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Five golden rules for performance reviews. RiverRhee Consulting Newsletter September – October 2014

Why focus on performance reviews and appraisals?

It’s that time of year again when managers and their staff are preparing for performance reviews and appraisals. It’s a topic that can be very emotive. If done well it’s a tremendous opportunity to build engagement, generate fresh energy, and position the organisation for growth and innovation. If done poorly or not at all, performance reviews can be serious demotivators and lead to organisational stagnation and attrition.

Performance reviews and appraisals and how to do them well were the subject of animated discussion in two recent management courses that Elisabeth Goodman and Janet Burton ran with One Nucleus and with the Herts Chamber of Commerce. The following are some of the key points that emerged from these and our previous work supporting SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) in particular with their performance review and appraisal processes.

Some of the delegates at the recent 3-day One Nucleus Introduction to Management course, held at the Melbourn Community Hub.  Feedback from one of the delegates: “Thank you very much for an excellent course - I found it very informative and well run. I should have done it years ago.”

Some of the delegates at the recent 3-day One Nucleus Introduction to Management course, held at the Melbourn Community Hub. Feedback from one of the delegates: “Thank you very much for an excellent course – I found it very informative and well run. I should have done it years ago.”

1. Performance reviews are a 2-way process

The review should be, in transactional analysis terms (Eric Berne 1960s), an “adult to adult” conversation jointly owned by the individual and their manager. For the employee it is a time to get formal feedback on their work and to plan what they will be doing in the coming year. For the manager it is an opportunity to provide that formal feedback and direction. A manager could create an opening for that 2-way discussion by asking such questions as: “How could I help you to make 2015 a real success?”

2. There should be no surprises

Although the formal review takes place once a year, it should definitely not be the first time that comments on requirements for improvement, or positive feedback are exchanged. Nor should it be the first time that issues with or adjustments to objectives are first discussed. These things are relevant to day-to-day work and should be discussed as they arise.

3. Objectives should cascade down from the organisation’s goals

What is often quite striking when we work with SMEs is how well connected and engaged people usually are with their organisational goals. There is a clear connection with what the organisation wishes to achieve and the individual’s role in supporting that goal. This is something that can be harder to achieve in larger organisations where there can be quite a gap between the two and quite a delay before objectives are confirmed for the coming year.

4. Performance reviews are an excellent opportunity to support personal and professional development

This aspect of personal objectives is what helps to make the discussion a two-way process. As SMEs are by definition often small there may be limited opportunities for progression through management ranks, but this should not be an excuse for limiting career development. Motivators for people in SMEs are often self-actualisation or, in the words of Dan Pink, mastery and autonomy. Providing opportunities for personal and professional development should be possible whatever the size of the organisation.

5. Make sure that your objectives are SMART

People may be dismissive of acronyms but this one is a useful one to ensure that both the individual and their manager are unambiguously clear about what they have agreed and how the successful achievement of objectives will be assessed, whatever the individual meaning of the letters. We use the terms Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timed and that seemed to work for the delegates on our courses!

How effective is your performance review process?

Do you have variations on these five golden rules?

Let us know if you would like us to tailor our performance review and appraisal training to help you with your process and coach your managers and staff for greater engagement, innovation and growth. You can also read more about this topic and other ways to create high performance teams in Elisabeth’s book “The Effective Team’s High Performance Workbook” now available from Amazon as well as through the RiverRhee Publishing website.

Other news and upcoming courses and events

RiverRhee gained Cogent Sector Skills Council accreditation during September, which, amongst other things, means that our courses can reach more small businesses across the UK. We are offering our Introduction to Management, Introduction to Lean Sigma, and also Managing Change courses through Cogent.

We will be active on the Project Management front again in the coming weeks. Elisabeth is now leading the Capabilities and Methods Pillar for APM’s Enabling Change SIG (Specific Interest Group). She will be co-presenting at APM’s Project Management in Practice event on behalf of the SIG, and will also be running the Effective Project Management course for TFPL in November.

Finally, do come and find John Riddell, Sue Parkins and Elisabeth on exhibition stand 2 at One Nucleus’s Genesis event in London on 9th December

If you would like to find out more

Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, our range of off-site and in-house workshops, and how we can help you to create exceptional managers and teams.  See the RiverRhee Consulting website or e-mail the author at elisabeth@riverrhee.com.


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Notes for the occasional project manager. RiverRhee Consulting Newsletter, January-February 2014

Support for new or occasional project managers

In November last year, Elisabeth Goodman ran an introductory one-day course on Project Management (Effective project planning and management) through TFPL for a group of Library and Information Professionals.  Although Project Management is now a recognised profession, with a range of educational and vocational qualifications available, there are still many people who find themselves needing to manage projects without having had any formal training for how to do so.  There are others who have had the formal training, but would welcome some continued support as they start practising their new knowledge and skills. Our course, and the key themes in this newsletter are for these occasional and new project managers.

Articulate and agree the project goal and scope

Articulating and agreeing the goals and scope for a project are a critical first place to start.  Without these it is impossible to sensibly plan the approach, timescale or the right people to be involved  It may take some iterations, through crucial discussions with the sponsor.  The project goal and scope may also evolve as you start finding out more about the subject of the project.

By the way, there is a strong overlap between managing change and managing projects – some would argue that the two are synonymous! This is something that we are looking forward to exploring further through the newly formed APM Enabling Change Special Interest Group (SIG) that Elisabeth has been helping to set up.

Build your team

Project teams need to go through the different stages of development to reach high performance just as operational teams do.  Unlike line managers though, project managers tend to have limited authority over their team members who are often ‘on loan’ from their day job.  Clarity of people’s roles and responsibilities on the team, and some active team building are therefore doubly important – themes that feature strongly in our various courses for enhancing team effectiveness.

Manage your stakeholders

It is crucial to have the right sponsor, at the right time for your project, giving the right messages and generally supporting you in mobilising the people and budget involved, and in influencing the other stakeholders.  This was a theme that came out strongly in our recent presentation, and the associated discussion at the APM Midlands branch: Facilitating operational excellence in and for business change projects.  Again, as in change management, it is important to understand who your stakeholders are, their attitudes, knowledge and skills in relation to the project, and what you need to do to engage, influence and support them through the project.

Develop your plan

Inexperienced project managers can find this the most daunting of their responsibilities.  It lends itself well to a brown paper and post-it exercise and can be done with the whole team. We used a decision tree in the TFPL course to help participants identify all the key steps and their interdependencies.  We annotated each step with how long we expected it to take, and then mapped the steps onto a timeline running from the anticipated start time to the anticipated delivery time. It also helped those who had been set a fixed deadline to be able to argue what might or might be possible from a more informed stand point.

Project plan

Manage your information and access available knowledge

Library and Information Managers usually have well developed skills in managing information and accessing knowledge that they can apply in their role as project managers.  Whereas we have found that making sure the team learns before, during and after a project has been completed is an ongoing challenge for many other project managers.  The range of information to manage includes the various documents describing the project and its status, anticipated risks and mitigation plans, decisions made (to avoid reinvention), actions and their status, and more!

Put some good working practices in place

As your team evolves you will not only want to consider how to manage your sponsor and other stakeholders, team member remits, project plans and associated information, but also such things as meetings and communications.  There is therefore lots of scope to engage team members in creating some strong working practices for the team. Objective external facilitators such as ourselves can help with carrying out team diagnostics and with supporting the team in shaping these good practices.

Other news

We have a strong portfolio of courses for our clients to choose from in 2014.  We have just announced the dates for our Introduction to Management course with One Nucleus and will be holding it in the lovely new facilities at theMelbourn Hub in South Cambridgeshire on the 26th-28th March.  Janet Burton will be running this course with Elisabeth Goodman.

We also have a new course on Conducting Effective Performance Reviews and Appraisals with One Nucleus, and those interested can read a case study and testimonial of an in-house course that we delivered on this topic.

If you would like to find out more

Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, our range of off-site and in-house workshops, and how we can help you to create exceptional managers, enhance team effectiveness and create an exceptional team.  See the RiverRhee Consulting website or e-mail the author at elisabeth@riverrhee.com.


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