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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 21, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Ah, the business/career advice book, that calm appeal to mature rumination in favor of some innovative approach! That is NOT this book. This is a would-be inflammatory polemic looking to send mobs of its readers, pitchforks and torches in hand, to overturn the oppressive and inefficient old regime and bring in a new and happier age.

Okay, I exaggerate a bit. The book is full of rational arguments establishing the dysfunctionality of the performance review ("PR""). The tone, however, is wholly unlike that of most such books. Culbert writes with the zeal of a righteous preacher, who knows sin when he sees it and strives to extirpate it root and branch. And he wants the reader to join him. He hammers away (sometimes repetitiously, as in all good sermons) at the evil and promotes a remedy at once more effective and virtuous, what Culbert calls a performance preview ("PP").

Other reviewers outlined Culbert's strictures against the PR, so I will not repeat them at length. My own experience has been that Culbert is spot on. The PR is irremediably one-sided, subjective, boss-serving, dishonest, counter-productive and backward looking. It leaves employees demoralized and concerned more about personal "faults" than business objectives.

The PP, as Culbert describes it, at least has a chance to create true teams, with everyone (including the boss) jointly accountable for achieving team goals that reflect business objectives. To work, the PP requires trust and honesty between and among subordinates and boss. Culbert recognizes that this can be difficult both to establish and to sustain and must be worked at. Without trust and honesty the PP approach will fail.

Culbert's views are anchored in his deep belief that a desire for useful work is a central part of our humanity. The work experience, he thinks, should thus be satisfying as well as efficient; and fulfilling as well as profitable. He believes that the PR makes attaining these goals impossible. He may well be right.

This is an interesting and passionately argued book, well worth the reading.
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31 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It was OK. I didn't particularly like it. But I didn't dislike it. I liked the title and was hoping for a well-written and well-organized tome that would justify the elimination of Job Performance Reviews in all or most companies that have subordinate employees. Unfortunately the book was more a rant than a researched and logical treatise on why America's workforce would be better off if they didn't have to be subjected to annual performance reviews.

The book is not all that long considering the line spacing was not single and the font size was larger than I am used to reading in a business book. It has 10 chapters and I would list them here if I thought that would help you understand what the book was about. But I'm not going to list them. The meat of the book is found in Chapter 7 entitled "There has to be a better way. And there is." The 12 gripes the author has with performance reviews are listed there as follows:

1. Performance reviews focus on finding faults and placing blame.
2. Performance reviews focus on deviations from some ideal as weaknesses.
3. Performance reviews are about comparing employees.
4. Performance reviews create a competition between boss and subordinate.
5. Performance reviews are one-side-accountable and boss-dominated monologues.
6. Performance reviews are thunderbolt from on high, with the boss speaking for the company.
7. Performance reviews mean that if the subordinate screws up, then the subordinate suffers.
8. Performance reviews allow the big boss to go on autopilot.
9. The performance review is a scheduled event.
10. Performance reviews give HR people too much power.
11. Performance reviews don't lead to anything of substance.
12. Performance reviews are hated, and managers and subordinates avoid doing them until they have to.

Some of these things I agree with. But some of them I don't. But that is not really the issue. What bothered me was that the substance of the book was squeezed into Chapter 7 and the other chapters really didn't add much to the topic. Chapter 7 taken alone just did not support the price of the book. In fact, Chapter 7 could have been laid out a whole lot better, and it wasn't.

I got the feeling that the author got a lousy job performance review recently, and by writing this book he was able to deal with that review. When I was going through grade school and middle school in my youth the superintendant of schools for my school district did not believe kids should get grades on their report cards. So I got Ss and Ns for "satisfactory" and "needs improvement." What a shock high school was when I all of a sudden had to get grades on my report cards. As I read the instant book I felt as though the author was as wacky as my old superintendent of schools. Progress reviews might not be the greatest thing since sliced bread. But they do have their purposes. And often times they are needed. And HR people are supposed to have leadership roles in organizations - not merely be subordinates like the author suggests. 3 stars!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
For everyone who gave it 4 stars and up, I have to ask, did we all read the same book?

Here's the issue (and a handful of other reviews mention it but they're drowned out by the positive reviews) THE WHOLE BOOK CAN BE CONDENSED INTO TWO CHAPTERS max.

It is not until you get to page 143 that the author starts talking about his alternative to the PR. Seriously, come on.. If we are reading this book, it's because we are looking for an alternative. I don't need 140+ pages for you to bash on the PR - we get it, it doesn't work, got it, let's move on.

So frankly, if you want to read it - just skip the rest and read chapters 7 & 8. The first six are a complete waste of time. You do not get anything out of it other than a rehash of things you know already - PR as they are done today are not very effective.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon April 23, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The book is interesting and certainly author Culbert is very passionate about the subject. At times, that passion can translate into a bit of belligerence when, really, if you have bought the book he's likely already convinced you by the first page. As with most of these types of HR books, the author seems to stretch the topic as far as possible (it might have sufficed as a white paper!) and there is a lot of rhetoric and then a few examples. I'm always interested in practice rather than theory but I had no doubt that Culbert knew the subject well and had some great ideas in there for better HR evaluation and incentive practices.

In almost 15 years in HR I've seen many different performance evaluation situations:
- ranging from 1 page to 5 pages
- some that require extensive written feedback, some that require almost none
- evaluations that have all the text auto-entered for the manager when they click on a rating level in each category
- I've had managers who deliver reviews in person/on phone to all of their employees and managers who only put it in writing and send it to the employee (despite guidelines to verbally deliver)
- I've had managers who answer phone calls during the performance evaluation discussion with their employee.
- evaluations that say illegal or inappropriate things, like "because she was on medical leave for four months, I didn't promote her."
- employees who visit my office to say their manager just gave them a bad review and it's the first they've ever heard that there was a problem
- evaluations that speak glowingly of employees, then two months later the manager comes to you and says they've had it and the employee must be fired immediately
- My own manager in HR invited me out to lunch to deliver my review. Does ANYONE want to eat while getting their evaluation, even if it's all good?

So yes, there are a lot of problems out there with performance reviews. However, if you do it RIGHT, you don't have the problems above. Have the right tool (online peer evaluation for example) and train your managers well, and performance evaluations will serve all the purposes they should.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
When I saw the title of this book, I was excited about the potential solutions it might hold. What I purchased and read was a 228 page rant about the evils of the review process and the incompetence of the HR profession. While I agree with some of his opinions, this is not a book that objectively reviews alternative systems, nor does it present a viable solution. The performance preview is even less likely to be an effective alternative than the review process it is supposed to replace. Save your money and keep looking.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm sure that Professor Culbert is a smart guy. I'm sure that he has an amazing record of professional success, and a client list that reads like the Who's Who of the Fortune 500. I also think that his argument has merit, and can perhaps serve to remind us as to the human side of management. However I would have rather read a 15-page Harvard Business Review covering the same scope of content, rather than this 256 page book. As a business manager I do not have unlimited time, and authors who take unnecessary liberties with readers' time do us all an injustice.

To summarize, the first 120 pages of this book repeat over and over again how terrible performance reviews are. I'm serious - some of the exact same sentences are repeated over and over, as if the editor just picked random places to paste the same content in. If you make it through the first 20 pages, you have the thesis, you have a dozen or so scenarios where fictional characters do things in a way that is obviously silly, and you are now ready to move on to the solution. Too bad you have to keep reading through the repetition of the same stuff.

When the author does get to his solution, an on-going conversation focusing on three questions between the manager and managed. I think this is perhaps the most useful part of the book. The questions are:

1. What are you getting from me that you like and find helpful?

2. What are you getting from me/the company that gets in your way and which you would like to have stopped?

3. What are you not getting from me/the company that you think would make you more effective. Tell me how that would help you specifically to do your job better.

Unfortunately, I think that these questions are best understood as only a portion of a larger performance management cycle. Professor Culbert assumes that staff members will be well informed enough to engage in this conversation with a level of maturity and self-awareness sufficient to yield great results. In my experience helping dozens of companies set up performance management systems, I know for a fact that even the most motivated of staff members cannot be expected to, on the whole, to function in the way in which Professor Culbert expects. Neither can most supervisors/managers.

I doubt that many senior managers will take this book seriously. In fact, most won't make it past the first 25 pages, as they don't have the time to waste getting through all the repetition. Most HR Managers won't take it seriously because they know there are valid reasons for comprehensive Performance Management systems which are not discussed in this book. Some Supervisors might like this book because it gives them some more ammunition to avoid doing what, for many, is a very uncomfortable part of their job.

I think though that Professor Culbert is hoping that he will get some grassroots support from the 'victims' of performance reviews. He certainly tosses enough inflammatory language around to get some people thinking of tar and feathering, and perhaps getting out their pitchforks. Maybe the inflammatory language is the key to keep people's interest through the repetition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book has a relevance to the current jobs crisis. Employers' practice of not hiring the unemployed in favor of the already employed may well be a legacy of the performance review-ranking system which corporations use to evaluate employee performance. Samuel A. Culbert's 2010 book, "Get Rid of the Performance Review," describes management's charge to rank employees in a "forced bell curve" comprising 20% most effective, 70% effective, and 10% least effective, in which the bottom group faces termination within one year. This may seem fair until one learns that the group being ranked is usually a group of homogeneously high performers such that a scientifically-based measurement of their performance distribution could not be honestly fitted by a bell-curve, hence Professor Culbert's use of "forced bell curve" and of management's "search for failure," meaning that management has not done its job until it finds candidates for the bottom peer group. And employees showing the most independence and initiative are usually at the highest risk. Milton said it best,

"Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
The infernal serpent; he it was, whole guile
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from heaven, with all his host
Of rebel angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers...."

Without a doubt the first employees to be laid off - to to asked to leave the company, to be cast out from heaven - are the bottom 10%, which may be why the unemployed in search of a job are lepered by employers.

This is "management science" run amok. There is a chain of ranked employees from 1 to N, and one can find out what one's "little n" number is by asking his boss. An employee can move up from position n to position n+1 only if the person already occupying position n+1 is moved down to position n. This ranking is done in slave-mart style by bosses in ranking sessions bidding up or down employees who are not present and who are known only to his or her immediate boss and usually not at all to the other bosses. It is understood that one's immediate boss lobbies for his own people, whether with a wink or not. Thus the bosses' own status, personal strength, and mud-pot perceptions of job importance at a given time - all play a role in where an employee winds up on the chain.

Anyone can peruse a text on statistics, even one published in a business context, and find a diversity of mathematically-known statistical distributions, among which is the bell-curve distribution, whose central limit theorem states that the sum of a large number of random variables is distributed about a single mean value. But usually in employee ranking the number of "random variables" - think employees being ranked - is not large and is not random but homogeneous. If management science really was a science, managers would have to work hard to measure the true distribution of employee performance, which probably would not fit one of the analytically-known textbook examples.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Get Rid of The Performance Review! How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing--and Focus on What Really Matters, by Samuel A. Culbert with Lawrence Rout (2010, Business Plus).

Overview: I've always detested getting and giving performance reviews (PR). Something about the process made it seem artificial and skewed toward whoever held the upper hand: Management. Professor Samuel Culbert (UCLA) and Lawrence Rout, senior editor at the Wall Street Journal, have helped me finally understand how PR can have unintended consequences for both manager and employee. In an accessible, immensely easy-to-read style with funny asides to the reader, the book feels like Culbert is whispering in your ear, Hey, you know this performance review stuff is such BS...you know it and I know it. In fact, he does say roughly that (I think he leaves out the "hey"). Without mincing words, Culbert presents PR with all its wants and warts. He analyzes the big culprits: Management theory, management control, and Human Resources (who he all but demonizes--overdone in my opinion). However, he demonstrates in the first half of the book why PR remains an ineffective, top down leadership tool. He then spends the rest of the book offering an alternative, the performance preview (PP). This performance preview offers a new collaborative model that holds both manager and employee responsible for success (in fact, Peter Drucker contends in his writings that managers are responsible for employee success or failure). The payoff comes later in the book when Culbert offers "Performance Review Guidelines" (pp. 198-202). Every manager would do very well to read the two conversation guidelines he offers--one question-based conversation for a new or recently assigned employee and the other question-based conversation about progress. Both manager and employee can significantly benefit from such conversations. And any thoughtful manager can benefit from this book.

Reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D. Blog: [...]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Samuel A. Culbert's newest book, written with Lawrence Rout, is titled "Get Rid Of The Performance Review! How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing - and Focus on What Really Matters." It is written with Culbert's direct, humorous, and practical approach to advising how to become better managers and human resource workers. It's not surprising, if you know the titles of the author's other books, that Culbert refers to the traditional performance review, and reasons to adhere to it, as something best found out in the pasture. This book makes a compelling argument as to why companies should get rid of such antiquated review processes, which according to the author do more damage than good, and replace the ritual with a more progressive, positive, and productive performance preview.

In the first half of the book, Culbert lays out his argument as to why we should get rid of performance reviews. He looks at the mess they have created, and addresses why everyone uses this method even though performance reviews are not working. Culbert is very clear that he's objective. In fact, chapter three is titled, "From My Point of View, I'm Objective." He lays it out why he feels performance reviews are so bad and how they are hurting those that use them. The "lies your bosses tell you" from chapter four would be more humorous if they were not so often true.

Toward the middle of the book Culbert starts to switch gears. He goes from explaining how and why performance reviews are bad to how people can fix the problem. One fix is to incorporate more teamwork between managers and employees. Then, in chapter seven, he explains his better way, the performance preview. The following chapters continue to explain and provide examples of how a manager, or company, can implement a performance preview system to replace the detrimental review process. On the surface, this method looks great. And if implemented, I believe it could create positive results. However, the key will be for managers and human resource professionals to adopt this different procedure for setting standards and measuring success. I can imagine people resisting this, because, after all, it's change. I think it would be positive change, but change nonetheless.

Culbert also includes a chapter where he addresses the most common concerns and criticisms (excuses?) for not implementing his performance preview method. He did a good job of answering these common questions. The book then ends with a couple of motivating pages to encourage people to more forward with a new and better way of doing things, and to put the performance review out of its misery.

I think this is a very good book for those in the position of evaluating employees. I highly recommend it to managers and human resource professionals. There are a few things that might help people work with employees more effectively, but the book is really aimed at larger companies that use the classic performance review model. For those in that setting, read this book.

Reviewed by Alain Burrese, J.D., author of Hard-Won Wisdom From the School of Hard Knocks.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I agree with Professor Culbert performance reviews are rarely useful,often damaging to the person being reviewed and almost always damage the relationship between the reviewer and the person reviewed. And yes, pay and performance are perversely linked. That's a summary of most of the book. Not until page 150 or so do we get much detail on an alternative. I was disappointed in the details of the proposed performance preview. First most existing performance review systems include a discussion at the beginning of the rating period. Second, most management training instructs that performance feedback is more important that formal reviews. Third, most management training also provides similar foundational advice regarding timely, specific, relevant feedback. Finally, Professor Cultbert's alternative requires a significant investment in time, energy and relationship and the author acknowledges that the bar is high for good performance previews. I think that if any manager spent a significant and comparable amount of time, energy and relationship while working within most existing performance review systems, then performance reviews would work well. In my experience, the key to effective performance reviews is the relationship between the rater and the person rated. Relationship may be the only thing that matters and I think Professor Culbert would agree.

If you are new to HR or management, this is good book to catch up on what's wrong with performance reviews and provides some good advice that you can use while working with the performance review system your employer provides. You will conduct many performance reviews before you are in a position to design a system that eliminates performance reviews.
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