Monthly Archives: August 2015

Why (most) performance reviews are a waste of time!

You may have heard the latest – Accenture and Deloitte are dismantling their annual performance review processes, clearly because they see them as a waste of time and energy.  They are replacing it with greater ongoing feedback to employees from their managers on completion of assignments.

While a significant number of large organisations are doing likewise, I believe that this disillusionment with performance reviews is not a fault of the performance review process. Rather, I see it as a combination of issues that have contributed to the performance review receiving a bad name.

Performance Management: Critical Success Factors

The performance review has been subjected to attack, largely because the performance management process is usually not carried out effectively. All too often, staff come to the performance review with no real idea as to how their manager viewed their performance – they received minimal feedback throughout the year.  By the way, a survey carried out some years ago revealed a very important unanswered question for so many staff: “How am I doing?”

The following steps need to occur, not just to ensure that the performance review is meaningful, but so that all staff and managers are as motivated, skilled and productive as they can/should be.

Effective Performance Planning

This involves setting SMARTA goals/objectives and related Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for all staff, and ensuring that they understand and are committed to their goals. SMARTA is an acronym, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Trackable and Agreed goals/KPIs.

This is an area of real weakness for most organisations that I have worked with.  All too often, the KPIs used are too ‘woolly’ or vague, are not SMARTA, or they simply focus on easy-to-collect numerical KPIs rather than a sufficient spread of meaningful KPIs.  By way of example, the key KPI for bank tellers of one bank I worked with some time ago was the number of customers handled.  All well and good, you might say, but what about the quality of those interactions?  Were those customers really satisfied with the service provided?

This phase should also encompass providing any new staff with proper induction and all staff with identification of their learning and development needs.

Performance Monitoring

This should be ongoing throughout the year. There should be an emphasis on proper, timely recognition of good performance and the timely addressing of poor performance. There should also be effective coaching, constructive feedback and delegation of tasks, and helping staff to address their learning and development needs.

Performance Review

There should be effectively, timely annual performance reviews, as well as a less formal half-yearly review. This should be two-way – the mantra of the manager should be ‘practice the art of no surprises’.  In other words, the employees should essentially know what feedback they are going to receive.  It is also important for managers to minimise the rating errors that can creep in with performance reviews (recency effect, halo effect, central tendency, etc.)

By the way, I disagree with the notion of having a ‘normal curve’ distribution against which  all staff are measured.  This is one criticism that has been levied against the infamous performance review.  It is important for all staff to be effectively measured against the extent to which they achieved their goals/objectives and KPIs (bearing in mind factors outside their control).

Questions for you:

How is the performance management process viewed and practiced in your organisation?

Importantly, how do YOU practice it?  How do you measure up against what is written in the article?

What one (or two) areas do you want or need to focus on?

Narayan van de Graaff

Zen and the Art of Sheer Determination

Thomas Edison

Virtually everyone will have heard of Thomas Edison (February 1847 – October 1931), an American inventor and businessman. He was a prolific inventor – in fact, the fourth most prolific inventor in history, with 1,093 US patents to his name.

While Edison is best-known for having developed a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb, he also developed many other devices with great influence on our planet.  These included the phonograph, motion picture camera, telecommunications and application of the principles of mass production and large-scale teamwork to the process of invention. He is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory.

Edison’s great entrepreneurial talents led him to found 14 companies, including General Electric, still one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world today. Much of what he said during his life still lives on today as memorable and well-known quotes (refer ttp://

These are just a few of them:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward.

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work

I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent….


The above is a photo of a phonograph – this was invented by Edison in 1877 for the mechanical recording and reproduction of sound.

We can all be truly grateful to inventors and pioneers such as Edison and Bell. The great majority of us would normally never think about the challenges they faced in coming up with these incredible inventions which we now take so for granted and use in our every-day lives.

Questions for today:

When have you given up, when you were maybe so close to success?

Do you need more inspiration and perspiration in your life?

Narayan van de Graaff

0438 792 300

Humour is No Laughing Matter!


I gave a presentation some time ago to around 180 lawyers and managers from a large organisation. The title was Developing a Culture of Respect. I was asked to incorporate stress management into my presentation, and as part of this, I included the importance of humour. I drew on the findings of the Mayo Clinic ( By the way, it is the largest integrated nonprofit medical group practice in the world, employing over 3,800 physicians and scientists, and 50,900 allied health staff. It ranked No. 1 on the 2014-2015 U.S. News & World Report List of “Best Hospitals”, and is widely regarded as one of the world’s premier medical practices.

So what does the Mayo Clinic say about the benefits of humour?

Short-term benefits:

  • It stimulates many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins released by your brain.
  • It activates and relieves your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation.

Long-term benefits: Laughter is also good for you over the longer term. It may:

  • Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
  • Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders.
  • Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
  • Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and make you feel happier.

Norman Cousins is proof of the importance of humour. He was the editor of the Saturday Review for 30 years, and is sometimes referred to as the modern father of laughter therapy. Cousins had been diagnosed with a very painful, life-threatening form of arthritis and doctors gave him little chance of recovery. When traditional medicine failed to relieve his pain, Cousins watched Marx Brothers films and TV sitcoms, finding that 10 minutes of “belly laughter” allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep. He eventually recovered and wrote a series of best-selling books on humour and healing. So there you have it. It’s no joke that humour can seriously reduce your stress levels and have many other benefits as well.

Narayan van de Graaff

You can download our brochure and/or any of our 44 workshop templates. Go to:


Confessions of a Management Consultant: Why Training (Often) Doesn’t Work!

Confused businessman finding solution

“Consultant’s Curse: If your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.”

As a management consultant I strive to be a performance consultant where possible. This means that I seek to add sustained value by partnering clients in implementing sustainable solutions to their identified performance gaps. I seek to follow the model produced by ISPI (International Society for Performance Improvement). This framework carries out a needs analysis (not just a training needs analysis) and identifies:

(a) the gap(s) between desired and actual workforce performance, given the organisational, vision, mission, key strategies and business unit needs.

(b) underlying causes of the performance gap(s).

(c) interventions needed to address the gap(s) – training normally being just one of the interventions.

(d) implementation of the interventions, using key change management principles.

(e) evaluation of the whole process, and continuing again with points (a) to (d) as appropriate.

That’s the ideal, the theory! However, if the client asks me to run a one-day workshop (or longer), and doesn’t want to explore a more holistic solution, I oblige.

All well and good, but a few questions are in order here.

  • Was that training a response to a clearly identified performance gap?
  • Was there a serious attempt to identify the underlying causes of that gap?
  • Were there any efforts to identify and implement other interventions to address the gap and also support sustained benefits from the training?
  • Were the participants’ managers enlisted to help ensure sustained benefit from the training?
  • Was a serious evaluation made (up to five or even six levels) of the effectiveness of the training other interventions?

All too often, the answers are no, no, no, no and no! All too often, training is the quick-fix, knee jerk solution to the perceived issues – very much a band-aid solution, and therefore also not likely to have any real sustained benefit.

Around five years ago, I won a tender to develop and deliver a substantial training program for a government instrumentality. It involved delivering around twelve two-day performance management workshops to all their managers and executives.

I suggested to the HR Director that they use a model similar to the above model used by ISPI. I also suggested that the training effectiveness could be evaluated at up to five levels. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, and in addition, the CEO was not a good role model himself. He certainly didn’t hold his executives and managers accountable for their performance management.

End result? Some five years later, they requested tenders for the very same training. I submitted one. Did I get the training? No! Am I surprised? No!!!

To what extent is the performance consultant approach relevant to your role as a consultant, HR staff member or client?

What needs to be done differently to embody this role?

Narayan van de Graaff

You can download our brochure and/or any of our 44 workshop templates. Go to: