Avoiding the Seat of Your Pants

By Beacon Staff

Everyone just loves performance evaluations – whether they have to give or receive them.

Employees tend to find them annoying because they’re often a useless exercise of “well, you’re doing ok, see you in 6 months or a year or whatever”.

Sometimes you’ll hear that you need to improve something, but more often than not you’ll hear nothing specific that you can really home in on.

For example, salespeople with easy-to-measure performance often get little in the way of feedback other than a Zig Ziglar book casually tossed in their direction.

That might help, but it isn’t the kind of feedback that helps you improve your performance. Quotas aren’t feedback and neither is a serving of Zig, no matter how helpful Zig’s advice can be.

Self-employed folks receive performance evals differently: in the form of testimonials or by not having our calls returned, or by something somewhere in between. Not unlike an employee performance review – you almost always know why and to expect what you got.

Don’t be the majority

The majority of folks just don’t get a lot of guidance on what they need to do and specifically how to get there. Some companies are better at this than others, but many fail to focus on it. Without specifics, why bother?

You don’t know for sure who is where on the quality food chain, unless you consult your “Seat of the pants” meter.

You might think you know because Joe talks about what he does more than Mary or Jerry, but it might turn out that Stefan (who you never see) is really the one putting out the programming that has the fewest bugs, the pottery that has lowest return rate, the timber framing that requires the least amount of shim, the websites that produce the best sales, the brochures that generate the most calls, or whatever.

All of these things are measurable.

If your business isn’t one of the ones I mentioned, there’s something that your employees do that can be measured.

You likely already know what to measure. But you might not be doing it, and you likely aren’t doing it by employee, much less breaking it down by time of day, days since the last day off, days since first leaving for a sick day and a half-dozen other important things.

Real world

Imagine that you’re trying to do this measurement at a construction design firm. There’s a lot of highly-subjective, hard-to-measure work going on there.

Who makes the best designs? And what does “best” really mean? You have to decide what “best” is because until you do, best is a gut feel.

That’s a terrible way to assess performance, particularly of complex tasks like architecture and engineering, and it isn’t any more attractive for less-complex tasks.

Without detailed measurement, you might not have an idea who is more productive with one task vs. another.

You might not know who does poor quality work when they take 1 sick day and hits their normal quality level when they take 2 days. If they happen to perform critical path, possibly life-threatening work on that second day, that seems kind of important.

Info like this can transform your company’s future. How? By improving the one thing that many companies don’t do well.


Shouldn’t that darned computer on your desk (or your yellow pad) be providing HR and management with a way to make a better hire?

Why not use all that performance data?

Instead of hiring someone who knows how to competently design 437 different structures, you may just need to find the master of all composite beam designs because that’s where your weakness is.

You know that because your measurement data knows it.

If your composite plastics expert just retired, you can still look at your measurement data to see which parts of that job should be given to existing staff. Next you can look across the entire staff’s data to figure out what company weaknesses need to be filled (whether promoting from within or hiring outside)

No matter what, you find someone whose strength is in the skills you REALLY need. Your performance measurement info will make a big difference when you start looking.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him via email at mriffey at flatheadbeacon.com.

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