360 Reviews

I'm a fan of 360 reviews for companies of all shapes and sizes. I was talking to the CEO of one of our portfolio companies yesterday about his company and he said "we have about 50 employees. is it time to do 360s?" I told him that he was well past the point where he should start them. He asked for some suggestions for web software to use. I gave him a couple suggestions, but I'd love to get more suggestions in the comments.

My partner Albert wrote a post last week about assessing CEO performance and I left a comment suggesting that a regular 360 review process is the best way to do that. In the case of the CEO, the review should be shared, and ideally presented, with at least a subset of the board in person.

For senior management team members, the CEO should be with the senior manager when the results of the review are presented. That gives the CEO the opportunity to discuss the findings and provide guidance, coaching, development goals, and more.

And the senior managers should do the same with the members of their team.

I've seen compaies use management coaches to run these processes and I think that is a great idea if you have a mangement coach you like to work with. A strong HR team can also do this for most companies.

I think companies as small as 10 employees can benefit from 360 reviews and I strongly recommend them to our portfolio companies. When I see a CEO or a management team resist the idea of 360 reviews, it can be a red flag to me. I like to think that everyone can and should get feedback on their performance, be open to it, and that they will certainly benefit from it.

#MBA Mondays

Comments (Archived):

  1. Dave Sandrowitz

    And when the prevailing corporate culture, a long standing one at that, has no real support for or interest in 360 reviews, what then? The easy answer is to get another job or look for other places to invest, of course, but what about making changes that might be effective over time? How can one move an executive team, as well as a company at large, to a more openly introspective and objectively critical environment?And as for tools for doing 360s, I’d love to hear of some too.

    1. fredwilson

      i think that culture comes from the top. if you think the culture needs to change, then you need to change the person at the top. if that’s not going to happen, then move on with your life.

      1. Alan

        Truer words were never spoken. We see this in so many companies, from the design ethos of Apple to the culture of deceit at Enron.

      2. Bill Ferretti

        The fish rots from the head, and if you don’t like the smell of a rotting fish….-:)

      3. Donna Brewington White

        Have so learned this the hard way! But, boy, have I learned.

        1. Bill Ferretti

          Fred is correct. Far too many CEO’s think it’s all about strategy. Culture trumps strategy every time. I’ve seen more startups fail because of dysfunctional culture than flawed strategy.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Me too, Bill, me too. Sad. But maybe it’s right that something that has to do with people is, in the end, what’s most important in determining a company’s success.(On the other hand, I know of some “successful” companies with horrible cultures. Although, I do have to wonder how much more successful they’d be and how much more shareholder value they’d produce with less turnover — some of these pay a ton in recruitment and training fees — but not to me — won’t touch them.)Last thing, I’ll say on this (maybe) is that many of the companies that have gotten away with having a poor culture were started in an era when people demanded less from the culture. Baby boomers brought a work ethic that unfortunately allowed many companies to take advantage of them. Companies coming up today won’t always have that “luxury.” Thankfully, we’ve raised a generation with higher expectations from their work environment. That’s a good thing.

          2. Bill Ferretti

            Donna, your supposition rings true with me: the more emotional intelligent (EI), the CEO, the healthier the culture. The healthier the culture, the healthier the worker bees, and the more productive the entire company. Two views on financially successful companies with dysfunctional cultures: First, time catches up with the company that’s systemically dysfunctional right down to its bone marrow. Second, I’ve found crazy (I could choose more specific clinical terms) CEO’s sometimes are wise enough to have key players who have high EI and employees know they can turn to these key players when the CEO is “off his meds” and behaving destructively. Not the best approach, but it often works.

          3. Donna Brewington White

            Yes! Yes! Yes! (and I think “crazy” is a good descriptor for a special breed that it seems we’ve both experienced — I say this carefully because in general I have high respect for people in this role)

    2. richardgarand

      Is it a resistance to 360 reviews or a resistance to honest feedback? If the company just doesn’t allow constructive feedback and Fred’s suggestion doesn’t work then the company’s competitors should make the point clear eventually.

  2. Jevon

    I’ve always found 360 reviews to be incredibly time consuming. The benefit is there of course and I don’t think I ever felt like it wasn’t worth it, but now that I am back to running a small shop (4 of us) I can’t imagine doing them any time soon.We are focusing on building feedback directly in to our daily routine and are trying to make it OK and safe to give direct feedback to people. The culmination of that feedback makes for a much more realistic and low-cost complete review when the time comes.I think Rypple (http://www.rypple.com ) or something similar will be the most useful tool to make this approach scale as we (hopefully) grow. 360 reviews feel like a vestige of a different era of information accessibility– you used to have to do it all at once because creating an ongoing process was not cost effective. It’s now a lot cheaper and more manageable to integrate feedback/reviews in to an operational plan.

    1. fredwilson

      I agree that the tools and process must evolve with advances in tech andcorporate culture. Continuous feedback sounds fantastic if you can scale it

      1. William Mougayar

        I agree with Jevon that continuous feedback with tools such as Rypple are the new way to go, and this can provide ongoing insights to all stakeholders.Directors should be concerned primarily with the performance of the company, and the CEO’s performance is a by-product of that.

      2. Mark Birch

        Fred, the 360 review process is what does not scale. I have worked at startups the size of 3 people to Oracle with over 85,000. Plus I have worked with clients to implement performance management systems across hundreds of thousands of staff. In every case, the results have been disappointing.The process is deeply flawed because it does not take into account current research in neuroscience and psychology that has shown how memories both degrade and morph to adjust to our natural biases over time. What this means in practice is that our ability to review someone becomes highly colored by our biases built over time. The longer the cycles between reviews, the more our review of someone will be based on our views rather than the actual performance of the employee (or manager in the case of the 360).The second issue is with culture and the purpose of reviews. If the culture of a company does not have an acceptance of failure and learning, then the 360 (or other review processes) becomes an elaborate dodge. The more crippling effect is that it affects behavior in that people naturally adjust to the expectations of the review rather than the expectations of the job at hand. What is meant to be a way to improve employee performance ends up being a ritualistic checkmark in the employee file for assigning bonuses or determining layoffs.I firmly believe that processes and technologies that support real-time feedback and recognition (such as Rypple) are the future. These processes align better to the ways that our minds operate, are easier to implement and can improve employee engagement as the process is imminently fairer, continuous and immediately actionable. The more significant benefit however is that it allows organizations to actually deliver on the promise of reviews, which is to improve employee and organizational performance. I believe this can also be used effectively in start-ups especially given the overhead involved in establishing a fair and transparent 360 review process. Real-time feedback that is recorded can be reviewed at given intervals to provide a clearer picture of performance and areas of improvement.

      3. richardgarand

        What would it take to get all (or most) managers engaged in the process as the company grows? There will be wider interactions in a larger company but there are also more small groups that could each do this on their own. If they get feedback from other departments great, if not they still know a lot about the work they’re doing.That might not work in a lot of companies though if the managers just aren’t good enough at managing feedback.

      4. ddebow

        Hey Fred – great post. Your core insight – people need feedback to learn and improve – is why we built Rypple. .Today, people all over the world use Rypple to gather continuous feedback after projects, goal completion, meetings, or whenever they want to know where they stand. And CEO’s and exec’s use it all the time to find out how they can improve.Rypple also facilitates the coaching that Geoff and others suggest is a natural compliment to feedback. People also use Rypple for goals and recognition, ultimately to re-invent the dreaded annual review as a lean, continuous process.Expensive perf review or consultant-led 360 reviews were great for the 20th century. But, Rypple is simple, social and effective solution for the real-time world we live in.As for scaling: it does, very well… We have customers with thousands of employees using Rypple all the time to gather anonymous, 360 feedback, recognition and coaching. Customer like Mozilla, Gilt and Hulu. See, e.g. http://www.youtube.com/user…Thanks again for a great post. Here are some recent posts that expand upon it:http://rypple.com/blog/2011http://www.bnet.com/blog/buhttp://www.zdnet.com/blog/chttp://wilsoninsight.com/bl…D.

        1. JamesHRH

          D – not trying to be a pain, but I am interested in your solution. However, I am not interested in signing up before I learn what you do and how you do it. How can I do that?

          1. ddebow

            Sure James. You’re not a pain at all!To learn more about what we do and how we do it, click “what is Rypple” on the home page, or watch the video walk through. We’ve got lots of resources on the site and on YouTubeTo learn from other users, you can visit* our YouTube channelhttp://www.youtube.com/user…* our LinkedIn page http://www.linkedin.com/com…* our facebook pagewww.facebook.com/Rypple* just shout out on Twitter – someone will answer.Hopefully that will help.

      5. Matthew Gough

        We have a SAAS platform that combines the full life-cycle from pre-hire behavioral assessment, automated and predictive reference checking [instead of using the phone model] and then post hire we have a product that encompasses engagement [seeing how engaged the employee is] and then a 360. All of this has the underlying behavioral science so we can predict future performance, provide valuable careerpathing feedback in real time. 360 alone is only one aspect, if you can track from the application/ hiring process, real reference data, engagement then couple all of that with a 360 you have an incredibly powerful snapshot of the employee. Interesting topic for sure… http://www.chequed.com, Matthew Gough.

    2. J.R. Sedivy

      Hi Jevon – I also lead a small team and am fascinated by your use of Rypple, which I am unfamiliar with. Do you use Rypple and if so has it increased your team cohesion and performance? How cumbersome (or lightweight) is the process as compared to a traditional 360 review?

      1. Jevon

        We are just getting started really and it is a small team, so I’m not sure it has made a difference in cohesion yet, but I think we are starting to figure out how to incorporate its use in to our day to day. That makes me think I am getting ahead of the “we didn’t do performance reviews yet!” panic that I have gone through before when a startup is a year or two old.

        1. J.R. Sedivy

          My concern is less based on “doing what we’re supposed to do” and more from effectively iterating the performance of the team. I like the idea of providing continuous feedback to iterate the individual and cohesive performance of the team rather than a single review event once a year, or even quarterly. It makes me wonder if you could potentially quickly iterate the development of a team as a team would a consumer product without having to pause the business to accomplish such reviews.

      2. Jevon

        re: how cumbersome is it? — it is very unintrusive and integrates well with Email, which is important for us right now.

        1. J.R. Sedivy

          Nice to know, I will give it a try. I am hesitant to add another Web tool to my ever growing list but this sounds worth checking out. Thanks for taking the time to respond!

  3. Anne Libby

    If the activation energy to choose the perfect tool feels too high, I’ve seen people use excel spreadsheets to good effect. The old fashioned 80/20 rule holds — you’re not going anywhere if you spend 80% of your review time on the tool.

  4. leigh

    360 Reviews can be a key retention tool especially in industries that have high demand skills. Why? Because people don’t want jobs anymore, they want opportunities. Opportunities most importantly to learn. Those reviews done right are a continuous learning opportunity that have people excited for where they are going next which usually isn’t to someone else’s company.

  5. Philip J. Cortes

    360 reviews are an important piece of effective management, absolutely. More importantly, though, I think communication amongst employees and their managers on nearly every single issue is critical. As a manager, you have to know what it is that irks your employees, frustrates them, and what the root of their anxiety is. 360’s should only be ways of reinforcing the constant feedback you should absorb as a situationally/emotionally aware manager.

  6. John Jones

    I recently developed a 360 process using our performance management system (Halogen Software). We received favorable input from those who participated. I believe one key to success is the process needs to be simple. Our process was a series of questions which were answered with simple mouse clicks on radio buttons (correlated to a Likert scale).

    1. jpwoodland

      The company I work for is currently evaluating Halogen. Do you like it?

  7. Dan T

    A real quick and easy tool to do this with is http://www.skillsurvey.comIt is typically used for pre-hire reference checking, but I have used it for internal 360’s as well. It requires VERY LITTLE setup and admin. There are hundreds of survey templates for different job types and the work to send out, collect and analyze the data is largely automated. I still remember the first I used it and the shock and awe at the response to “To what extent does Dan deal with criticism without becoming angry, frustrated or defensive” – LOW. My response – that’s a load of crap! 🙂 ah . . this really is good. full disclosure . .I liked it so much I invested.

  8. Tom Labus

    Let’s hope our wonderful Congress sees this post and comments. If anybody could use some 360 reviews it’s that crew.

  9. Michael A. Davis

    Fred,I think 360’s are great too but they can cause fragmentation as they are only people based not company based. I think that have a 360 of the company where the CEO/exec management gives their views and then those are correlated with what the empoyees view provides better strategic insight. We use QuadStrat at my firms from QuadRed, http://www.quadred.com/, if you want to see an example report ill email it over from our 2010 assessment.Thanks,Mike

  10. Tereza

    So…funny story — the aha moment when I put my finger on the essence of Honestly Now was precisely a 360 degree survey.The previous day, someone I’d worked with had sent me a 360 survey she was doing as a requirement from an Executive Ed program. And there had been issues and there were things that she needed to know but there really wasn’t room in the analog working relationship to say them. It had been weighing on me. And I was relieved to have had the opportunity, for both our sakes.Then the next day someone asked me a personal question — related to a procedure she was considering. It could have been any personal question, really — and I thought, DAMN, I really wish she could just ask me via a 360 survey. Because I want her to know, but I really don’t have time/emotional energy to break it to her directly. And I thought about how there’s really only a very, very small number of people in your life who can tell you the truth to your face (such as our parents).I know for sure it’s the case for women; but I do think for men too (though they may admit it less).So, yeah, 360 surveys are scary but have great power to transform.As such, I happen to believe they can be an awesome marketing platform for the people who can help us get from Point A, to Point B.In that moment, when you hear the news — you are very open to actionable advice on how to make yourself better.

    1. Anne Libby

      There’s also something to be said about creating the culture to allow for safe in-the-moment feedback, as @Jevon suggests. (That’s your mission with Honestly Now, right? Be honest, be kind…help others to present their best selves.)

      1. Tereza

        Yes! Exactly! It’s being yourself, but better. Understanding and activating your honest, best self. You can buy a book and do self-help, in an echochamber, or you can get the people who know and care about you, and the Pros who want to know you (who know their stuff) — to help you. And have fun while doing it.

        1. Anne Libby

          Standing in Barnes & Noble, if the shelves holding the “management” volumes were to topple, I’d be a goner. Books don’t unfold in same timeframe as our learning does. (Or, when managing people, our need for learning.)What’s so great about what you’re doing is combining feedback with the real time component. And it is fun. Even for someone in my demographic, heh.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            The real time aspect is key!

          2. Tereza

            Ha! You are our demographic.Real-time stats and voting are like tasty candy. Fun! Richer, text-based comments from experts are like nutrition.But eating only candy give you a tummyache, while all nutrition gets boring (too much work). I believe for sustainable experience, you need a mix.Random fact: did you know that the ‘self-help’ category, in publishing, is considered counter-cyclical?

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Interestingly, the thought’s been running through my mind that there is a business application for Honestly Now somewhere down the road.

      1. Tereza

        Absolutely. We’re seeing that impulse already, from several angles.

  11. Joe Siewert

    360’s happen annually for me, along with some other feedback mechanisms throughout the year. I have found the process to usually be a good thing, though I think it’s important for the manager to deliver 360 feedback to the employee in an anonymous fashion if possible. I have heard of cases where feedback comes back to the employee almost verbatim. On small teams it can be easy to pinpoint the source and can negatively impact that working relationship. Assuming that the feedback is negative.How do other companies conduct 360’s? Not sure if what I described is the norm or not.

  12. awaldstein

    360s reviews are powerful tools…but painful logistically to get done in my experience.In fact, as much as I’ve always pushed to make reviews integral to my teams’ culture they have always seemed somewhat laborious to get done even though the results are invariably surprising and enlightening.There is room for process innovation here. Now that behaviorally we have outlets for sharing like FB, Twitter, whatever…it would seem that this process could find a new, more natural, less intrusive format. I’m wondering whether new HR or management platforms are cropping up.

    1. richardgarand

      Rypple, which I just heard about the other day, seems like a first step in that direction. I’ll be checking it out when I get a chance. Interesting idea but you need to decide how you want to handle direct communication and how you want to handle anonymous comments (maybe best to have a good manager aggregate and them and put them in context to make them more effective)

      1. Katherine Duffy

        Great point Richard. The best insights come from 1:1’s with managers when their feedback is regular, and their insights are in context. The most successful way to have a the direct communication you’re mentioning is in a meaningful 1:1 – and to do exactly what you’re suggesting – aggregate anonymous feedback, with a well rounded view on the goals, actions, and achievements people have completed. That’s exactly what we’ve tried to do with Rypple.

        1. ShanaC

          Were you the people who presented at the NYTM regarding 360 degree reviews?

      2. awaldstein

        Thnx Richard, I’ll check it out.

    2. Mark Essel

      Was thinking of the continuous deployment framework for continuous feedback. The data is constantly collected but only periodically reviewed and dissected. This could improve sensitivity to certain signals that are identified as highest impact/catastrophic. But it could also raise awareness of responsibilities that slip continually.

      1. awaldstein

        I like this approach Mark.There needs to be some sort of social net to capture the behaviors over time and create an environment where input/feedback is voluntary, ongoing, unabashed and somehow ‘safe’.

  13. Kristalberg

    Yes, 360 reviews are incredibly important at all levels, as are development plans to enhance areas of opportunity. However, annual feedback tends to focus on what has happened in the last month, rather than thinking about trends in performance over the past year and providing constructive feedback on how to improve. I have seen the most senior of managers do this. Constant, transparent dialogue is critical, especially in a small organization, in addition to annual 360s.That said, all feedback is a gift and should be treated as such.

  14. carlystrife

    I work for a large company (10,000+) where 360 reviews were implemented two years ago and retracted about one year later. This is a company that is heavy on feedback and requires all levels of employees to complete 4 project evaluations per year. I think the retraction came after management realized bottom up feedback was not as critical or constructive as it should be in an ideal situation. There was no explanation for why the process ended but it is my assumption that staff and senior staff weren’t comfortable providing candid feedback to their direct managers for fear of retaliation or future bias on work.Point is, I think there needs to be better structure around 360 feedback for larger companies and I think it would be a great business idea to come up with some sort of enterprise tool that allows people to obtain feedback from top down and bottom up in a less formal process than filling out evaluation forms at targeted deadlines.

  15. Gregory Magarshak

    Hey, Fred. I sent you an email while you were on vacation, that we were finally ready to meet up. But there’s something with your gmail box. I just wanted to make sure you got it — sent it from greg athost:qbixcom. (address obfuscated from spambots)

  16. Peter Mullen

    Periodically I seen an article about 360 reviews. Everyone seems to agree they’re a good idea and then you don’t hear anything more about it…until the same article comes our a couple years later.Back in the day, companies had something like 360 reviews as a standard practice. They were called Suggestion Boxes. I think they were a pretty good way to allow anonymous suggestions, feedback on peers, managers, company policy, etc. What happened to them?

    1. Dave Sandrowitz

      They still exist, but are too often hidden in some rarely-visited corner.

  17. Arshad Chowdhury

    You or anyone interested in 360 surveys should know about ClearGears: http://www.ClearGears.com. It’s an anonymous feedback tool for teams. It collects data once a day, every day, making feedback part of the culture.I’m the CEO of the company. We’re a New York based startup working out of Dogpatch Labs near Union Square. 360º feedback is our business; contact me with any questions!

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Making feedback part of the culture…brilliant!One of the things that has concerned me as a search consultant is that when I go into an organization to learn the story and culture, there is at times a disconnect between the organization seen by the CEO (and possibly other key leaders) and the one seen by others further down the ladder. I know there are several reasonable explanations for this based on vantage point — but these are not the differences in perception to which I’m referring. I’m thinking of those differences in perception based on lack of feedback — and even worse, lack of feedback being sought or desired — or where providing feedback isn’t safe. And, yes, in the latter instance, I hear “Warning! Warning!”One of the things that excites me about startups is the opportunity to build health into the culture early on.Will take a look at your tool!(I use the term “organization” because some of the clients have been nonprofits.)

  18. Bill Ferretti

    Fred, I agree 360’s are useful sources of information, but I haven’t met a software program I like. I’m a cashed-out company founder, former GP in a small VC fund, and now an executive coach. I’ve found the most truth results from verbatim answers to critical questions. Some are stock questions. Most are specific to the company. Here are a few:1. Where is the company going and why?2. Is that the correct direction and why or why not?3. What does the team do that helps you help the company succeed? Please name names.4. What does the team do that hinders your ability to help the company succeed? Please name names.5….

    1. karen_e

      Our community guru JLM has a similar battery of questions he uses … cue entrance …

      1. JLM

        Took the 6:00 AM to Chicago, worked all day in Chicago, took the 7:55 PM home and just got home. Pretty good half days work.

  19. Tim M

    Problem is 360’s require effort, thought, and planning – commonly lacking in management teams.One place instituted 360s (company of about 30), strongly suggesting everyone should review everyone else (that’s a lot of paperwork) and then the CEO decided that, to avoid “people being bitchy”, he’d review them all and discard any that were “blatant whinges and flattery of colleagues”. End result: he threw away any that he personally didn’t agree with the sentiments expressed, then handed out them out to management to do the reviews, but with a quick word about his own verdicts on how accurate they were. Whole process took months and thoroughly de-moralised the staff.360-theatre… and this CEO came from high up in a very well known successful company

    1. Bill Ferretti

      All too common, Tim. If one thinks about it, start-ups are typically small, fragile entities managed with more passion than precision. And too often have to slay dragons to prevail and succeed, so here’s the greatest benefit of 360’s: they help the dragon slayers find out vital (as in life and death of the start-up) information. Which swords to sharpen, who we can best work with (and trust), and by far the most important thing: who we are. If we know who we are, we become better dragon slayers.

  20. Andy Parkinson

    I co-founded a company called Envisia Learning in 2003 that specializes in 360 degree feedback. My co-founder has been designing and administering them for over 25 years.A lot of people miss the point of 360’s. They need to be positioned as a path to meaningful and sustained behavior change. They’re a starting point that helps people understand what they’re good at and what they need to work a little harder on.What is being asked is integral to the process, as is whats being done with the information that the reviews uncover. Many HR folks tasked with devising a 360 process don’t know what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and don’t communicate the goals effectively. They also think their company is “different” and requires a custom, unvalidated questionnaire, which is usually written very poorly. Then they treat the 360 as an event instead of a process. Its frustrating to see and they don’t usually last as clients very long.Then we see the companies who do it right and remain our clients for years (because the process works). They tell employees that the 360 process is for their own good and its completely anonymous (management will not see results unless employees want them to)… That its only for employee development and will not be used for hiring/promotion activities. They use validated questionnaires that ask questions that makes sense and fits the scale. They offer one-on-one coaching or workshops to help people make sense of the feedback. They have someone that helps the employee set good, actionable goals. Someone checks in periodically to see how goals are progressing. The employee has a way to check back with the raters a few months later to see if they have noticed a change.Its not unlike the lean startup model. Gain awareness, seek advice, do something, see if its working, do something else. The real work should start after the awareness. Thats the process. Usually its expensive to do this and requires some one-on-one coaching. Its usually reserved for the executives and those with the highest potential. Our mission is to build technology that augments the classic 360 process so companies see more successful behavior change to all levels.360s are still as relevant as ever for a once-a-year starting point. What we offer thats different is a goal-setting system that helps people figure out what to work on based on their results, set good behavior change-oriented goals, define action items, find books/websites/seminars that will help them work on those goals, allow them to invite their managers to see how they’re progressing, we send weekly emails asking or updates on the goals (nag-by-technology works), then when they’ve done some work we give a way to ask for quick feedback on whether or not people around them notice a change.If anyone has any questions about the 360 feedback/employee development process, and how it might work in a startup environment, ask below and I’ll be happy to answer.

  21. willcole

    If the CEO/management has taken venture funding, then 360 reviews should be required. It’s just part of the deal. The board is making those kinds of judgements on the CEO anyway, so this is just additional data to work with.If the CEO owns the company out right it still may be a good idea, but you get to do whatever you want. That should be the trade off.

  22. Geoff

    Fred, I agree with your post that giving and receiving feedback is critical and building it in to the culture is essential for sustainable success. Online tools can support the practice. But as you mention, what is equally important is what is done with the feedback. Often the feedback can lead to a need for behavior change and it is not easy for people to change their behaviors on their own, even once they are made aware what others see in them.The best way I know of to support behavior changes is through coaching. A manager can help but a trained, professional coach is the most effective. Of course, selecting the right coach is key, as is the process around the coaching. Most large companies do coaching now but don’t have a good way to manage the process. And smaller companies and individuals often don’t have access to enough coaches to ensure a good fit.I started my company, Scout OnDemand, to solve these problems. Scout offers a web-based solution that helps our customers efficiently manage coaching initiatives, including finding the right coach for the job. We are in private beta and will have openings for another 1-2 additional beta customers shortly. I’ll send you a separate email with my contact info in case there is any interest.[hope everyone found this comment helpful–please give me your feedback! 😉 ]

    1. Bill Ferretti

      OK, here’s the Dirty Little Secret About Coaching. I founded a company I ran, became an LP of a small VC fund, and after finding a home run deal that returned the entire fund and more, I became a GP of the second fund. All this time, I sat on boards as the Fund’s VC, and I saw big name (I mean BIG) coaches come and go. Most flopped. Here’s why: the founder/CEO could always outwit the coach to the point where unless the coach was willing to tell the board the coach was a liar, the founder/CEO was able to avoid dealing with the feedback he (they all were males) needed to hear and act upon. So what’s the Dirty Little Secret About Coaching: unless the coach is very gutsy, the coach’s work is only as good as the founder/CEO’s integrity. I’ve told founder/CEO’s to resign, or else I’d give the board reasons why he should. It’s nasty business, but it works.

      1. Geoff

        Agreed, Bill. If the coach doesn’t give the client good, real feedback on what he sees, then he’s not doing his job. And the client’s manager (or Board members, in this case), should definitely be in the loop. Unfortunately, my experience is that some coaches are not willing to be honest in the face of potentially losing a gig. That’s not good coaching or a good coach. I don’t care how big their names are. This is about supporting the client and the company. He’s not doing that if he’s not providing clean, clear feedback to the key stakeholders. He’s just hurting his client and the company.

        1. Bill Ferretti

          Jeez, Geoff, I was tough on the Big Name coaches. Typically they insist they’re working for the CEO, and they can’t say anything to the board w/o the CEO’s permission. It’s rooted in the time when all coaches were Industrial Psychologists, and the doctor-patient relationship was sacred. I don’t play that game. If I feel the CEO exhibits pathology requiring a psychologist, I bow out and encourage the CEO to seek help–and give the CEO reasons why it’s in his best interests to do so. Otherwise, I work for the organization. Unfortunately, there are a few coaches who view an engagement as a stepping stone to future engagements and referrals and appear to be reluctant to operate with complete candor.

          1. Geoff

            Yep, I agree, Bill. Let’s connect offline and talk more. You can find me at geoff at scoutondemand.com. I’d love to share more with you about Scout and get your feedback. Hope to hear from you.

          2. Bill Ferretti

            Geoff, I’m at bill.ferretti at me.com

      2. JLM

        Here’s the problem, you should not have to ever tell a CEO to resign, you should just fire him. If you are the Board, then he works FOR you.Nobody ever really is given power, you take it. The power held by a Board is meant to be absolute. The CEO messes up, the Board FIRES him.Think back about when Pres Obama had the run in w/ Gen McChrystal. McChrystal who was simply insubordinate and should have been summarily dismissed, reduced in rank and relieved of his command. Because he had not been a full General (4 stars) for three years, he should have been retired as a Lt General (3 stars). Instead Pres Obama approved his retirement as a 4 star.Instead the President praised McChrystal, allowed him to retain his rank and Sec Gates gave him a Def Dist Svc Medal and Gen Casey (Army C of S) gave him a Dist Svc Medal.This was all a slap in the face to Pres Obama. And Pres Obama was so clueless and unable to “command” that he did not even understand he had just been punked by the entire military establishment.Pres Obama should have relieved that jack ass and retired him in disgrace.Folks in charge — boards included — need to take charge and be in charge. Including reaming out a CEO who messes up.

  23. Donna Brewington White

    Taking this a step further, I worked with a search firm that took a 360 approach to interviewing references. Nothing so formal or sophisticated as what is conjured up by the concept of 360 reviews, but the same general principles and in the end a comprehensive view of the person.The president of this firm argued that this approach was more reliable than assessment tools. (Personally, the jury in my head is still out on this — although I have adopted this particular approach to references either way.)BTW, I have found that direct reports are highly valuable references.But references are another topic altogether. If not done well, a waste.

  24. Ed O'Boyle

    We just completed our first, company-wide review process that included some elements of a 360 reviews. The tool we settled on was reviewsnap.com, we looked at half a dozen or so SaaS review tools. Turns out we completed the process before implementing reviewsnap, using email surveys and keeping it ultra simple – we were just 12 employees at the time.I did all the coaching sessions and reviews and found the 360 feedback highly valuable, in our case, nearly every team member is an (internal) customer of everyone else.

  25. Donna Brewington White

    Very interested in this! Regardless of the tool, feedback is crucial!

  26. Geoffrey Vitt

    As an entry-level employee I initially resisted these, mostly due to the massive commitment it takes in order to do them well, but in retrospect I can point to few other experiences that were as helpful in my development than 360s.A couple of keys: 1) Feedback has to be grounded in examples, 2) Make reviewers aware of the recency biases in their feedback, 3) Ultimately nothing replaces timely on the spot feedback and the 360 shouldn’t be the only place managers, teammates and individual contributors are sharing feedabck.As for the tools, I’ve used incredibly complex tools (at work) and much simpler ones (at BSchool) and the only real difference I’ve noticed is in how the reports are generated for managers.That said, Rypple looks pretty awesome!

  27. Tereza

    One really interesting use case which had an impact on my came from AmEx. I don’t know if they still have it, but they used to have a really rich feedback process.It was semi-annual, so the 6-month was non-permanent, a mid-year check, while the year-end is what counted for comp, promotions, etc.But in addition to the required half-year checkpoint — which everyone tool seriously but it didn’t count, giving people time to course correct — was that they did a lot of training around HOW to give good feedback. It must be timely, actionable etc. And then, each recipient would evaluate the quality of the feedback (not ‘was it true’, but is this timely, actionable, etc.) And also superiors would evaluate the feedback you gave to your team. So lots of “feedback on the feedback”.It had the effect of stripping emotion, getting to the facts and was the foundation of a learning culture that walked the talk.I write this sounding like I actually worked there. In fact I only had a bunch of friends there….but they talked about it so much, it left an impression on me!

    1. falicon

      I was just going to ask you if you actually worked there at one time….in a previous life I actually was a developer in a call center down in Greensboro (which they just recently announced they are shutting down)…it was a long time ago (I left in ’99 to move to NY when I met my wife [and the internet boom at the time didn’t hurt either])…and it was my last time as a dev. in a large corporation (I’ve pretty much been a small firm/early stager since — a tough world, but one that I love)…but they were doing 360s even back then (and 6 sigma too)…and, even as a low level, young, programmer, I did find them useful in improving my performance….

      1. Tereza

        I wish! It’s the best example I’ve heard of to drive the ‘learning organization’ down to the cellular level. My understanding was it was from Ken Chenault all the way down.The period I had exposure to it was the 1997-2000 timeframe.It’s the best practice I’ve heard.

        1. falicon

          yeah….because of things like that, I really liked my time at American Express…and I’ve always said that if/when I was ready to check-out of the startup world…going back to just being a 9-5 programmer there would be a great way to wind down my career (though the reality is I don’t think I could ever go back to a large company like that any more) 😉

  28. paramendra

    Sounds like a theme for another MBA Monday series.

  29. ceonyc

    This was one of the few things that was actually good about working at a big company like GM. These kinds of HR tools were taken really seriously and it was a great forum for feedback.

    1. fredwilson

      one of the few things!

  30. Kyle Crafton

    I’m presently experiencing a very well-refined and effective employee review process at McMurry (about 150 employees).360 reviews are one leg of a three legged stool – the other two are self-assessment and manager assessments. Only once all three are completed, a manager (in Fred’s CEO example, it could be a board) looks for “themes” that emerge. These themes then flow into specific goals for the next year — usually 10 to 20 of them. As Fred suggests, managers (or the CEO) are present to review assessment results and present goals. And top executives make their annual goals available to all staff – their goals reference a lot of teams and individuals by name, and it’s incredibly helpful to know how you or your department plug into the goals of leadership.The system has worked and scaled very well, partly because it’s been tweaked for many years, and partly because from a tech standpoint it’s become highly automated. It flows out of the company intranet and the associated staff directory, which employees are using everyday anyway, as opposed to being a separate web tool. Soliciting 360 feedback is done at the touch of a button, and as a manager, all three assessments are collected in one place and can be grouped together to help identify themes and then craft goals. It’s a custom built system, but we’ve actually started to sell our intranet software to third party clients in recent months. The review “module” hasn’t been a part of the package yet, but it easily could. To me, it’s a refined process for reviews that is the solution that most companies need help with, not merely a tech application.It really is a lot of work for a manager to assemble a complete set of assessments for each employee and turn those into the review and goals. The number we use internally is 40 hours, and the process typically starts up to three months before the review & goals are delivered. But it’s hard to overestimate the benefit that such a thorough process has on morale and performance. Or what the impact is when you DON’T have this type of process in place.

  31. Stbn Cortés

    Very interesting post, and even more interesting comments. I work for an IT company as part of the HR area. And we have been using Clear Gears for a while now.If you worry about 360° reviews being time-consuming, skewed, boring, difficult to understand, uneasy to answer, etc. etc. etc. you should definitely take a look into http://www.cleargears.comWe have different profiles on each team, and this system allows the questions to be asked according to the profile of the person, which is better than asking general questions.Another big plus, is that they are a startup, so all feedback is very well treated and they are supercool about requesting assistance.If you are from the HR world, this is a great tool to consider for your organization.Have a good one!Stbn

  32. Erik

    Important to do early and often—check out http://www.viapeople.com, run by close friend and former ceo of one of the portfolio companies in one of my prior VC funds—great company and solid offering, does lots of work in PE as well.

  33. Ric

    Fred – they might like to have a look at http://www.yackstar.com/fea… – aims to help with continuous feedback and recognition inside “E2.0” social software

  34. Dan Abdinoor

    We’ve been using 360 reviews at HubSpot since the early days. We started with more detailed forms but moved to a simpler format over time. We just use Google docs to build out a form and ask a few questions:where did the person exceed expectationwhere did the person not meet expectationwhat should the person do to improveWe have some other culture stuff but in all it’s a fairly quick review process. Our only problem now is trying to find a way to make it happen more often. Instead of doing a review each year we’d like an employee to ‘click a button’ and get an on-demand review. Or otherwise do them each quarter.

  35. GeekMBA360

    How often do you think a company should have 360 Reviews? I don’t like the once-a-year, traditional review model. It’s too late and too little. In a start-up environment, things move so quickly, it’s important to get near real-time or real-time feedback to make the corrections/adjustments.I think it’s much better to have quarterly reviews (probably with a smaller set of people), and then an annual review with a broader review group.

    1. Bill Ferretti

      Apt question. I believe less is more, so if the 360 is executed well, and the findings are robust, annually may be adequate. I also believe form follows function, so if the findings, however, reveal dysfunction, selective 360 efforts should be done more frequently.

      1. GeekMBA360

        Thanks. I agree that there needs to be a balance.One thing I notice is that people tend to have short-term memory, and they tend to bring up issues from the 3-6 months prior to the review time. Conversely they will forget the great things you did 9-12 months ago. :-)However, if a CEO can establish an open culture that is conducive for providing and receiving feedback, even without the formal 360 review, he/she will still be able to get some timely and honest feedback.

    2. fredwilson

      it all depends on how efficiently you can do them. once a quarter is great if you can do it without sucking up too much time

  36. JLM

    I am decidedly cool on the concept of 360 reviews — in the context that they are a breakdown of the normal hierarchy of a company with subordinates embracing an inappropriate role in evaluating their superiors, they undermine leadership and they bastardize “normal” corporate governance.The CEO works for the Board and keeps that job only as long as the Board is happy. There should be some written documentation of that concept in an Employment Agreement and there should be some rigorous strategic planning, business planning and SMART goals which frame what is going to make the Board happy. This is where the time should be spent by the entire Board.Someone on the Board — typically the Chairman of the Board — has to be the primary point of contact between the Board and the CEO; and, the CEO has to return the favor by keeping that individual and the Board fully informed as to what he is doing. At all times. This is simple communication and I am a fan of over communication.The CEO should share his musings in addition to rigorous updates of budgets, plans, forecasts and all the normal scorekeeping planning tools.It takes time and it takes effort and it takes a bit of wisdom and it takes a bit of experience on the part of the anointed Board member. It may take a bit of beer and golf and fishing.I would never work for a Board who thought it should delve into the “opinions” of my subordinates in evaluating my performance as a CEO. Man up, Board boys, grow a pair and get in the CEO’s wheel house. Just do your damn job and stop trying to use the words of others to support your own concerns. Look the CEO in the eyes with the report card in hand and wag your finger at him. Then stand back and listen.A shrewd CEO conducts an anonymous Company Survey annually and asks the company itself the tough questions — but only if you are a CEO who wants to be the best at what you do. The CEO is not going to wait until the Board does something like that to become apprised of what is going on in his own company. Not if he secure and wants to bite the ass off a bear.”If you were President of this company, tell me three things you would immediately do.””What do you think I do not know that I should know?””Who is the company’s MVP and why? Biggest suckup?””What is the worst thing I did this past year as CEO?””What are my blind spots?””Tell me what we can do to improve.”When a CEO asks these questions — anonymously please note — it is because he really cares about his performance and wants to know the answers. Not the Board, the CEO.I also like a Board Survey and ask similar questions of the Board. I like the Board to have to answer openly and honestly and not allow things to be bottled up or to fester or to become big problems. Kill the problems when they are small and not lethal.What I have found interesting through the years is not once have I ever had a Board ask my opinion of their performance. Not once.People need to spend quality time together discussing things and investing time in relationships that are important to long term success. I am not a natural at this but I make it a point to take each and every one of my managers out to lunch or some other low pressure environment and let the tension release and follow their lead. They think we are just having a casual BBQ but I am examining them with a microscope.

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t think you an evaluate a CEO unless you know how his/her team feels about his/her performance

      1. So so wrong

        Sorry to say, but you’re exactly wrong, Fred.360 degree reviews are counter-productive due to the reasons JLM lays out and more.360 degree reviews are a highly politicized exercise in waste.One of the best parts of startups is they don’t have a lot of politics. Your advice to these startups, while well intended, will only make those startups lose that good thing. C’est la vie.

        1. Tim Myles

          “One of the best parts of startups is they don’t have a lot of politics” – really? I want to work in your start-ups!Personally, I think the *method* of feedback isn’t as important as the culture. Have you cultivated a culture where sub-ordinates feel able to speak up against their managers/senior organisation figures. If you have, the actual methods you use to collect and respond to that feedback are neither here nor there. People get caught up in the system…it’s more about the principle in my opinion.Interested to know if anyone has worked specifically on cross-culture feedback systems. I’m working in India (in a tiny NGO) for a year. There is obviously a very different way of working here. As the internet breaks down geographical barriers we’re going to see more people from different cultures working together in remote teams. Understanding different people’s cultures and incorporating that into feedback systems is going to be a huge challenge.

  37. Bill Phelan

    I serve on a Board of a Company doing $1.5 billion in revenues. A very progressive team with a culture where feedback loops are baked in. All the normal feedback loops you would imagine are covered. The Board is included in the entire process. The interesting dynamic is that the Board is also included in the feedback loop, with the management team rating Board members on the quality of their input and value add. Board members also rank other Board members on their value and contribution. I think there is quite a bit of value in this concept.This thread was very helpful to me because we are overdue for this in our own business. I am going to discuss this with our Board so they know we are undertaking it, and be sure they know they will be reviewing my results. I will also be asking them to be included in the process and hear the feedback of our team members on the value they perceive from our Board.This was also very helpful to get educated opinions on the “tools of the day” to accomplish the task. Thank you for this.

  38. Rick_Robinson

    i’d been considering this subject for some time, and planning to go after it by launching a “my360” model where individuals could launch a 360 at any time, or give one to someone else anonymously. since then i’ve pared the it to a much more focused idea: skinnyonme.com (and skinnyon.me). while not launched the micro pitch can be found here: http://sonicgleek.com/i believe in making reviews private and honest – on both sides – but also useful: not just about work performance but on just about anything – style, manner of speaking, quirks, bad habits, etc.”There comes a time when you just need to know. You need to know what people really think, but you also want to spare yourself embarrassment and anyone else the need to mumble sweet lies.Enter skinnyonme.com.Soon you’ll be able to request reviews anonymously (and offer them as well) in a private forum with skinnyonme as the facilitator. Gather up your questions and get ready to hear the skinny on, well, you!”interested in helping?

  39. Scott Allison

    We’re not focused on reviews (yet) but my startup, Teamly, is helping business managers raise the performance of their employees by helping them identify their top goals, objectives and priorities on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. This feeds in well with reviews and appraisal processed you may already operate. Also, the end-user (the employee) benefits by helping them move beyond their mile-long to-do list and focusing on just what’s most important, and get the right work done. (Instead of busy-work).More at http://teamly.comFred – check us out on AngelList 🙂