The answer is about balance. The norm - where it is highly standardised, inflexible and organisation wide - is not balanced. This exceeds what is necessary, what is contextually appropriate and what is a human way of organising groups of people.
With standardisation, the assumption is that one size fits all. But we know that it doesn’t: every person is uniquely gifted and purposed. Yet annual appraisals tend to evaluate people on the basis of a predetermined list, a list that decides what the organisation believes competent people should be doing, not what an individual is being asked to focus on. Furthermore, when it comes to comparing people, standardised appraisals are also nigh on impossible to measure in any meaningful way. What does it mean to be 0.25 better at conflict resolution than last year? Virtually nothing, if anything at all, because no two people are alike so it’s not an objective measurement. It’s not just standardisation across individuals that is the problem, but also across business units, which, like individuals, are unique and in need of something more contextually appropriate to each scenario.
At the other end of the spectrum is no standardisation at all. This isn’t healthy either. To have no framework or wider context for discussion can lead to conversations that are a distraction. Where the line is drawn will depend upon the size and culture of the business and the particular topic under discussion. But some useful questions to come back to include:
- “How does this format serve an individual and their role?”;
- “How much does the format allow for an individual to uniquely express themselves?”;
- “Why are we standardizing this?” and
- “Have the people who are having the process applied to them been genuinely able to influence its format?”