The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

The Idea of Performance Rating to Capture Merit is Alluring

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The merit rating nourishes short-term performance, annihilates long-term planning, builds fear, demolishes teamwork, [and] nourishes rivalry and politics. It leaves people bitter, crushed, bruised, battered, desolate, despondent, dejected, feeling inferior, some even depressed, unfit for work for weeks after receipt of rating, unable to comprehend why they are inferior. It is unfair, as it ascribes to the people in a group differences that may be caused totally by the system that they work in.

The idea of a merit rating is alluring. The sound of the words captivates the imagination: pay for what you get; get what you pay for; motivate people to do their best, for their own good.

The effect is exactly the opposite of what the words promise. Everyone propels himself forward, or tries to, for his own good, on his own life preserver. The organization is the loser. The merit rating rewards people that conform to the system. It does not reward attempts to improve the system.

From The Merit System: The Annual Appraisal: Destroyer of People by W. Edwards Deming. As included in The Essential Deming (pp. 27-28).

Related: Dr. Deming Called for the Elimination of The Annual Performance AppraisalThe Greatest WasteTotal Quality or Performance Appraisal: Choose One by Peter ScholtesDump Performance Appraisals and Get Better Performance


Categorised as: Dr. Deming, psychology, respect for people, systems thinking, understanding variation


3 Comments

  1. “considering that the opposing forces in most theaters of operation are roughly equal, the odds are one of two that a general will win a battle, one of four that he will win two battles in a row, one of eight for three, one of sixteen for four, one of thirty-two for five. ‘So you are right, general, about three out of every 100. Mathematical probability, not genius'”

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