By Joe Moore
I remember the day I scored 88% on a high school Science test we completed for homework. It is the highest score I ever made in Science. I have no idea what the topics were, no idea what the questions were. No idea whether I have ever had the opportunity to apply my new-found knowledge to anything since.
What I do remember is that it was the one and only time I got the chance to mark my own homework!
How about you – if you had the opportunity to mark your own homework, set and score your own test – would you score highly?
One of the challenges of business and government is that many of us do get the chance to mark our own homework and that means we need to be careful not to inflate our scores.
Judgements about performance, the quality of strategy, and the quality of decisions need to be independent. It’s useful to set criteria and then to have the discipline of sticking to the criteria. With loose criteria – you can always make a case that you met the criteria.
It’s also an advantage to have crystal clear statements of purpose, of scope – including listing what is outside the scope of a project. Without clarity – it’s simple to argue that you achieved the purpose. You simply draw the target around where the arrow landed! Yep – nailed it.
Conversations about activities and effort may distract conversations about results. When a conversation about “how hard I worked, how little sleep I have had, how much thought went into this” replaces a conversation about results – you know you are talking to someone who’s marking their own homework. “Don’t worry about the result – feel the effort”.
Another challenge to overcome is the reluctance of many people to speak up about potential problems. Is it your experience of a debrief of a problem or performance failure that someone in the room was aware of the risk or the problem at the time, and either failed to speak up or did speak up and everyone else failed to pay attention?
Surrounding yourself with people reluctant to open up, bring up bad news, to express reservations, to challenge management simply encourages you to score your work more highly than a more independent assessment would allow.
Leaders have a responsibility to let everyone find their voice and contribute, and not allow mere travellers.
Sure, it’s easy to score 88% – not so easy to earn it from someone else.
About Joe: Joe Moore is the founder and principal of Kimber Moore & Associates. Joe and his team are highly skilled in helping leaders and staff deal with uncertainty, change, complexity and conflicts. You can read more of Joe’s posts and contact him here