Friday, May 05, 2006

Perhaps those readers who are fans of The Sling and the Stone recall that the author, Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, was a passionate advocate of fundamental reform for the military's personnel system for review and promotion. One of his suggestions in his critique was the adoption of a 360 degree system of review. I found the concept intriguing since it has obvious application for any complex organization - corporations, universities, government agencies, public schools - any entity where the old, bureaucratic, "zero-defects" review system has run its course.

After yesterday's post, I decided to go find out more about the 360 degree concept and picked up this:

This isn't a scholarly book - mostly of the business self-help variety - and it looks like a quick read. Enough for a general overview or introduction at least. If the arguments in here are persuasive enough to merit a second look, I'll root out some of the academic psych literature behind it.
another big picture! ;-)

yikes! not John Maxwell: pithy, practical advice and that's it in my experience. if there's any psych lit. behind it, i'll be stunned.

please do let us know if this book has anything other than a pertinent title! ;-)
hi Sean,

Never heard of him before today.

I'm a big picture type of guy ( actually it mught be the browser. It's large but not ridiculusly so on mine).

I couldn't beat the price - free.

There is some research behind it though it haven't done more than check to see that some exists

I had seen John Maxwell's book in bookstores but never paid attention to the books. Then last year one of my friends gave me two of Maxwell's books for as a gift: Developing the Leader in You and Failing Forward. Maybe I am emotionally biased, but I love both books and found a lot of inspiration and practical advice during hard times inside of them. You are right, they are not scholarly, but they don't need to be. I don't think Maxwell was aiming for the "scholarly" crowd when he wrote the books my friend gave me. I read and still consult both books (which I keep in a bookshelf in my office) every once in a while. I would recommend these books to any young LT or NCO. If you are cynical about the world you might not like the books though. Years ago, I tended to be very cynical about the world, but one of the lessons that I've learned by leading people under stressful situations is that cynism and leadership do not go together well. Enjoy the book! Pic look OK on my browser. I like big pics miyself too. Take care.
I have found Maxwell's Leadership books useful.
We utilized a 360 degree eval system "unofficially" during my two stints with the Centralized Workload Control Team. It was very useful for everyone (much better than a usual military eval) and highly benefited the mission of the future because the lead officer utilized the system to guage who he most required to return for the next inport period's team.

I'll be interested to see what you think of the book.
Hi Sonny,

Hope all is going well with you - still on your " exercises" ?

Just started the book.

Hi Eddie,

Did the unofficial use translate into better formal " official" evals when those had to be written ?

In my exp. the hierarchical summative reviews which are used everywhere have two basic problems:

1. Overwhelming reliance on data-free subjective impressions

2. Hyperinflation of praise simply to be considered a "good" eval report. I've seen things written about ppl's capabilities that Jesus would have been hard-pressed to accomplish.

On one of my annual goal reports I wrote that my goals for the year was to evolve into a being of pure energy. It went unnoticed for almost a year which demonstrated exactly how much utility that part of the process really had.
I totally agree with your impression of current military evals. When I assist people with writing their "bullets" for their evals, I cringe and hold my nose at the casual utilization of "unprecedented, superb, irreplaceable, etc".
Unfortunately, those "unofficial" 360 evals were just that, "unofficial", since everyone assigned to the team during the inport periods is not there for the majority of the eval reporting period. I took mine to my senior NCO at my regular "assignment" and he looked at me like I was crazy.
Nevertheless, everyone (even our two underperformers) who recieved it was impressed with the improvement over the standard eval, it seemed to offer a better picture of performance, efficency and leadership.
"being of pure energy"...ha! I'd love to write something like that on my eval next month but they'd probably put me on report for it.
On one of my annual goal reports I wrote that my goals for the year was to evolve into a being of pure energy. It went unnoticed for almost a year...

I think this is the funniest thing I've ever read at ZenPundit -- besides, y'know, the rare partisan rant left by visitors...

I'm interested to see your two posts on leadership tied to the Goss post, btw.
Our evals are overinflated too, but we have developed immunity to it. When you read an eval, you just assume it's inflated, so if the person sounds like less than superhuman then you know its a bad eval. Pretty sad...and too subjective. Personally, I try to write my own evals and have my boss double-check them and signed them. So far so good. I also always write three words in my evals: "singlehandedly", "spearheaded", and "groundbreaking"..."revolutionary" is pretty good too. Sad indeed.
360s are most valuable as tools for managers to improve their performance. Self-knowledge is not all that easy to acquire. It's often helpful for people to understand how others perceive them and how their behavior affects the performance of others. A well-designed 360 can be good starting point for a leadership improvement program for an individual manager, such as coaching.

Using 360s as evaluation mechanisms for compensation or promotion can complement their use as performance enhancement tools. I think they can be quite dangerous if they're used strictly for evaluation purposes.

Thank you. My boss at the time wasn't nearly as amused as you were- but what was he going to do ? Admit to his superior that he never read his own staff's goal reports ? ( Which was,BTW, the case. Good thing he never had to undergo a 360 review because it would have described the spin of his head after he saw what we all thought of him).


That's pretty funny. Have you ever played " Buzzword Bingo" with your peers during a briefing ? Given that you are mil, perhaps best you do not ( sounds like you could though).

You just gave me ideas for next year ( I think I'm going with
"autochthonous" and "paradigmatic")


on a serious note, I appreciate your comments as I am leaning towards pushing this concept here as a way to revise an antique review system ( or at least to check worse alternative proposals - not sure yet)

Again, as sad as it may sound, a couple of years back I was in a deployment that started out busy (for about 9 months), but then the mission died down, so we were bored stiff, tired and yes, lonely. One other Capt and myself would not only play a version of Buzzword Bingo, but we were also playing Acronym Bingo, basically who could come up with the best acronyms for stuff...I can remember such made-up acronyms as GOYA, TBAR, PIECE, etc. I won't spell them out, but some of them were actually pretty useful. The rilvary also extended to who could make the best flow-charts, checklist and process graphics and who could come up with his own "Loop" or "Cycle"...we never equaled Col Boyd, but there is a "Sonny Cycle"...not to be published any time soon...if ever. Like I said, we were bored.
I don't think I can get away with "autochthonous", but I already got way with "paradigm shift" at least once. Check out this Buzzphrase Generator: http://www.acronymfinder.com/buzzgen.asp
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