Why Do-It-Yourself 360s Fail

DIY 360 FailDo-it-yourself…this is a phrase that has always gotten me into trouble around the house. I used to think I was a lot better at household projects than I really was, but after years of home ownership I have finally embraced the truth and come to appreciate the adage – if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, just wait until you hire an amateur. Whether it’s home improvement or talent management related, why is it that so many of us get caught up in the “I can do it myself” mentality? Even when the “it” is so clearly outside of our primary area of expertise? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you weigh the pros and cons of Self Service 360s versus a Managed Solution.

Hidden Costs
We oftentimes attempt something on our own instead of outsourcing to save money. The problem here is that there is a big difference between “price” and “cost”, with the former representing the out-of-pocket “cut a check” expense and the latter encompassing all aspects of the true bottom line costs, both tangible and intangible. Let’s say you want new hardwood floors in your house. If you install them yourself, you could get away with only paying for the lumber and related accessories. However, with you doing the installation, it’s likely to take much longer, it will eat up your valuable free time, and in most cases, won’t turn out as well as professionally installed flooring. The same concept applies to leadership assessments, with many companies realizing that the internal resources spent chasing raters, extending deadlines, and learning all the ins and outs of the software-only solution simply are not worth the lower external price.

Not Knowing What You Don’t Know
Let me be clear, this isn’t a shot at those tasked with running 360 feedback initiatives. It’s just that most of the individuals responsible for doing so have a lot on their plates and don’t necessarily have a background in leadership assessments. The nuances of administering a successful large scale 360 feedback program can be daunting and intimidating. If you have the resources and expertise to manage everything internally, there are some good software platforms out there where you have full control. Unfortunately, this also means you are on your own when it comes to technical support and guidance around best practices. Sometimes, just knowing you have a sounding board and lifeline in an external partner goes a long way in reassuring you’re making the right decisions, which ultimately have a real impact on the overall success and ROI of your initiative.

Bad Data In, Bad Data Out
As you might expect, getting the actual 360 questionnaire right is important. After all, it’s more than just a collection of randomly written questions and a thrown together rating scale. Identifying behaviors that are relevant to the role, can be observed by others, and are under the control of the person to change are crucial components of a well thought out assessment. If the survey isn’t reliable and valid, then what’s the point? Some companies have psychometricians or individuals with an I/O background on staff who are a great asset for creating good feedback assessments. If these resources aren’t readily available, then consider contracting for them. Even if you plan to run everything else yourself, paying close attention to how you construct your assessment will save a lot of potential heartache down the road.

Parting Thoughts
The main point is not that most companies don’t understand leadership assessments and couldn’t run them on their own; it’s that many of them have tried doing so internally and come to appreciate just how much constant attention an always-on 360 feedback program takes. Between the direct costs, indirect costs, and missed opportunity costs, there’s a lot riding on the decision to run solo or partner up. Choose wisely.

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