Adobe Abolishes Traditional Performance Reviews

Adobe killed one of the most sacred of corporate cows: traditional yearly performance reviews. Management experts have questioned the value of such reviews for decades. Quality guru W. Edwards Deming blasted away: “It nourishes short-term performance, annihilates long-term planning, builds fear, demolishes teamwork, nourishes rivalry and politics.”

Encouraging to see Adobe looking for ways to empower employees and managers. But I suspect the “annual performance review” rouse will continue for some time in most organizations as long-standing habits die hard.

How Adobe Got Rid of Traditional Performance Reviews


  1. klamping

    I like the idea they have going, but this line threw me off:
    “As part of the rollout, managers were trained in the nuances of giving and receiving feedback and other difficult conversations through lectures and role playing, where they practiced challenging scenarios.”

    I just have trouble believing that a little bit of training will really make that much of a difference in culture. I’ve been to “leadership trraining” in the past, and it’s usually a bunch of bad metaphors and unrealistic exercises. But people still think they’re useful because they focus on the goal of the training, not the actual result. Habits are hard to change, and a single 4 hour training class won’t do much to change them.

    Apart from that though, I really like the move. The idea that “managers and direct reports have regular conversations about performance and other issues (instead of going through a formal process once a year)” is so much more useful than waiting 6 or 12 months to discuss performance. Imagine being in school and getting no grades until a final one at end of the semester that’s entirely subjective and based on what your teacher was paying attention to, not what you actually did. Not a good way to know how you’re doing.

    There’s a great Joel Spolsky post that talks about performance reviews that’s pretty relevant if you have read it:

    • Refactoring Fox

      I agree. I’ve heard of reviews that have been done well. And by “well” I mean they were effective at affecting positive change for both the employee and the company. I’ve never personally experienced it, so it remains purely anecdotal evidence. If nothing else, I give Adobe credit for recognizing an area that needs improvement and doing something about it. In most organizations, neither the recognition nor the action are present.

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