By Dr. Tom DePaoli
As we know, 360-degree performance feedback is an evaluation method that incorporates feedback from a large cross section of workers including peers, subordinates, customers and supervisors. This technique would seem perfect for purchasing in this era of cross functional teams and multidimensional relationships in the supply chain.
Not so fast. This method should not be used or tied to pay or merit pay especially for purchasing. It is fine for giving feedback to an individual on the impressions that they convey to people, but all too often it has become a popularity contest. Any purchasing professional who is worth their salt, knows that purchasing is not a place where one becomes very well-liked. Difficult and controversial decisions are the norm not the exception.
Purchasing is also an area where the pace is frenetic; fire-fighting is all too often prevalent and quick decisions are needed to prevent major shutdowns. Fast direct decisions are the norm rather than slow diplomatic ones. Often purchasing professionals are forced to be executers or quick problem solvers. They have little time for being corporate relators or engaging in “water cooler” social exercises. The emphasis is on solving the latest crises, not social networking. Although generation M is enamored with relationships via social networking, purchasing is often driven by multiple crises and has little time for such digital schmoozing. Their focus on solving the crisis is often misinterpreted by peers as being cold, harried, non-relating and impersonal. Thus feedback from a 360-degree evaluation must be tempered by this purchasing reality.
In summary, a 360-degree evaluation for a purchasing professional has some use in providing relevant feedback on how the purchasing professional is viewed by peers and does give some first impression detail. This feedback must be tempered however by the crisis reality of the purchasing department. It should never be used for performance or merit pay. In addition, realize that there is no empirical evidence that the 360-degree approach is superior or more effective than other approaches.