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John Rice

Bowland Solutions

Sales & Marketing Director

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Deloitte’s 4 question performance review


Brendan Walsh considers the recent big story proposing an overhaul of performance reviews:

There has been noise in the performance review writings around Deloitte’s 4 question performance review reported in the Harvard Business review. I’ll leave you to read the article which is quite detailed with some excellent content.

I frankly have no idea whether Deloitte should have a 4 question performance review. What is more interesting within the article is that they feel the need to recommend/insist that team leaders have weekly check-ins. I suspect that will have the most positive impact!

Two key things spring to mind. First – the four questions will matter in that they will direct the conversation somewhat. Their’s are

1. Given what I know of this person’s performance, and if it were my money, I would award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus [measures overall performance and unique value to the organization on a five-point scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”].

2. Given what I know of this person’s performance, I would always want him or her on my team [measures ability to work well with others on the same five-point scale].

3. This person is at risk for low performance [identifies problems that might harm the customer or the team on a yes-or-no basis].

4. This person is ready for promotion today [measures potential on a yes-or-no basis].

I’d bet money that Deloitte will change this within 2 years. The first two items are ratings (and they argue carefully why they don’t work within the article). The answers to the questions are interesting but I wouldn’t base my performance management on them. Repeatedly asking the latter two appears unnecessary to me.

Second, there is often a focus on “the form” and so the questions that are asked. While these are of course relevant – and they will direct conversation – great managers make any form work and poor managers can’t be helped just by a good form. There may be a large scale training intervention at the back of this and, if there is, I hope they concentrate on how to handle the conversations (the weekly check-ins) rather than how to fill this form in.

The latter paragraph of the article discusses the challenges we face when we boil an individuals performance down to a single number. The annual grade is rightly facing strong challenge in many areas. Earlier in the article the authors dispense with 360 feedback as they argue that the rating discrepancies mean the truth is not revealed. If you are looking for a single number from 360 feedback then I would agree that this truth will be elusive. But if you take 360 feedback for what it is – a collection of feedback from a range of people, all of it subjective and all if it subject to a range of biases then it becomes richer for that variety. Reporting that variety and holding meaningful conversations around that variety allows individuals to explore the real world of performance, management and relationships rather than the simple world of a rating.

When designing an performance management process/annual appraisal form the key question that should be asked is “will this form or process lead to meaningful conversations taking place”. I’m not sure that Deloitte’s four questions will achieve that. But I hope they update HBR with the results in as careful and thorough an article as the one they introduced it with.


2 Responses

  1. That Marcus Buckingham Guy…

    …simply had to be behind this! He has had the knack for the last 20 years for simplifying many things management and leadership.

    In his seminal work, 'First Break All the Rules' (my 1999 copy is dog-eared), he spends just seven and a half pages describing the most practical and simple mechanic for performance management. It's a lot easier than most organisations make it – and they wonder why their people find it hard to engage with.

    So, four questions Mr Buckingham, you're getting sharper…

  2. So did Deloitte change this
    So did Deloitte change this within two years, do we know?

    Just curious!

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John Rice

Sales & Marketing Director

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