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Coaching Human Resources Leadership Random Thoughts

The 5x5x5 system for tracking performance

While I see and hear more companies eliminating performance reviews, I’m not fully convinced if that is the best way forward. Particularly when the generations of employees working with us care more about their growth, performance and data to back their efforts. Heck, these companies themselves are going crazy about AI and big data!

What’s to track and measure the progress people make without performance reviews? Of course — quarterly check-ins to ensure alignment, progress and “goal-settings.” It feels just the right. But then, that isn’t eliminating performance reviews altogether but giving it a new name that might lead to a more efficient (and effective, if done well) annual review. If it weren’t for these check-ins the concept would’ve sounded highly noble and impractical at the same time. Why? Because there’s no way any company is going to give you a raise without analyzing your performance. There’s got to be a basis for the hike that you get at the end of the year.

The challenge, however, is that nothing gets documented and a year’s a long time to remember all of your accomplishments. In fact, you’d just freeze when asked that question unless you’re thoroughly prepared and that can only come with regular tracking. How? Well, quarterly “checks-ins” is a good start. But I find people frustrated because they’ve got a whole lot to write and explain! And there just isn’t enough time during their work day! Believe me, nobody wants to waste their weekends filling up a pointless survey-like form that will be reviewed by their “coaches.” In the end, nothing really does happen.

I’ve been there myself, so, I know. Personally, I’ve been looking for a system that’s much more efficient than what we have right now. The past few months, I’ve been researching and experimenting with a few systems. One that struck out was the Big Five Performance Tracking (although I’d read first almost a couple of years back). I’ve come up with a version that’s mightily simpler and call it the 5x5x5 (five by five by five… partially inspired by one of my favourite strength training program) system.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Tracking done every month. Members turn in their reports by the 5th of every month.
  2. List 5 bullet points each for their achievements, learnings (failures, if I have to blunt), and goals. In that order. The bullets take a lot of pressure away from the people. Instead of trying to impress, they simply express.
  3. Rinse and repeat. Every month.

That’s it! Of course, I wish I had two more points to add but my philosophy is that if it’s simple enough, it’s good enough. And yes, I know the 5x5x5 system isn’t perfect either. Purists may come up with many flaws and that’s okay. The idea is not to make a perfect system but an effective one that encourages people to track their performance on a monthly basis and gives them enough data to work with and justify during the annual meetings (disguised as performance reviews).

The thing I like the most about this is its ability to engage people by helping them be accountable to their performance without going crazy! Now, that’s something!

If this piques your interest, give it a try and let me know how it works. It does wonders to a small team and I don’t see the reason why it shouldn’t work for a bigger team. The managers, however, will have to invest time to review these repots. Else, it wouldn’t work. The great thing about a simple system like this is that you won’t spent hours and hours reviewing them. Just a glance would be good enough.

Overall, I’m looking at thousands of hours been saved annually for something as simple as the 5x5x5 that essentially wouldn’t take you 10 minute a month to do. That’s like 2 hours in a year compared to 24 hours (6 hours for each quarterly check-in, actual stat based on the average of few of my team members)!