Performance inquiry: A paradigm shift from performance management and appraisal

Mary Wilson opened by asking for help and giving insights into performance. The seating in the room was set out for discussions, and Mary said that she would be inviting us to share and ‘make meaning’.

The project that Mary was involved started by creating a really big dynamic, as a space was developed ready for the learning to happen for 59 children and 12 staff. By 2008, they were staring down the barrel down a system that they had tried to avoid. ERO was on the doorstep. They stepped back and thought, what is the research telling us (a now large organisation)? The vision was that learners know what they are learning and why they are learning it. Mary then shared the following quote, before opening the floor for discussion: “80% of people leave the performance review space feeling undervalued and less than effective in their workplace” (MacKergow, Solution focus at work).

English: Autonomy Mastery Purpose vs. Carrot a...

English: Autonomy Mastery Purpose vs. Carrot and Stick (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The reference to Daniel Pink (Drive) was timely, especially to carrots and sticks – will rewards get us the behaviour that we want? “We are born to be players not pawns, We’re meant to be autonomous individuals not individual automatons” (Pink). If you offer, for example, monetary rewards, all you get is compliance. Within this, there are levels of perception, such that if you have, as an organisation, structures in place, these structures will fundamentally influence what happens within the day-to-day practice. So, what is autonomy?  The desire to be self-directed? Freedom? Respect?

Purpose is incredibly important. “The need to be part of something that’s bigger than themselves and make the world a better place” (Pink). Mary says you only have to look as far as Encarta – a private enterprise product that was superseded by Wikipedia, a voluntary  collaborative effort.

Alongside Pink, Mary’s organisation also looked at the Gallup organisation (1 million workers over 25 years), which provide 12 core elements of employee engagement (Buckingham, & Coffman):

  • Know what is expected
  • Have the necessary tools & materials
  • Have the opportunities to use their talents every day
  • Receive recognition for accomplishment
  • Feel someone in the organisation cares at a personal level
  • Know personal development is encouraged
  • Feel that their opinions count
  • Feel that their work is important to the organisation’s mission
  • Have co-workers committed to doing quality work
  • Have a good friend at work
  • Have talked to a leader about their own progress in the last 6 months
  • Have opportunities to learn and grow

If an organisation does not fulfil the ‘What do I get’? then the whole cycle falls over, and each of the items is reliant on the others.

Mary’s organisation jumped in, and wrote a statement around Learning to grow: Growing to learn (the school motto) – “the entire cycle is based on deep personal inquiry and the regular use of high qualify learning conversations, When theses are used effectively they are a vehicle of growth to achieve our shared vision, core values and personal visions”. This was used to put together a one-page diagram that illustrates a cycle. Every staff member writes a personal vision every year, which is shared with the Principal and with another person who coaches them. For Mary’s school, the whole staff go on retreat and re-visit the inquiry performance process.

The presentation offered some valuable opportunities for touching base with practice in other places, as well as a set of tools and a process that any organisation could adopt and adapt.

Image: English: Autonomy Mastery Purpose vs. Carrot and Stick (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ ( I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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