Ever since glorious Michael O’Leary CEO of Ryanair was told to control himself and get close to the customer (I know that his heart rate went to dangerous peak when he heard that) and accept that the company was going to have a brand new sophisticated CRM system, and he said what he said, I have been thinking about this.
O’Leary actually said, we are going to get really, really, seriously close to customers; we are going to have a new CRM system and then we will CRM them a hell of a lot. And I thought it was the most wonderful management line I have ever heard on the topic. I found myself singing Queen’s ‘we will we will rock you’ with new lyrics, ‘we will we will CRM you’.
Well, we have our own organizational weapons to shoot to employees ‘a hell of a lot’. I know how unpopular I make myself with my friends in HR/OD and L&D global tribes when I say that the 360 degree feedback system in management and leadership development is often used as a weapon. Something is gone wrong, or ‘funny’, or whatever, and suddenly we are asking 10 people to feed back ‘constructively’ to Peter on this wonderful system called ‘a 360’. OK, you’ll say, but we don’t ‘do this to Peter’ but to the entire management team (which includes Peter) so it’s nothing personal.
The 360 degree feedback system is an incredibly convenient, highly efficient, professionally crafted, psychologically flawed way of missing the point. Also a cathartic ritual. The point being, for every 360 input, there is a face to face, frank conversation that did not take place. Of course it is convenient. So it’s Expedia or AirB&B. There are lots of very convenient things in managerial life. That does not make them right.
My ranting in this topic, is only second to the one of Employee Engagement Surveys. In many years as organizational consultant I have yet to see one single, serious 360 feedback process that made a real change in the individual. None. Zero. No even when I instructed them being in leadership positions in global compnaies. Note I am not saying it did not make life easier for the manager.
The 360 system is in reality a Capability Supermarket Inventory Management by Crowdsourcing. Dear Peter, you are a bit low in communication; OK in attitude; vision? not really, not very clear; but good team player although below average in trust. Re-stock your shelves please. And that’s it. OK, we will help you with a Certified Replenishment Coach. And frankly, you are not doing terrible well on total scores (against an artificially created norm that has decided what is good, what is balanced, and what is desirable) , so that promotion form grade 4 to grade 5, forget it. Thanks.
You have – I know you have – plenty of examples that contradict my gloomy view of those ‘technologies’. I appreciate that. I have also plenty of those examples where ‘the technology’ has been misused, commoditised, trivialised, robotisized, and, also, yes, used as weapon, a justification, a pseudo-scientific intervention, a diversion from a human to human conversation, a legitimization ‘by the data’ of a course of action that needed go be taken, an alibi for managerial incompetence.
I am warning about the excesses. About 360-ing you, or CRM-ing you.
So many subjective, gratuitous and pointless things can be done on behalf of ‘objectivity’. Organizational life is not immune. I want to reclaim the conversation that does not need a questionnaire.