In many organisations, 360 Degree Feedback is used as a tool to support individual skills development. It is particularly useful when people are stepping up from one role into another that is substantially different, and requires a change in skills and behaviours. Most typically this is when job-holders are asked to become managers, or when managers are moving to larger, more strategic management roles. 360 is also a key tool in assessing the readiness of people to take on new roles. Data from 360 exercises can be combined with other data to create a picture of where the key capabilities lie, where they are missing, and where they need to be developed.
Here are some thoughts on using 360 appraisal to add value by linking it to those activities that contribute relatively directly to the firm’s competitive advantage.
- Use 360 as part of a Total Quality Management programme Total Quality Management (TQM) is a powerful tool for managing people and business processes to ensure complete customer satisfaction at every stage. TQM works by ensuring that all the parties in the delivery of a product or service are communicating, taking responsibility and finding the most effective and efficient ways to solve problems. By its nature, 360 feedback forces stakeholders to clearly define how, as well as what, they are going to achieve, thereby creating a consistent framework for measuring and managing progress.
- Use 360 as part of LEAN Similarly, a strategic programme of LEAN can be supplemented by including an element of 360 Degree Feedback between the different groups involved. Broadly, Continuous Improvement and LEAN break down into four basic principles
- Challenge: Having a long term vision of the challenges one needs to face to realize one’s ambition
- Kaizen: operations must be improved continuously, striving for innovation and evolution, and
- Genchi Genbutsu: Going to the source to see the facts for oneself and make the right decisions, create consensus, and make sure goals are attained at the best possible speed.
- Respect: Taking every stakeholders’ problems seriously, and making every effort to build mutual trust. Taking responsibility for other people reaching their objectives
However you use 360, it is clear that to be truly strategic in value and to provide strategic and customer-based insights, Customers must be involved in the 360 process. As well as better customer-based data on products and processes, 360 will also help teams serving customers directly to anticipate its customers’ needs and then provide unique products and services over time that make the firm the customer’s preferred provider. It is also critical for functions who support those teams to have a clear understanding of their role and their contribution to customer satisfaction. This is particularly important in large organisations where sometimes individual contributions to customer services can be overlooked.
Therefore 360 degree feedback software that can include feedback from customers in a professional and seamless way is a key requirement. 360 Feedback used in this way can initially bring to the surface differences in perceptions and skills between the different stakeholders. This can be a very positive activity as it will not only tell leaders what need to be done to improve the performance of their team, but how this might be accomplished through alternations in their own behaviour, e.g improving teamwork, trust, communication, risk-taking, innovation and empowerment.
Many organisations already include an element of culture and values in their 360 feedback systems. This is becoming more important than ever when embedding ethical ways of doing business and identifying any gaps in the ethical or values-based activities in the organisation. It also helps to embed the culture that defines the organisation: 360 is now being used to embed values such as integrity in the every-day activities of manager and leaders.
In this way, 360 can call attention to the areas of performance that can often be ignored in a busy work environment.360 feedback increases opportunities to engage more junior staff – by reminding them of the values of the organisation, the skills they should be observing in their leaders, and how they can themselves build those skills that are going to make a strategic contribution to the organisation.
By its nature 360 can enhance two way communications, providing an opportunity for staff to provide their feedback and observations to more senior leaders in a safe way. Of course it’s important that leaders demonstrate their interest in the feedback they receive, and that they make visible and emphatic changes to their own behaviours based on that feedback.
360 Feedback is also critical for focusing on the strategic context when evaluating manager performance. The key message is that managers need to empower their teams to perform, so contributing to the human aspect of the strategy as well as the financial. How managers and leaders execute the strategy is just as important as what they do.
This is about developing individuals through team problem-solving. The idea is to develop and engage people through their contribution to team performance. 360 Feedback is an ideal way of defining, measuring and therefore improving how managers go about developing and engaging their people to better team performance.
- Pettersen, J., 2009. Defining lean production: some conceptual and practical issues. The TQM Journal, 21(2), 127 – 142
- London and Beatty: 360 Degree Feedback as a Competitive Advantage. Human Resource Management, Summer/Fall 1993, Vol 32, Numbers 2 & 3, PP 353-372