Resources: Blog Post

January 26, 2016

Kill your performance ratings


Kill Your Performance Ratings is the title of an article by David Rock. The Director of the Neuroleadership Institute was in Toronto last week urging audiences to adopt evidence-based approaches to performance management and human development.

It may sound startling, but few people realize that many common management practices – those that managers rely on daily – are not based on any type of verifiable evidence that we would consider essential if we were designing them today.

Yet, managers and HR professionals cling to them despite overwhelming scientific evidence that they do not positively impact human performance.

David Rock thinks we can do better. He’s working hard to integrate evidence from psychology, behavioural economics and neuroscience into management practice that overturns decades of established wisdom.

Remarkably, practices most famously developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor starting in the 1890s, still favour management today. Taylor was the first to study how work gets done. His “time and motion” studies divided work into discrete tasks with managers focused on planning – and workers executing them. A manager’s role was to provide detailed instruction and supervision in the performance of each worker’s task.

Taylor’s efforts transferred control from workers to management just as twentieth century mass production methods took hold. A book published in 1911 outlining his techniques called Principles of Scientific Management remained influential for decades even though it was not founded in science.

Taylor believed, “it is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone.”

Not surprisingly, Taylor’s ideas provoked resentment and considerable worker unrest. Today, the notion of enforcement seems alien. It’s hard to imagine companies like Google or Zappos pursuing “enforced cooperation.”

Science is telling us that management practices designed to maximize control are demotivating and are at the root of employee disengagement.  Far from being cogs in an industrial machine, employees’ creativity, ingenuity, and engagement are the essential drivers of business performance.

David Rock is shining a light on defunct management practices. Re-imagining work and new ways of collaborating is the next wave of innovation.  After more than a century, isn’t it time to put Frederick Taylor to rest?

Tracey WhiteAbout the author

Tracey White is a negotiator, mediator and coach who specializes in strategic planning, execution, business operations, and analysis. She combines conceptual business acumen with a focus on metrics and data analysis to support evidence-based decision-making, planning and priority setting. Her strengths include Enterprise Project Management, Workforce Planning and Balanced Scorecard.

Tracey can be reached at tracey.white(at)

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