EppsNet Archive: Performance Reviews

Those Performance Reviews Were Supposed to be Anonymous

21 Dec 2015 /


Minimizing Retention

4 Aug 2013 /

From an actual job description for a Software Development Manager:

  • Worth with management and directs to put together a solid SW Development career development plan in alignment with Organization Solutions all-up to grow hi-potential employees and minimize retention.

If you’re writing job descriptions and learning English at the same time, there’s no shame in having a native speaker review your work.

The job description goes on like that for 10 or 12 more bullet points. I singled that one out because I like the phrase “minimize retention.” I can recommend a couple of people for that.

I assume it’s a language problem in this case — that the author meant to say “maximize retention” or “minimize turnover” — but it might be a kick to have a job where your actual charter is to minimize retention.

You would not be an easy person to work for. You would take all the credit. Your subordinates would get all of the blame.

Picture having the names of all staff members written on a whiteboard in your office and removing them one by one with a triumphant swipe of your eraser at the end of their (hopefully brief) tenure.

Maybe your boss would stop by every now and again to tap on a name and ask, “Why is that guy still here?”

Of course, if some clinging vine is screwing up your retention rate by refusing to quit (maybe he really needs the job?), you can just call him in and fire him. Or her.

Good times! If only all job objectives were this easy to meet.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Anticipating Problems

26 Aug 2009 /


A Category for Everything

19 Aug 2009 /


A Bad Review

26 Oct 2001 /

Resemblance to persons living or dead is statistically probable.

Name: Snopes, Flem
Title: Software Development Manager

Developing Others
Flem was not effective in giving team members an opportunity to be successful or to do high-quality work. The project development process was limiting and frustrating.

Rating: Did Not Meet Expectations

Good work ethic. Big problem here is that Flem didn’t seem to see how poor project outcomes were a direct result of anything he did or didn’t do. He seemed to feel that he was a victim primarily of bad technology, as well as bad clients, bad luck, bad karma, etc. And while there were some unavoidable setbacks on the project, as there are on any project, Flem didn’t seem to see the human decision points in the process where he could have made a difference.

Rating: Met Some Expectations

Change Management
Flem was slow to react to changing circumstances. He took a “stay the course” approach and continued
to pursue strategies long after they had proven ineffective.

Rating: Did Not Meet Expectations

Flem is an articulate communicator but does not seem to be effective in reporting bad news to
clients and upper management. He has a “can do” communication style that unfortunately keeps people in a state of total denial about what’s actually happening. As a result, what could have been modest setbacks, had they been acknowledged as such and dealt with, escalated into full-blown breakdowns.

Rating: Met Some Expectations

Customer Service/Responsiveness
Flem was probably overly responsive to customer requests, with a resulting boomerang effect. He took client requirements at face value and did not provide the kind of risk management one would expect from a responsible professional. As a result, most of the client’s investment in web development was wasted on non-productive activities.

Rating: Met Some Expectations

Flem maintains a positive attitude when things aren’t going well. Unfortunately, his projects never seem to be going well. He failed to fulfill the main role of a project leader, which is to monitor plan vs. actual and to take action as needed to bring the two closer together. In some cases, a project manager fails to observe that a project is veering off course, but I don’t think that was the case here. I think Flem just failed to act on that observation.

Rating: Met Some Expectations

Performance Effectiveness
Flem did not establish any sort of professional quality standards for the project, resulting in a considerable waste of time, money and human potential. He did not demonstrate the ability to effectively steer a software project.

Rating: Did Not Meet Expectations

Problem Solving/Judgment
Flem advocated a fairly random approach to problem solving. When dealing with system errors, rather than attacking root causes, we took some random action hoping that would fix the error. Sometimes it did, although we didn’t know why. Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes it introduced a new error. This is an area where a technical leader needs to take a stand and do the right thing.

Rating: Did Not Meet Expectations

Team Orientation
I think Flem’s failure to establish professional quality standards had a disheartening effect on the team. People will work hard to achieve excellence, but not if they see that management places no value on it.

Rating: Did Not Meet Expectations

Technical Expertise
Flem has some very good technical skills, but did not exhibit a good understanding of the full range of technical options, risks and tradeoffs involved in developing a web application.

Rating: Met Some Expectations

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Profiles in Management: The Protector

8 Jan 2001 /

Cast of Characters

Manager, the leader of a software project that is floundering because his needlessly complex design cannot actually be implemented.

Programmer, a programmer on the project.


Manager: Keep working hard, and I will protect you should things break down.

Programmer: Protect me from what? That sounds kind of ominous.

Manager: Some people may be worried that if the project fails, they may get a bad review, or not get a bonus. But I’m looking at whether or not people are working hard, even if the project isn’t going well. So as long as you’re not goofing off, and you don’t have a bad attitude, you should be all right.


A “bad attitude” in these cases is defined as pointing out that 20 people have been working on the project for two months without producing a single working line of code, because they’ve been asked to yoke together a set of incompatible products and technologies selected by people who are not qualified or interested in assessing the technical implications of their decisions.

This, unfortunately, has become an increasingly common scenario in our business.

I should also mention that, in my experience, people are highly demotivated by opportunities to work hard in situations where they are predestined to fail.

But don’t worry! As long as you’re willing to keep beating your head against a stone wall of incompetent management, you’ll be as safe as Humpty Dumpty . . .

‘Why if ever I did fall off — which there’s no chance of — but if I did … Here he pursed up his lips, and looked so solemn and grand that Alice could hardly help laughing. ‘If I did fall,’ he went on, ‘the King has promised me — ah, you may turn pale, if you like! You didn’t think I was going to say that, did you? The King has promised me — with his very own mouth … to … to … ‘To send all his horses and all his men,’ Alice interrupted, rather unwisely.

— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Thus spoke The Programmer.