Monday, January 22, 2007


Humans are lousy at self-evaluation

Why do many HR folks in enterprises continue to think that self-evaluation is a best practice?

One phrase that I use often is the need for strong technical leadership within IT. It is human nature to either trivialize and/or underestimate capabilities in other folks that they do not possess. Likewise, imaginative folks perennially underrate efficient ones. Evaluating oneself will result in over-evaluations, under-evaluations and just plain confusion. People who might otherwise be brilliant, just plain suck when it comes to applying those same sets of criteria to themselves.

Consider how many bloggers in the blogosphere that talk about enterprise architecture and the practices of others but would never admit to any faults of their own. Is it because their blog is a marketing tool? maybe, but the issue may also be that they simply don't know why they suck. There is a huge objectivity block ingrained into our nuggests when we attempt to evaluate ourselves.

Maybe the problem is with the theory of relativity. For example, 95% of all parents think their children are above average. On the surface, this statement is both amusing and contradictary in that it implies that people are not objective on self-evaluation. An alternative explanation may be that they simply have no bearing point in which to compare themselves to others and therefore choose their own mental model.

Would HR types acknowledge that a method that has more integrity would be instead for folks to institute a culture of blaming oneself? Imagine an enterprise where an individual enterprise architect could go up to their boss and tell them, that they are a big fat idiot and really don't understand technology. The boss could immediately decide to cover up for this individual by encouraging them to read the latest industry analyst reports and practice management by magazine. Likewise, the boss could become a mentor to help this individual improve.

Maybe, the real test of objectivity would be to not only remove both the employee and his boss from the objectivity aspects of self-evaluation but to consider implementing a mentor-oriented culture where a neutral third-party could observe characteristics that are good and those that need improvement.

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