE is going on?," is designed to SHARE information as to uncover trends, patterns, potential issues and opportunities as to LEARN from the status quo and take appropriate actions. The magic of the process comes from the collaboration, communication, and cooperation of two people working toward common objectives by discussing the most important things about work and agreeing upon the actions necessary to reach success. Feedback, not appraisal; conversations, not evaluations is the way to performance improvement.
The only things that are necessary to put the methodology into practice is to schedule periodic feedback sessions--every 4-10 weeks--depending upon the level of the employee and the type work being performed, and start engaging in earnest two-way dialogue that focuses on the most important and pressing challenges of work. Then ask one another a series of questions about what are we going to do together to address them. Accountability is built into the system as we both know we will have to disclose our relative successes and failures to one another in a few weeks and then ask for help, or ask what we can do to help the employee to succeed.