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360 Review is Dead

4min read

In the management world, there is one off-the-shelf solution to collect performance feedback on employees. It's called a 360-degree review.

Essentially, this is a form with a few fields where you write about strongest, weakest points of each of your peers and you suggest on how they can improve themselves. This form is usually being sent to all members of the team once per quarter or per half a year. Then all feedbacks are being collected and discussed with people on 1-on-1 meetings. This procedure is so popular that I'm sure you were involved in it at least once if you work long enough in the industry.

What's Wrong?

Everything sounds good until you actually try it and realize the following problems.

No one collects a long list of improvements for other people to share during the 360 review. So peers actually talking about the very recent issues and situations. A way more common is to focus on a person's positive sides. I think this is simply healthy to remember people bright sides. However, the feedback becomes overoptimistic and reassuring. This is surely fun to read and share, but not very productive from the personal development standpoint.

The opposite is also true - 360 review pushes people to accumulate their feedback and, probably, anger. This is not healthy now.

Commonly, the feedback is out of context and it's hard to make the right conclusions. If a situation happened a few months ago, it's not necessary that all parties remember it and still could discuss it.

If your employer believes in the two pizza rule for the team size, then you probably have from 4 to 8 teammates. Even with this number of folks, 360 review may be a time-consuming and tedious thing to do. Now it turns into a busy and no-fun task. So don't be surprised when your employees constantly postpone it and submit the feedback after the deadlines 🤷‍♂️ You can imagine the degree of frustration when you need to write a feedback for larger teams.

The 360 review is a centralized procedure. You need to dedicate some resources and time to process feedbacks and deliver them to people. It could be pretty expensive. It could be frustrating as well, especially when you were looking to read actionable points instead of "everything is good" messages.

This is the reality of doing 360 review in real work setups. I faced this. Basecamp faced this. Perhaps, you did, too.

What to Do?

The 360 review is a good example of how simple it's to come up with overcomplication and overlook the simple solution.

In my teams, we did not use 360 review. Partially because of the points I listed above and partially because it distorts the natural way of the feedback flow. The second is the major problem.

What other ways do we have to organize the feedback flow in a team? Let's forget the framework that 360 review puts us in and just purely focus on common sense.

It makes no sense to tell a person that he or she did a task wrong a year ago. This is already irrelevant. No one else really remembers that and it's hard to analyze.

The rule #1: feedback should be in the context of recent situations. The more promptly the feedback is, the better for a person. The person would feel connected to the situation and it would be a way easier to draw the right conclusions and analyze ramifications.

This doesn't mean you should be radically telling the first thing that comes to your mind. No, that's wrong and, in fact, can screw all constructive parts of the feedback. Take some short time to think about the situation and about what you want to say.

The rule #2: before telling the feedback, make sure you assume the good intention in the other's actions. This is super important to be respectful and not to sound harsh. No one ever wanted to put the production website down or badly failed some tasks. I don't think so. If you have another opinion, you probably have a bigger fish to fry, than establishing the feedback process.

The rule #3: no one needs to hear your feedback if you don't spend some time thinking about possible suggestions. Your peer simply may not know how to improve weak points you are pointing. Take your feedback to the next level by suggesting possible and actionable ways to improve. It could be your personal experience, the book you read or the course you passed that helped you. All of this is valuable and necessary additions to your feedback.

The rule #4: facilitate feedbacks in your environment. Establish a culture of appreciation the feedback and educate people on how to properly give feedback for others (according to empirical rules I told you above). No one should be worry to give feedback to others in a team. Feedback should be freely flowing back and forth throughout the working process. This flow is fully decentralized between team members. There are no needs for a third person to process or deliver the feedback.

Finally, people around you came from different backgrounds and have different experiences. Frequently, they are smarter and wiser, than you. So be sure to listen to their advice and learn from them. This is a unique opportunity, you should not miss!