Major Improvement by Subtraction – The Adobe Story, From “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr

Can you imagine continuing a corporate practice that devoted eighty thousand manager hours to an antiquated process that accomplished nothing more than to alienate employees and contribute to attrition? Such was the case at Adobe until they halted annual performance reviews and replaced them with Check-Ins. In “Measure What Matters”, by John Doerr, he recounts the Adobe story to illustrate the vast improvement achieved through OKRs + CFRs.

Need to improve people management at your organization? Read on.

Convert Your Managers to Coaches & Mentors

What would it look like to “inspire, motivate, and value employee contributions more effectively?” Doerr quotes Donna Morris of Adobe in chapter 16. Even as Adobe was migrating to a cloud-based, more modern business model their Human Resource department continued to rely on the obsolete annual review.

The solution was frequent Check-Ins between managers and contributors. Adobe converted to a new continuous performance management system. As workplace Conversations and Check-Ins became more prevalent managers evolved from taskmasters and micro-managers to teachers, coaches, and mentors.

Check-ins – Conversations, Feedback & Recognition

Check-Ins featured three key talking points or areas of focus:

  • Quarterly discussions regarding goal performance
  • Feedback
  • Career development discussions

Ongoing Conversations included the following critical topics for conversation between manager and employee:

  • Goal setting and reflection
  • Continuous progress updates
  • Coaching
  • Career growth
  • Lightweight performance reviews

The new system was far more agile and lightweight. Check-Ins and Conversations were decoupled from compensation. Instead, managers were encouraged to base compensation on the employee’s performance, their impact on the business, their skills, and market conditions.

Throughout the chapter, Doerr reviews Adobe’s implementation plan and recounts the success of the transition. Today continuous performance management adheres to Adobe’s founding principles of genuine, exceptional, innovative, and involved.

Do you manage a company or teams (either as a CEO, a senior executive, a middle manager or even a front-line manager)? Do you set and track objectives? Does aligning employee performance to business goals matter, and are you responsible for driving results? If so, please check out a live demo of Atiim OKR & Goals Management Software and we’d love to hear what you think about it. Thank you!


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