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The Top Pitfalls of 360 Reviews

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ReflectionsUsed well, a 360° review can be a useful development tool, but the wrong model could have a negative impact and drive poor performance. Claudine McClean, of Predaptive OD, offers some advice on how to make sure you implement a model that works for your organisation.


Feedback using the 360° model has been made accessible and affordable by the use of technology. Unfortunately this can mean that the 360° feedback process is driven by technology rather than the behavioural needs of the organisation and the development needs of the individuals. Make sure that the 360° solution you choose puts development rather than developers at its heart.

Data junk: Computer technology allows you to collect lots of data quickly, it also allows you to access lots of data. It doesn’t always allow you to make sense of that data. Think carefully about what information you’ll need before you start, then you’ll be focusing on your needs rather than the volume of data.

Paper trails: You can complete a 360° review entirely on paper, which may appear to be a cost saving measure, however, it can end up being expensive and damage trust in the process as personal information needs to be visible to others. Calculate the cost of producing and processing the paperwork before choosing this option.

Bamboozlers: There’s a lot to be said about 360° reviews and people often enjoy saying it. Watch out for people who tell you everything and anything about it without focusing on your needs. Your solution needs to be about your organisation, make sure you’re clear about what you need.

Politics: 360° is a very powerful development tool, it can also be used destructively. Make sure that everyone is clear about why 360° is being used and what it’s being used for. Be clear about who will have access to what data at the outset and there’s less chance of your project going astray.

Communication breakdowns: Communication is vital for the success of any 360° project, and most people work hard to ensure that the participants know what to expect, however it shouldn’t stop there. Anyone who may be chosen to conduct a review will need a clear briefing about what their role is and how they fit into the overall objectives of the project.

Feedback failure: 360° feedback is more than presenting charts and reports, individuals need help in understanding what the feedback means to them and how they can usefully change their behaviour to improve their performance. Providing active help and support as well as a development structure transforms the effectiveness of a 360° review.

The next big thing: 360° feedback can be quick and easy to set up, administer and roll out. Unfortunately this can lead to the danger of it being viewed as a task to be completed before moving on to the next one. To make good use of 360° feedback people need to make time to work on their results and need the support of their manager or colleagues to do so.

Garbage in: Choosing the right 360° review questions is critical to its success. There’s plenty of off the shelf sets and one of them may be perfect for your organisation, but hundreds won’t be. You can draw up your own set, but care needs to be taken in drafting specific, precise and objective questions to elicit meaningful answers. Poor question sets result in poor feedback and can drive negative behaviour within the organisation.

Trigger happy: Filling in a 360° review for someone else is a big commitment, the feedback each individual receives will help shape their behaviour. If the question set is onerously long, or if a few ‘tame’ individuals get selected by everyone for feedback, there’s a chance that respondents will lose interest and not dedicate the time and consideration needed for each individual.



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Annie Hayes

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