Saturday, September 5, 2015

How Adobe (possibly) Revamped its Performance Management System ?

Sources and Acknowledgements:
Most of the below text is adapted (directly and indirectly) from the below URLs. So all credit to the authors of the below articles for the upcoming text.

Motivation behind the Adobe's change:
When Donna Morris joined Adobe in 2002 as a senior director of global talent management, she noticed that the annual performance review, such a central part of the human resources job she had been hired to do, wasn't much of a resource to the humans it served.
"At one point, the planning alone took nine months," she says. "It was like preparing to give birth to a child. It was like, 'why does this take so long? Does this really drive the business return?'"
Five years later, she was promoted to Senior Vice President of People and Places. She came to realize that the most important part of her job - and the success of the company - was to invest in people and not a months-long process.

Shortcomings of the traditional system as observed by Adobe:
1. As Morris explained to us in the interview, the performance review is a "dreaded dental appointment" for manager and employee alike. What's more, it's inherently adversarial in the way it sets manager against employee, terrible for a company that's trying to be creative by way of collaboration.
2. At the end of 2011 we were transforming our business. We were declaring that we really were going to be the company that wanted to enable creativity, but our people processes were stuck in a time warp.
There were three things that need to be disrupted.
- One was that performance reviews were an annual process. It was like a dreaded dental appointment, where once a year we would give people feedback. While our intent was for that review to be reflective of the whole previous year, in reality it was based on the most recent events.
- The second was that the performance review was like a rear-view mirror - it had nothing to do with
the person's progress forward.
- The third, probably most important element was that we fundamentally believed people were our most important asset, yet once a year we had a process that pitted person against person.

What kind of changes in Performance Management System were embraced by Adobe?:
1. Swapping out the annual review in favor of regular check-ins allowed Adobe to have a lightweight process that served - rather than distracted from - people doing their best work.
2. The check-in is far more informal. While the check-in process is regular and on-going, it starts at the beginning of the year, since it's tied to people having yearly expectations.
3. At the beginning of the year, we outline what our priorities are across Adobe. That's done at the leadership level. For a manager, you're already in regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings. You're taking time out of one of those meetings and having a discussion with your respective employee on what's expected for the year.
4. As an employee, I would actively participate in that. Many employees are driving those discussions themselves, saying, 'Here's what I believe I should be held accountable for this year.' That's scene one, setting expectations.
5. how does the check-in system help with that?
People are most effective when they know where they stand. Then there's no mystery.
We want people to be getting feedback on their performance against those expectations in real time. We don't want to be policing it at a certain time of the year. We want it to meet the expectations of what is most appropriate for that business cycle.
For instance, in our field organization, it's very quarterly driven because many of the individuals are on sales incentive plans. At the beginning of the actual quarter they'll know what their goals and objectives are. Throughout the quarter they'll be getting feedback and then at the end of the quarter they'll get an overall recap of areas in which they were really strong and where they had opportunities for development.

Around what time-frame were the changes brought in:
Around the year 2014

Image source:,_driving_to_Longmire.jpg

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