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Making your next performance review a bit less painful...

Category Productivity
We're starting into that annual ritual at work known as the "performance review."  All management is sync'd up for their reviews on one date, and the rank-and-file follow about 4 months after that.  One of the key elements in many performance reviews is the "self-review."  That's where you have to come up with a list of things you've done that you want your boss to document and consider.

And if you're like most workers, you *hate* that task!  Not only is it nearly impossible to remember everything you've done over the last year (much less last week!), but most people think the self-review ends up being a case of "blowing your own horn"...  an exercise in self-promotion that feels uncomfortable.  And in both cases, you're right.  But you need to take steps to rectify the first issue and get over the second one.

Your "what did I do" list...  My wife got me into a habit about 15 years ago, and it's paid off tremendously ever since.  Using whatever editing tool you like, start keeping a daily log of what you did.  I'm not talking an entire journal page of minutia or an hour-by-hour description.  Just jot down the main bullet points of what happened.  For me, it might be something like:
  • April 14, 2007
    • Project X - started coding the design of the app, got the initial UI done, and gave it to the user to look at.
    • Trouble Ticket Y - helped Jermaine figure out his login problem on application Z
    • Staff meeting
    • Project Q - started with the design specs and submitted for review

    I can fill that in at the end of the workday, or just keep a running list going throughout the day.  The key is consistency...  you need to DO IT!  Then at the time of your annual review, you have 30 to 40 pages of day-by-day activities that you can use to list all the projects, help desk cases, and events you did.  When I wrote mine this year, I was able to produce a three page self-review in less than an hour that listed all the applications I built, the ones I maintained, any special training I took, and all other relevant details.  It was complete, detailed, and it took no effort on my part to come up with the documentation.  I've gotten to the point where I have a standard word processing template I use to track this for the week, and then I email it to my boss on Friday.  I told him that I really don't care if he looks at it or not, but it keeps me honest and accountable.  He actually *does* read it most of the time, and it means he's usually up-to-date on what I'm doing.

And for "self-promotion" worries...  Yes, it might feel uncomfortable.  But ultimately it's your career and paycheck we're talking about.  I used to have the same feelings until I worked for Enron.  There, the semi-annual review process was called "rank and yank".  You were stack-ranked against all your peers with the same title, and the bottom x% were strongly encouraged to improve or move out.  The percentages for the categories were hard and fast.  You would only have, say...  10% of the people allowed to get an exceptional rating.  If one person was moved up to that ranking and it went over 10%, then one person had to be moved down.  Very cut-throat.  Your manager had to present his staff to the review committee and make the case for their ranking.  The more ammo they had, the better chance you stood of ending up in a higher category.  Our manager understood the value of marketing your work, and he made sure we were selling ourselves big-time.  We would come up with "placemats", or full-color portfolios of our work and activities.  He'd hand these out to the review team and proceed to explain how come we belonged in the upper echelon of the rating system.  It may sound excessive or phony, but the bottom line is that it worked.  His staff consistently rated at the top end of the scale, which translated into significant annual bonuses.  And if you were ever a part of Enron's culture with rank and yank, you would understand just how important that was.  I came away from that experience with an understanding of how important it is to "sell" your work and value.  It may be that everyone depends on you, but when it comes review time, you need to have facts and numbers for your boss.  And if he already knows your value, he may need those to sell your raise and promotion to his boss.  That time you take to market your value and worth could end up adding thousands of dollars to your paycheck...

So...  make a commitment to yourself to start writing down a short list of your daily activities.  Use Notepad, OpenOffice Writer, Google Docs, whatever...  Just start doing it now.  If you forget a day, then start back up the following one.  It will take awhile to get into the habit, but I can promise you that the time will be well-spent and well-compensated when your next review rolls around.


Gravatar Image1 - That's right, Martin... crank up the pressure. :)

Gravatar Image2 - I have a blog on our intranet that I use for this...and I set my boss up with an RSS Feed right to his desktop.

Tags make the process of filtering the 'relavant' entries into a digestible portion that much easier.

Gravatar Image3 - I will admit that the review summary does have reference to my blog in a couple of places... :)

Gravatar Image4 - @Tom - I suppose that you also include some links to blog entries, to show that your evenings are spent reading some tech books. "Some tech books" - that cracks me up.

Gravatar Image5 - I used to do exactly the same with a Word template. I had it launch at startup and kept updating it during the day. After a while I let it slip - just an extra job to do each day. But I have to admit it did work at appraisal time. We're at that time as well and I wish I'd kept it going.

What makes this time of year worse is that everyone hates doing performance management - so the tool gets a lot of criticism. Which happens to be an in-house developed Notes app. Wish I'd been reading interfacematters.com when I wrote that one!

BTW - looking forward to your AJAX session at ILUG!!

Gravatar Image6 - My template is a simple Word document that I have stored on my Desktop. At the end of the week, I save a copy to a folder, rename the copy on my desktop, and clean it up for the following week. The numbers following the date are the hours I spent working on the different projects in terms of time sheet bucket and such. The Miscellaneous entry for each day is a header for items that don't necessarily fall into a project or a major effort.

Following is an example for this week (so far):

Status for Week of 03/03/2007 - Thomas Duff

03/03/2007 – Saturday
• …

03/04/2007 – Sunday – 2 ProjX
• Apparently there was a misunderstanding as to whether gate 7 was active for the weekend. I had to clear up some misunderstandings and request scheduling for some FWT for Monday.

03/05/2007 – Monday – 6:00 am – 6:30 pm – 4 ProjX, 5 NPI, 1 misc/admin
• ProjX – Monitoring, calls, and lots of reviews.
• Claims Suggestion Form – Started the design of the website, along with my initial testing.
• Miscellaneous
o Resolved an issue with the Bridged ACL application in which the designated server for the agent no longer exists.
o Closed the HDC for DTS missing certain views – change control successful.

03/06/2007 – Tuesday – 6:00 am – 7:30 pm – 5 ProjX, 3 UN, 2 misc/admin
• ProjX – Monitoring, calls, and again a ton of reviews
• Underwriting Newsletter – another training session with the users, and that went very well. Answered a few questions, and made a few design changes. We’ll move this into production on Friday.
• Customer Service – Answered a couple questions from user. Modified the IMT and set it up for a change control on Thursday.
• Miscellaneous
o Feedback review for a couple of people
o Meeting with user to discuss blogging a bit more.

03/07/2007 – Wednesday – 6:00 am – 8:00 pm – 5 ProjX, 1 CustSvc, 1 Suggestion Form, 1 External Comm Log, 1 Underwriting, 1 misc/admin
• ProjX – Monitoring, calls, and more reviews
• Suggestion Form – Demoed the site to user, and made a few minor tweaks based on her feedback. She’s going to test some more, but we’re probably close to going live.
• External Communication Log – Took care of a list of changes from the first round of testing. Reviewed them with user, and she’s going to go back and do more testing with the group.
• Underwriting Newsletter – Answered a few questions from user.
• Customer Service – back and forth with user about some details for going live with changes.
• Miscellaneous
o Took help desk case to resolve an access problem with user to the form repository
o Talked with user about some ProjY changes we might want to make.

03/08/2007 – Thursday – 6:00 am – 7:30 pm – 2 ProjX, 1 Search, 8 misc/admin
• ProjX – Monitoring, calls, and reviews
• ProjX Central – moved the single navigator logic for ProjX Central into test to correct an issue user was having. Notified him that he could start testing it.
• Underwriting Newsletter – answered questions for user.
• Search – weekly meeting with Customer Service to discuss issues from their testing.
• Customer Service – investigated an issue with duplicate webhit entries from a user in the IMT.
• Miscellaneous
o Resolved help desk case - an access problem with user to the form repository

03/09/2007 – Friday – 6:00 am – 3:00 pm – 2 ProjX, 4 Search, 2 misc/admin
• …
• Miscellaneous
o …

Gravatar Image7 - So... when will we see that 'word processing template'?
Anything that will get us started...

Gravatar Image8 - It's appraisal time for me too. I hate this time of year with a passion. I wouldn't mind so much, but reviews achieve diddly-squat where I work...

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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