How self-management radically changes
the performance review cycle

Stefan Op de Woerd
Stefan Op de Woerd

You probably have self-managing employees and teams in your organisation. And if you don’t, you may well be looking to introduce them. After all, they bring many benefits for both the organisation and employees.

But, what do these developments mean for your performance review cycle? Is your cycle a good fit for a self-managing organisation? And, how could you do it differently?

Traditional performance management is the enemy of self-management

A good self-managing employee takes ownership, is constantly learning and improving, and responds quickly to change. That’s why organisations want to encourage this style of working. The traditional performance review cycle, however, does exactly the opposite:

  • The manager sets goals for employees and assesses progress towards them
  • Goals are set for one year, without any mechanism to change them
  • Goals and development are discussed just twice a year

It’s clear from this that they are far from a good fit.  So, what can you do?

The self-managing performance review cycle

It’s clear that the traditional performance review cycle is not going to support self-managing employees to learn and perform well. We need to let go of the command & control principles that held sway in the past. Instead, you can take the principles of self-management and apply them to performance management: the organisation provides the framework and the employee is in control of the process within this framework.

How would a system like this work in practice?

  1. The employee decides, alone or with their team, how they will contribute to the organisation’s goals
  2. They review their goals regularly and start a conversation if these need to be revised or adapted
  3. They reflect on their own performance and ask for feedback from the people they work with (colleagues, customers, manager)

This means they are in an ongoing dialogue (with themselves and with others) about their learning and performance throughout the year. In this way, they can steer their own development and contribution to the organisation.

You may well be wondering: are people really going to get on board with this? And, does my opinion about my employees’ performance count for nothing any more?! Absolutely it does!

Make performance management simple and effective?

Download our e-book “7 steps to transform your Performance Management”

The rules of the game

There can be no freedom without boundaries. There can be no self-management without rules. With this in mind, it’s an excellent idea to agree on some clear ground rules for your performance management cycle. These might include:

  • Seeking feedback on your plan for the upcoming period
  • A minimum number of intervals at which reflection and feedback should occur
  • A number of set times for evaluation throughout the year (e.g. once a quarter)

And, as the manager, you can take the initiative to start a discussion at any time if you feel it is necessary. After all, that is what you would expect from employees.

In short: there are plenty of ways to create a framework for the cycle, but still put control in the hands of the employee.

Want to know how consultancy EMC approached this? Find out more.

Can self-management and performance reviews go hand in hand?

Absolutely! More than that, combining them will make the whole process much easier and more enjoyable. Because, if employees regularly reflect on their goals and development throughout the year, get feedback on them and engage in dialogue, there is absolute clarity about how they have performed. The performance review then becomes the outcome of a process, rather than representing a snapshot view of a moment in time.

So, who should do the review then? Does self-management demand self-evaluation or evaluation by the team? Or, should this remain the manager’s role? The great thing is: it doesn’t matter any more! Whoever does the review, a clear picture is there on which to base the evaluation.

Organisations use a whole range of different types of performance review: they can all work and they can all fail. The critical factor for success is that a clear story should develop throughout the year. So, whatever works for your organisation is the right approach for you.

Make performance management simple and effective?

Download our e-book “7 steps to transform your Performance Management”

Getting started

You now have all the ingredients to fit your performance review cycle to the needs of a self-managing organisation:

  • Put the employee in charge of the process, within a framework of rules
  • Integrate regular feedback and self-reflection as part of the cycle
  • Encourage talking about progress on goals and development

The example of EMC shows you one way of doing this. But, what is most important is to do it in a way that suits your organisation. We wish you every success!

Jochem Aubel is one of the founders of Dialog, surprisingly simple software for effective performance management based on regular 1-to-1s. Want to find out more about how Dialog can help you transform your performance management? See our solution for yourself.

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