Performance Reviews

How to use The Reframing Matrix for fair performance reviews?

By on July 19, 2017

One of the many responsibilities of a manager is conducting fair and accurate performance reviews. These reviews are required to determine the compensation of employees, their promotions, terminations and/or training and development requirements. If not done in the right manner it can alienate good employees and further affect their performance levels without even addressing the real problems. We have already seen types of psychological biases, affecting the performance review process.

While there are a number of frameworks to counter these biases, in this post we will look at the Reframing Matrix.

The Reframing Matrix for Performance Reviews: All you need to know 

The Reframing Matrix tool provides a holistic view of the business, so that problems can be viewed from various perspectives. These perspectives can then be used to generate creative, out of the box solutions. Created by Michael Morgan in 1993 and published in his book “Creating Workforce Innovation”, Reframing matrix tool works on the principle that different people approach problems in different ways, mainly because of the different experiences they have had. With the reframing matrix, users can imagine all the different ways in which the problem can be faced and explore all possible solutions.

The Reframing Matrix: What does it mean?

The Reframing Matrix helps you to look at a problem from different perspectives. These can potentially yield a greater range of creative answers that impact performance. The tool is based on the premise that different people, with different experiences, view problems from different angles.

How to Use The Reframing Matrix for performance reviews:

Consider a manager who has to deal with employees who are not performing well. A knee-jerk reaction would be to give an ultimatum to search for a better solution well within a specific period, or risk being terminated. But would that solve the actual problem? Most probably, no – and it would be terrible performance management. Performance management and performance evaluation process can only identify where the performance of employees failed to meet the standards but it does not take into account the reason behind this shortcoming, nor it tries to understand the drive of high performers. Here’s an example on how the Reframing Matrix works in performance management:

Step 1: Define the problem

Create a four square grid and keep space in the middle of this grid to write your problem. Use boxes around the grid for the different perspectives. This approach relies on the Four Ps that look at a problem by following the different perspectives that may affect the situation.

In the first step, we write down the problem that is faced by many a manager, “Employee’s performance is below par” in the middle of the grid.

Step 2: Decide on the perspectives

Now evaluate the above problem from different perspectives to get better insights into how it can be solved appropriately.

By using The Reframing Matrix management principles, a manager can search and identify different perspectives behind the employee’s poor performance. There are 2 ways to use this method. We are using the 4P’s method in this example. In this case, the 4Ps of performance management are:

The reframing matrix - 4Ps approach

Step 3: Brainstorm all factors

As the second step draws to a close, teams will have enough data to evaluate different perspectives – the managers’, the employees’, and the customers’. They can search through this for insights, but a cursory look at these potential scenarios gives an idea of the factors that are vital.

Potential perspective: What can we do to make better use of an employee’s potential?

The first step in unlocking your employee’s true potential is by ensuring he or she understands how his/her specific job/role contributes to achieving your organization’s business objectives. Without data or a consistent process of setting goals for each individual employee that map directly to your company’s objectives, they may be spending too much time on the wrong activities.

Establish a formal process such as The Balanced Scorecard or OKR methodology for creating relevant goals for each employee, and monitoring/measuring performance against company objectives, to aid in both individual and company success.

Pertinent perspective – Is the team member’s personality compatible with his role?

It is important for a manager in an organization to understand their employee’s personality type as it helps them understand if these employees are naturally inclined to execute their roles and responsibilities. Depending on their personality type they can be assigned activities that match with their interests and passion.

If their personality is not compatible with the role, they will struggle to perform the most basic activities and in a half-hearted manner.

Planning perspective – Is something wrong in how the team member’s performance is planned?

If the performance levels of an individual are found to be below the levels indicated, then a planning process to improve performance should be undertaken by the manager. Otherwise it may have a negative impact on his or her productivity, performance, and as well as affect the team’s goals. While planning the expected performance output, managers should make sure that specific goals for development are set, identify actions that can assist in the achievement of these goals and a tentative indication of within how much time should these goals be achieved. Read more about importance of planning in performance management.

People perspective – Does the team member get along well with others in order to get dependencies resolved?

How well individuals get along with their teammates plays a major role in their ability to perform work, and should be evaluated by managers during the performance management process. This search is not only restricted to situations where there are interdependencies. If the said employee does not get along with his/her teammates it can be a massive downer on their daily work and the team’s overall performance. It can be due to clash in personalities, unhealthy competition, the way they communicate or some other reason. It is best to address this issue with a one-on-one meeting and find the root cause of discontent. Though not always feasible, reassign roles and responsibilities wherever possible.

In this way, re-framing matrices during performance evaluations helps the organization get to the bottom of the issue that caused your employee to lose focus and not perform well.

Benefits of Reframing Matrix for performance reviews:

The reframing matrix management technique provides a blueprint to develop visionary strategies. It allows teams, managers and individual employees to view, evaluate, and alter the project, business, or ideas. It can change thinking patterns by compelling users to look at performance differently. With the reframing matrix, users can move away from their general thinking methods and approach the challenge with a new behaviour or mindset. Reframing matrix can also be used for succession planning, by identifying exceptional talents during the performance management process and then fostering them as the next generation of leaders in the organization.

Innovation becomes a way of working with the use of the reframing technique. People with a diverse range of professional backgrounds can be brought together into the mix, and they contribute to the search for a solution in novel ways. The advantage of this is that both short-term and long-term challenges get quick solutions, and helps in creating a repository of ideas that can be revisited in case of future issues of similar kind.

Key takeaways:

Using The Reframing Matrix management technique can help you extend the perception range of your problem. Each cell contains different approaches to the problem, seen from one dynamic of the work context. This enables different people from different specialisations to search, contribute their perspectives and get a comprehensive view of the problem.

Do note that one is supposed to take into account 4 most important & relevant perspectives that can potentially address the root cause.

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