OK, performance review process is broken: Now HR's on the hotseat

Seriously, now: Is it time to get rid of the annual performance review once and for all?
Ask employees, middle managers and executives, and pretty much everyone will agree:
Performance reviews stink.
The latest volley in the revolt against this ubiquitous practice is a book by Samuel Culbert and Larry Rout, Get Rid of the Performance Review! (Business Plus, $24.99).
Why does the practice exist at all? Culbert and Rout offer a few reasons:

  • The performance review is “all executives have ever known, and they’re blind to the damage caused by it”
  • “Few managers are aware of their addiction to the fear that reviews create amongst staff, and too many lack the confidence they can lead without that fear”
  • “HR professionals exploit the performance review to provide them a power base they don’t deserve.” (Ouch.)

Indeed, fear seems to be what the authors see as the reason performance reviews still exist. “Too many managers relish the authority they have — and fear losing it,” they write. “… So they get their self-confidence the only way they know that the current corporate structure allows — by intimidating their subordinates into silent compliance.
“In other words, they scare the hell out of them.”
Get rid of the ‘gun to the head’
All right, so everybody’s on the same page. There’s got to be a better way.
What is it?
The authors believe the answer lies in what they call “the performance preview” — a method whereby each and every employee understands what they need to do to be successful, and has the freedom to interact with their supervisor on a plane that approaches a peer relationship.
The traditional approach just won’t work, they say: “How can you have honest give-and-take when one person has a gun to the other’s head, when the structure doesn’t require, or even encourage, one party to listen to the other? When the structure, in fact, actively discourages listening?”
Can you see a way for your company to move away from the “gun to the head” philosophy of management? If so, what form would it take — and how would you maintain an effective hierarchy? Tell us in the Comments section below.