Performance Measurement Assistance
I find myself this morning in the unusual position of not knowing how far to take an editing exercise. Last night I reviewed a performance plan for a friend as a favour. It has landed back in my in-box with my questions answered but in no way something that should be submitted at a high level of a large organisation. Leaving me to wonder how far I should go in re-writing it and if this is a help (the job gets done) or a hindrance (it is my work and not that of the person being evaluated).
Often the first step in working with a client is reviewing and editing a business plan they already wrote. A small part of this is about checking for typos, spelling errors, and language clarity. The bigger part is asking questions to help clarify the intent and sharpen the focus of every section of the document. Having an outsider with limited knowledge of the business provides a good check before taking a plan or pitch to investors because the tough questions can be asked and answered in a collaborative environment.
There is always a fine line between editing and re-writing just as there is a line between building on another’s ideas and plagiarism. Plagiarism always matters — no one is exempt from crediting ideas and honour codes weren’t just for college. Normally in a business plan, the line on editing and re-writing doesn’t matter much. The purpose is to create a document to convey to readers what the business hopes to accomplish and how. We will frequently re-write a sentence or paragraph to better express the ideas the client is trying to get across. Even more frequently, the document is littered with questions and comments in the margins that we will work through together until we reach a point where the document can stand alone. Likewise on a CV, small changes to sentence structure are an easy change to make but where clarification or more detail is needed, commenting and questioning is better.
Back to the problem at hand, if this was a business plan, I would likely rewrite the too brief sentences. This bit of writing is a response to a poor performance review. The ideas and information that was missing in the first draft is now there. The work required to improve the unsatisfactory performance has been done. The sentences meant to demonstrate the meeting of the objectives, however, are choppy and ineffective. I can rewrite the document using the information provided to make a powerful case for removing the non-performance rating. If I do so, it no longer reflects the capabilities of the individual whose abilities are being questioned. A bit like a choose your own adventure story:
Do I simply comment back that it still needs work?
Do I spend a few hours re-writing it?
Does the answer change if a poor response effects continued employment?
Does the answer change if it is known the corporation is giving poor performance reviews to many of its older, long-term employees as a way of managing them out of the business?
In the end, I sat with my friend and worked through the entire evaluation section by section encouraging longer and more in-depth questions. I hope in doing so I was able to teach him a better process for thinking these exercises through.