IN THIS ARTICLE
360 DEGREE FEEDBACK
resource manager anticipate and answer a broad range
Mhas withindelighted department
ANY A HUMAN
by the en-
Here’s how to construct a of likely questions on 360 feedback.
The final type of preparation re-
for the idea of implementing a 360 Stakeholder Map to identify lates to each decision maker’s posi-
feedback program, only to discover tion on the subject of 360 feedback. Is
that those outside HRD in the organi- key people and their degree he or she likely to be receptive to the
zation were groaning at the prospect. idea? If not, what might be causing
Staff and line managers in particular of commitment for your the lack of enthusiasm?
tend to think of 360 feedback as too Before you can create an effective
touchy-feely and as another HRD feedback initiative. plan for turning key people into
brainchild that will waste their valu- champions for your proposal, you
able time and budgets without pro- will need to decide exactly whose
ducing any noticeable results. support is vital and try to anticipate
Unfortunately, such prophecies BY RICHARD LEPSINGER their reactions. Once you’re clear on
tend to be self-fulfilling: If you don’t those points, you are ready to take
have the support of line and staff peo- AND ANTOINETTE D. LUCIA the next steps.
ple, it’s likely that any 360 program
will fail. So, how do you make sure Identifying key people
that doesn’t happen in your organiza- Addressing their concerns shows The easiest way to identify the key
tion and that you win the support of how the feedback program can help decision makers and stakeholders is
those people with their eyes fixed solve a specific business problem or to construct a Stakeholder Map. You
firmly on the bottom line? How do you achieve a specific business goal. To can do that alone, but you will get
make champions out of skeptics? persuade them, there are three kinds better results if you enlist colleagues
Essentially, there are three things of necessary preparation. First, you involved in the 360 feedback project.
you need to do. One, you have to ad- must have a sound grasp of what Step 1: Make a list. List all of the
dress business concerns instead of kind of business problem or need the people who need to approve deci-
presenting a 360 program in terms of organization is facing. You must also sions. Then, list all of the individuals
psychological benefits or value for in- have a lot of information at your fin- and groups that might benefit, be af-
dividual growth. Two, you have to gertips about 360 feedback and be fected negatively, or be inconve-
solicit managers’ input on the pro- able to relate it to the business need nienced. Don’t overlook members of
gram’s goals. Make sure it is their pro- or problem—ideally, by discussing your own team, and look for hidden
gram and not just HRD’s. Three, you how a similar issue was addressed stakeholders—people who may have
will want to involve them in the plan- successfully through the use of 360 personal reasons for not wanting this
ning and implementation. feedback. And you must be able to initiative.
Training & Development, February 1998 49
the vacuum is usually filled by anxi-
ety, rumors, and suspicion. What ex-
A STAKEHOLDER MAP actly is the business problem or
opportunity that the feedback pro-
Billing posal is trying to address? Effective
Customers communication is the most powerful
tool for eliminating this type of resis-
Credit tance and for building support.
Supervisor Whether your 360 feedback process is
a major organizational intervention or
M. Jones a modest effort involving just a few
J. VP, Human people, you can never communicate
B. Joyce VP, Smith VP, Resources too much or too often.
Marketing Operations When one of our clients decided to
use 360 feedback as part of a leader-
Auditor ship development and culture change
Your initiative, the CEO held a series of
Name meetings with senior people across
CEO the organization to explain why the
Your VP Accounting
Project project was important and what the
expected benefits were. In addition, a
senior manager kicked off each ses-
sion, answered questions about the
William Boyd MIS Contractor business’s performance, and dis-
VP, MIS cussed why the 360 feedback effort
was necessary and timely. After those
meetings, the level of enthusiasm for
the project rose across the board.
Step 2: Rate the stakeholders. Cate- likely to react to your proposal. Be- People aren’t involved in the plan-
gorize the decision makers and stake- fore you develop a plan for influenc- ning. When stakeholders feel that
holders you identified in step 1 as ing them, it’s important to know what their input hasn’t been taken into ac-
positive or highly committed (+), neu- each stakeholder stands to gain or count in the planning, they’re less
tral or willing to comply but not likely lose if your program is implemented. likely to be supportive. It’s human na-
to be active advocates (0), negative or Every stakeholder, whether an in- ture for people to support what they
likely to resist and oppose (-), or don’t dividual or a group, will view your help create. But apart from that issue,
know (?). Try to put yourself in each proposed program both from an or- people want to be sure that their is-
stakeholder’s shoes to view the initia- ganizational and a personal perspec- sues and needs will be addressed be-
tive from his or her perspective. tive. To better anticipate how they fore they’re willing to commit to the
Step 3: Draw a map. Next, draw a will react, answer these questions program.
Stakeholder Map similar to the one in from each stakeholder’s point of The most straightforward way to
the figure. Put circles around the view: Does this project serve the in- address that issue is to treat decision
stakeholders likely to support your ef- terests of my work unit (the part of makers and other stakeholders as
fort, triangles around stakeholders the organization with which I identify clients or customers. That means tak-
likely to comply but not support ac- most closely)? How might it affect me ing time to understand their needs
tively, squares around stakeholders personally? and involving them from the earliest
likely to resist, and nothing around stages of the decision-making pro-
stakeholders you can’t categorize un- Overcoming resistance cess. We suggest getting all of the
til you collect more information. Put Now that you have identified key stakeholders involved in clarifying the
the most important stakeholders— stakeholders and the degree of sup- business problem or need, identifying
those with the most influence over port you can expect, you need to fo- the behaviors on which to give feed-
your success or failure—close to the cus on the stakeholders you believe back, and deciding which method
center of the map. Continue to collect will resist the idea of using 360 feed- will be used to collect data. You
the information you need to complete back and those whose commitment is should also get their ideas on how to
the map, and update it as you learn required but from whom you can ex- overcome any obstacles they believe
more about your stakeholders. pect only compliance. Begin by clari- might stand in the way of successful
Your next task is to analyze the fying the possible reasons for their implementation. A task force or tem-
stakeholders. As a result of your map- lack of commitment. porary committee is an effective vehi-
ping activity, you identified all of the The purpose isn’t made clear. When cle for ensuring the involvement of
important stakeholders and catego- people don’t understand fully how key individuals and building their
rized them according to how they are multisource feedback will be used, consensus.
50 Training & Development, February 1998
For example, a major bank used a
task force to create a coalition of sup-
port and to ensure that the needs of COMMON CAUSES OF RESISTANCE
key people were always at the fore-
front of discussions and planning. At Here are some typical reasons peo- feedback would add value.
the earliest stages of the project, the ple resist 360 feedback. ◗ Encourage their participation.
senior vice president of human re- ◗ The purpose of the feedback Present your implementation plan
sources, who had been placed in isn’t made clear. as tentative. Ask for their input on
charge of the 360 feedback effort, as- ◗ Stakeholders aren’t involved in how to make it effective.
sembled 20 of the most competent and the planning. ◗ Form a task force made up of
respected managers in the company. ◗ Stakeholders have negative per- credible people who represent vari-
She made sure that each function and ceptions about 360 feedback. ous work units.
line of business was represented, as ◗ Stakeholders are concerned ◗ Make clear why and how this ef-
well as field employees. The task force about how the feedback will be fort will be different. Solicit sugges-
was involved in determining the pro- used. tions on how the problems people
ject’s goals, identifying competencies Here are some recommended experienced in the past can be
for effective job performance, select- actions. avoided.
ing suppliers to support the task ◗ Hold individual informal discus- ◗ Get stakeholders to experience
force’s work, and developing and sions with stakeholders to the feedback process as it will be
monitoring implementation plans. The review the reasons for the feedback used in your organization. Give
high degree of participation saved process and to answer any ques- them the chance to evaluate it.
time and helped move the project tions. ◗ Begin by using 360 feedback for
along smoothly and on schedule. Be- ◗ Link feedback to the attainment development only.
cause problems and concerns were of organizational goals while ex- ◗ Describe how the accuracy of
identified and resolved early, there plaining how people will benefit the data and the integrity of the
were fewer false starts and less need to personally. process will be assured.
revisit decisions and resell ideas. ◗ Ask stakeholders to describe sit- ◗ Give people control over their
People have negative perceptions. uations in their units in which 360 feedback.
If previous efforts to use 360 feed-
back in the organization have had a
negative effect, you can expect a new confused. We had been working with improperly used feedback.
initiative to meet some sturdy resis- them for several weeks to identify the We recommend that, to start with,
tance. Your task will be harder if, for key behaviors to measure, and they 360 feedback be used for develop-
example, the feedback was used in- seemed enthusiastic and committed. ment only, especially if it is the orga-
appropriately or a stakeholder re- But as we approached the project nization’s first experience. It’s less
ceived negative feedback without any phase of actually using feedback, they risky because people have more con-
support or facilitation to smooth his raised questions about the potential trol of the data and how it’s used. A
or her understanding—or if a stake- negative effect on recipients’ morale development-only approach also
holder contributed honest feedback and motivation. They also wondered gives people experience using multi-
and was punished for it. whether people are always able to source feedback and helps them un-
First, you must clarify the cause of complete questionnaires honestly and derstand how it can contribute to
a stakeholder’s negative perception. accurately. As the discussion contin- other HR management systems. If,
Is it based on firsthand experience? ued, it dawned on us that a lack of however, the feedback is intended for
Or is it a vague impression, perhaps firsthand experience was at the root of use in appraisal and compensation
caused by a colleague’s account? If it’s their concerns. We found that only two systems, the focus of your conversa-
the former, you can point to current of the group’s 15 members had ever re- tion with resisters should be on the
approaches for preventing the prob- ceived or provided 360 feedback. Our steps you have taken to ensure the
lems the stakeholder experienced, solution was to make the task force a data’s integrity and accuracy.
and you can ask for further sugges- pilot group. Once the members experi- Once you have determined each
tions. If the negative perception stems enced the process themselves, their stakeholder’s most likely cause of re-
from a general impression not based anxiety and suspicion gave way to sistance, you are ready to approach
on personal experience, the best way wholehearted support. the resisters identified on your Stake-
to change the person’s mind is to let Concerns about the feedback’s use. holder Map. The box describes the
him or her experience the process in Selling the idea of using 360 feedback common causes of resistance and rec-
a way that is perceived to be risk-free. for appraisal or compensation can be ommended actions.
When we first encountered resis- more difficult than proposing its use
tance among members of a task force for development purposes only. Talking it through
that was helping plan the implementa- Stakeholders may not want to be held Before you approach the stakehold-
tion of a 360 feedback process in a accountable for any potential prob- ers to discuss their resistance, you
large chemicals company, we became lems that could arise as a result of should have a plan. You should
Training & Development, February 1998 51
know exactly what you hope to participative, or collaborative? feedback program, you may want to
achieve. For instance, how will you ◗ Decide how you will begin the keep questions and checklists close at
know when you have gained their conversation. What will be your hand. You may find it useful to put
commitment? What exactly do you opening remarks? your plan on paper. But as you gain
want them to do? Once you have ◗ Think about what might make the more experience in winning over
made those determinations, flesh out conversation easy, or difficult. What people, you’ll find that you internal-
your plan using these guidelines: can you do to lessen the difficulty? ize the process until it’s almost sec-
◗ Consider what you want the stake- As you put your plan into action, ond nature. Instead of mapping out
holder to do—such as, lend his or her you can increase the likelihood of your discussions in laborious detail,
name to the effort, champion actively, success if you use your past experi- you’ll be able to plan them while dri-
or provide funding? ences with the stakeholder to identify ving your car or even in mid-discus-
◗ Consider the stakeholder’s goals, the potentially most effective ap- sion. You may also find that the
values, and needs. proach. You should anticipate his or general techniques described here are
◗ Consider what concerns he or she her objections and be prepared to an- helpful in a broad range of situa-
might have that would cause resis- swer any questions or concerns with tions—both in and outside of the
tance. well-thought-out responses. In ad- workplace. s
◗ Determine what actions can ad- dition, listen carefully. Show that you
dress those concerns. are listening by paraphrasing what Richard Lepsinger and Anntoinette
◗ Clarify the benefits of the propos- he or she says and then address those D. Lucia are managing partners at
al—both organizational and personal. issues directly. And be flexible. Be Manus, 100 Prospect Street, South
◗ Consider the stakeholder’s possi- willing to address problems and Tower, Stamford, CT 06901. Phone
ble objections. How will you re- incorporate others’ suggestions and 203.326.3880; fax 203.326.3890.
spond? concerns into your planning. The article is based on an excerpt
◗ Determine the type of approach When you first begin analyzing the from The Art and Science of 360 o
that is likely to work best with this situation and determining what it will Feedback, published by Pfeiffer, an
person—fact-based, value-based, take to create champions for your 360 imprint of Jossey-Bass.
52 Training & Development, February 1998