A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.
– John Wooden
We all dislike the traditional performance review. People hate going in for them and managers hate writing them. Traditional performance reviews are 90% rear view mirror and 10% (if you’re lucky) discussion on the future. But feedback is still critically important, so what should take the place of the traditional review?
Toyota has a concept called kata, which Mike Roether recently described in his book, Toyota Kata. I’ll describe two forms of kata in this book, coaching kata here and improvement kata later on.
Kata involves first identifying the target condition, which is not the same as a goal. The target condition is the behavior or capability that is ultimately desired, not an intermediate point even if that point is a significant improvement. The actual condition is also identified, which is the current behavior or capability. Once those two end points are known, obstacles to achieve the target condition are identified. In a coaching or people context these can include training and knowledge, experience, or a change in behavior. Those obstacles are not ranked or prioritized, but are simply identified.
From that information, a next step is created – usually an experiment. The experiment in this case could include some form of additional training, a tweak to some behavior, and so forth. This experiment is run and the results analyzed and, if successful, it becomes part of the new standard. If not successful, it is learned from or further analyzed. Then another next step experiment is identified and run. Each of these experiments should be fairly small, therefore fairly rapid, creating ongoing further movement with little downside risk from failure.
The kata activity creates an ongoing coaching opportunity between the leader and the team member. Together they discuss and agree on the target condition and actual condition, and then the team member identifies, with coaching support from the leader, the small experiments. The team member evaluates the results, creates a conclusion, which is reviewed with the leader. Then they again agree on the next step experiment and timing.
Instead of a once-a-year ordeal, there is now an ongoing coaching relationship, respecting the team member by helping him or her continually improve with an agreed target condition. Expectations are clear. Clear expectations coupled with ongoing coaching respects the employee.