One of the critical factors for success of a 360 degree coaching programme is to be strategic in your choice of 360 degree feedback tool.  You need a tool that will measure what you want to measure.

One of the key questions I get asked is “Which 360 degree tool is best?”  Another is “Should I develop one specifically for my organisation or is there a good one that I can just buy?”

In this blog post I’ll share my thoughts on when an off-the-shelf tool works versus when it is best to design a custom-made solution.

[I should probably make it clear up front that I have no commercial interest in 360 degree feedback tools.  I don’t design them and I’m not involved in any company that does.]

Custom-made 360 degree feedback tools

Your starting point is to focus on the business goals and strategy.  For 360 degree feedback to be of strategic value, it should provide leaders with insight into the behaviours they must develop to help them and the organisation be successful.

Therefore, many companies fully customise the 360 feedback to the specific behaviours and characteristics that they believe will achieve their strategic objectives. For example, they begin the process by defining key organisational capabilities. They then develop a competency model that details the behaviours necessary to achieve those capabilities. The model becomes the basis for the questions asked during the 360 feedback.

Customising the process to what is valued adds importance and credibility to the process. People treat their feedback more seriously.  They can see how it directly applies to their jobs as well as the organisation. 

As you can imagine, such an approach needs a huge investment of time and money.  So, what’s the alternative?

Off-the-shelf 360 degree feedback tools

There are many off-the-shelf tools on the market that offer 360° feedback.  These surveys have been developed to cover many of the general competencies and behaviours that are important for success in most organisations.

There are three main advantages to using an off-the-shelf 360 degree feedback tool:

  1.  Time – they are available immediately.  So you don’t need to postpone any development until you’ve designed and developed the tool
  2. Money – it’s likely to be cheaper.  You only need to pay to run the tool and the report, not to design and develop the tool itself.
  3. Scale – you can complete a 360 degree feedback even if you have only one or two participants.  It only makes sense to invest in designing a custom-made tool if you are going to use it with a sizeable population.

But you still need to ensure it delivers quality feedback.  So you need to be sure the behaviours it measures are relevant and the tool is well designed and psychometrically sound (i.e. reliable and valid).

Next week, I’ll share with you my favourite off-the-shelf 360-degree feedback tool.

I’d love to hear about any you use.  Please let me know and I’ll compile a list of the top ones and share it with everyone.