I have decided that I am going to ban the word review. After a lifetime spent running businesses and coaching business leaders that has been full of performance reviews, accounts reviews, personnel reviews, quarterly reviews, annual reviews and restaurant reviews why would I suddenly develop a deep aversion to the word review?
Well you don’t need to be a language student to know that review means to ‘look back over’. It is an unfortunate but absolute fact of life that we can’t change what happened yesterday. What is done is done and cannot be undone, be it good, bad or indifferent. Too often we spend time and effort looking back over what happened last week or last month; looking back over stuff that we can’t change. What a waste of effort! Very often our perspective is to find someone to blame, to have a post mortem. The trouble is that even the most detailed post mortem will not bring the victim back to life.
The only thing we can change is today and tomorrow. All good companies review their financial performance regularly and best practice is to do that as close to the event as possible. I believe that the best companies will have their detailed accounts ready for examination by the fifth to seventh working day of the month following, if you aren’t doing that or feel capable of doing that, then we should talk. So what is the purpose of what I would have once called an accounts review? We can’t change the numbers. We can’t change what happened. So why would we spend a morning, together, as a team, looking at the results?
The answer is simple. We examine the results to learn. To learn what worked well, so that we can replicate it this month, next month and forever; to learn what we could have done better and therefore to implement improvements which will create even better results next time; to learn why our ratios were better in July than in September, for instance; to learn how we get a better GP percentage at one branch than another, to learn why staff retention is better in one area than another; to learn what we need to do to perform at genius level.
It is the same with performance reviews, which we sometimes do call appraisals (I am not too sure about that word either). We can’t change what has happened, we can’t change the historic personal performance of someone but what we can do is to learn. How did the individual judge their performance, how did the boss judge the performance? Is there a difference? What does that tell us? What might we choose to different next time? What can we learn?
In short the only real point in ‘looking back over’ is to learn.
One thing I would like to learn is what you consider to be a more useful word than review. If you would like to send me any suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org they will be gratefully received because I really need to banish the word review.