March 2, 2008

In a typical corporate environment, one has to get things done through interaction with a number of people from various internal departments. Though your work depends on contributions from multiple heads, only a few directly report to you and many don't even indirectly report to you. Sometimes situations become tricky when pleading, badgering, threatening, cajoling, praying, etc. don't seem to work. The only respite in such situations is escalating the matter higher up with possible onset of another set of problems like departmental blame game resulting in even more friction in intra-department working relationship. Is there a way out from this dilemma?

Take an example of a Brand Manager. He has to interact with various internal departments like sales, R&D, finance, packaging, and purchase over which he has hardly any direct or indirect control. Yet the poor guy is expected to get things done (after all he is the CEO of his brand) by playing hard-ball or soft-ball with all these agencies. Sometimes things move smoothly while many times too much heat gets generated from friction. Personal egos emerge and personal agendas come. Yet, like Titan, he is expected to slaughter all obstacles. This poor guy's life would be much easier if the people he regularly interacts with have some proportion of their performance appraisal based on how they help this brand manager achieve his goal. What I am talking about is - Activity Based Performance Appraisal (ABPA). Wow, it seems I have coined something fancy and hopefully useful!

So, what happens in Activity Based Performance Appraisal? Let's see using the same Brand Manager example. For the sake of illustration, let's assume that six people are in play – Brand Manager, Packaging Development guy, R&D guy, Finance guy, Purchase guy, and sales guy. Typically, a brand manager would be handling one brand while guys from packaging development, R&D, Finance, Purchase, and Sales would be working on many brands (say, 5 brands).

In this example of Activity Based Performance Appraisal (ABPA), 50% performance appraisal of the Brand Manager would be done by the guys from packaging development, R&D, finance, purchase, and sales while the balance 50% would be appraised by his immediate boss. Similarly, 50% of performance appraisal of guys from packaging development, R&D, finance, purchase, and sales would be decided by various Brand Managers for whose brands they work in the ratio of time spent on each brand while balance 50% of performance appraisal would be done by their immediate supervisors based on quality of their work related to their technical area.

Of course this is just an idea. For making it work, it would need company specific judgement and refinement. But once implemented, Activity Based Performance Appraisal (ABPA) would ensure that no one takes the other for granted. Things would move smoothly and lesser degree of follow-up would be required to get things done. Democracy will come to organizations!