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Designing Performance Appraisal Systems: Aligning Appraisals and Organizational Realities

Designing Performance Appraisal Systems: Aligning Appraisals and Organizational Realities

by Allan M. Mohrman, Jr., Susan M. Resnick-West, and Edward E. Lawler III; Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1989

Are you redesigning your agency's performance management program? If so, you will find a comprehensive, realistic approach to the task in Designing Performance Appraisal Systems: Aligning Appraisals and Organizational Realities, by Allan Mohrman, Susan Resnick-West, and Edward E. Lawler, III.

Many agencies are taking a fresh look at their performance management systems as a means of improving organizational and individual performance. Using a case example for illustration, Mohrman and his colleagues offer agencies a framework for developing credible, workable systems as well as considerable wisdom regarding the technical aspects of appraisal. This framework includes approaches to design, the process of design, and the contextual realities affecting appraisal.

This book's key contribution lies in how it points out the organizational realities of both the design process and pursuing various approaches. For example, the authors discuss the problems associated with loading a system with multiple purposes and conclude that:Designing a performance appraisal system is a challenging process. This book offers approaches that may not make it any easier, but will surely make it more likely to succeed.

Step 1

Step 1 in the design process is to select the right people to develop the design for the system. The authors note that:

"Of course, in Federal agencies with bargain-ing unit employees, involving employees as system users would mean involving their exclusive representatives".

Step 2

Next, a process to guide the design must be chosen (step 2); that is, consider whether to use a consultant, a task force, and/or a centrally-controlled body.

Steps 3 and 4

Before designing the system, undertake an organizational assessment (step 3) and determine the system's intended purpose (step 4). The primary objective of the organizational assessment is to pinpoint the impetus for change, and the definition of purpose is to provide guideposts for the designers. The authors emphasize the importance of step 4 when they state:

Steps 5, 6, and 7

Steps 5, 6, and 7 involve designing, implementing, and evaluating the system. Using the information from steps 3 and 4, an organization should examine its culture and design a system that is either in accord with it or capable of changing it. Experimenting first with implementation is suggested, with certain questions to ask before choosing pilot sites. Finally, the organization should follow an evaluation plan with an understanding of how to use the information it provides to improve the system.

Of course, knowing how to implement a design process is necessary, but not sufficient, for designing a credible system. Designers need to understand what their options are. The authors devote several chapters to common appraisal methods and their consequences, determining who appraises performance, designing a complete appraisal system, and implementing an appraisal system. They include chapters on special appraisal concerns: tailoring appraisal systems for different career paths, appraising the performance of professional employees, and designing appraisal-driven reward systems.

A single performance appraisal system that tries to meet all purposes often ends up failing to meet any.
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