Appraisal Methods
Results Method
Management By Objectives (MBO)

October 1, 2016
November 1, 2016

(because the dog ate my code)

"ANPAS is the world's most advanced performance appraisal system. Principles of psychology are codified in software, transmitted across the internet, and used to shape behavior in the real world." ~ Archer North 

Dear Archer North: I am curious to see if you can deliver on your extravagant promises. Let me know when the system is live.

The use of management objectives was first widely advocated in the 1950s by the noted management theorist Peter Drucker.

MBO (management by objectives) methods of performance appraisal are results-oriented. That is, they seek to measure employee performance by examining the extent to which predetermined work objectives have been met.

Usually the objectives are established jointly by the supervisor and subordinate. An example of an objective for a sales manager might be: Increase the gross monthly sales volume to $250,000 by 30 June.

Once an objective is agreed, the employee is usually expected to self-audit; that is, to identify the skills needed to achieve the objective. Typically they do not rely on others to locate and specify their strengths and weaknesses. They are expected to monitor their own development and progress.

The MBO approach overcomes some of the problems that arise as a result of assuming that the employee traits needed for job success can be reliably identified and measured.

Instead of assuming traits, the MBO method concentrates on actual outcomes.

If the employee meets or exceeds the set objectives, then he or she has demonstrated an acceptable level of job performance. Employees are judged according to real outcomes, and not on their potential for success, or on someone's subjective opinion of their abilities.

The guiding principle of the MBO approach is that direct results can be observed, whereas the traits and attributes of employees (which may or may not contribute to performance) must be guessed at or inferred.

The MBO method recognizes the fact that it is difficult to neatly dissect all the complex and varied elements that go to make up employee performance.

MBO advocates claim that the performance of employees cannot be broken up into so many constituent parts - as one might take apart an engine to study it. But put all the parts together and the performance may be directly observed and measured.

MBO methods of performance appraisal can give employees a satisfying sense of autonomy and achievement. But on the downside, they can lead to unrealistic expectations about what can and cannot be reasonably accomplished.

Supervisors and subordinates must have very good "reality checking" skills to use MBO appraisal methods. They will need these skills during the initial stage of objective setting, and for the purposes of self-auditing and self-monitoring.

Unfortunately, research studies have shown repeatedly that human beings tend to lack the skills needed to do their own "reality checking". Nor are these skills easily conveyed by training. Reality itself is an intensely personal experience, prone to all forms of perceptual bias.

One of the strengths of the MBO method is the clarity of purpose that flows from a set of well-articulated objectives. But this can be a source of weakness also. It has become very apparent that the modern organization must be flexible to survive. Objectives, by their very nature, tend to impose a certain rigidity.

Of course, the obvious answer is to make the objectives more fluid and yielding. But the penalty for fluidity is loss of clarity. Variable objectives may cause employee confusion. It is also possible that fluid objectives may be distorted to disguise or justify failures in performance.

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