Performance reviews – Essential or a chore?

two business people talking

High performers love performance reviewing. Without reviewing there is no learning, no improvement and no progress. It’s not just an annual exercise and it’s definitely not something you do just to comply with a process about bonuses and pay! Sigh.

It is an essential part of a high performance toolkit to help set you up for future success.

Reading time: 4 minutes

High performance headlines

Performance reviewing:

  • Is about performance and it takes very little time to review the result – probably seconds! So now you can focus on talking about the performance
  • Looks forward as well as back. Look back at the performance that happened, at what was achieved and what was learned. Then look forward, at the performance that’s needed to get the desired result in the future
  • Is not one person doing something to someone else! The reviewing belongs to the person or team doing the performing! It’s their reviewing and their performance plan. Mind your language if you’re “doing someone else’s performance review” for them.

The full viewpoint

High performing individuals and teams are reviewing performance all the time. They’re not too busy.

Their reviewing is formal and informal, structured and unstructured. They don’t do reviewing once a month and postpone it if something else comes up for them or their coach. It’s too important for that to happen.

In high performance cultures performance reviewing is done at an individual, team and organisational level. It’s characterised by high levels of honesty, open-mindedness and desire to improve.

Reviewing performance

And they’re done by people who understand that performance is what you do to get the results you get. So they’re not results reviews, they’re performance reviews.

Reviewing a result doesn’t usually take long! It’s a matter of gathering information and looking at it.

Reviewing performance takes a little longer, because now you’re asking questions to understand. You’re talking about what you set out to achieve, what you intended to do, what you did, with what quality, with what impact, and what you learned.

As the saying goes, “you don’t fatten the pig by weighing it”! You don’t improve results simply by talking about the results.

Performance planning

And effective reviews look forward. They ask further questions. What still needs to be achieved, what new goals can be used, what is there still to find out, what needs to improve? And what are the things that need to be done, and it what way, with what mindset?

If your reviews end with an assessment or rating – and nothing else – that’s like assembling all the ingredients for a fabulous cake but not actually making it!

Formal and informal, structured and unstructured

Effective reviewing will be planned – the scheduled type – and unplanned, immediately after something unexpected has happened.

They will be formal – sitting down at a desk – or informal, over a coffee or by the coffee machine.

And they will be structured – using a standard set of questions – or unstructured, though still with conclusions and a plan.

We know Olympic athletes have lots of time for training and ask each day “how can I get better?” We know many performers in organisations don’t get time for structured training as they’re too busy focused on “what have I got to do today?” If your schedule is chock full of activity then timely, sufficient, and effective performance reviewing transforms that whirlwind of busyness into learning and planning as well just doing.

Some reviewing is better than no reviewing

All or nothing thinking is unhelpful! If you’ve more things to do than time to do them in, a 90 minute review might feel like a luxury. Do a 30 minute review instead. Some focused questions with a little discipline can make a significant difference. If you can’t do 30 minutes, pause for 10, or 5.


Of course there are always other things to do and there are always choices.

If you want you could not do performance reviewing, or do it just once a month or once a year! If you’re busy that’s a good choice, right? Because you’ll get more done.

Though you won’t learn so much, and so your plans and intentions will be ill-informed. You’ll get a lot done but you won’t know if you’re doing the right things, in the best way. You’ll end up chasing your tail in a spiral of well-intentioned, un-thought through activity. How “high performance” does that sound?

Or, if you want to be the best you can be, if you want to be a high performer, you could prioritise your performance reviewing and planning. Performance reviewing is part of performance. Compete on it if you like– be better at it than your competition. See it as a skill to practice. But above all else, in a world of high demands, do it!