Written by
Paulina Roszczak-Śliwa

Paulina Roszczak-Śliwa

Is it the same with MBO as with democracy?

Management by Objectives (MBO) means canons of HR processes that are used in each self respecting company. And even though it’s not perfect, yet no one has invented anything better. Are you sure? A bit of warning, the subsequent paragraphs show a strongly subjective position.


Each employee in a big company sees how MBO works. First, using all your intuition, you need to establish objectives that will be:

  1. roughly up to date throughout the next 12 months (in fact throughout the next 6 months, because we set the objectives to the end of March for example, and we evaluate performance already in October because completing all levels of calibration take some time),
  2. SMART, of course.

When we already have the objectives, the employees should pursue them, and in the middle of the year we monitor, whether they are really doing it. And at the end of the year we evaluate how it went with a rate between 1 and 5 or between A and F or according to another sublime system. Then the manager should start a life-and-death struggle to receive the same appraisal from the calibration as he/she thinks is right. Finally, it only remains for us to communicate to the employee feedback and performance rate. So we are giving the rate to the employees – just like at school – and then we are surprised that people starts to behave like a students who happen to be upset by getting 4 instead of 5, even though they tried so hard. But we take it like a grown man, because the role of the leader has the good and bad sides.

We carry out all of the above activities following the deadlines clearly set for every part of the process. Sometimes, as I was a part of this process, I had an impression that the deadlines for setting the objectives, evaluating performance, calibration and giving the appraisal to the employees belong to King Julian’s philosophy: “quickly, quickly, let’s do it before someone realizes it doesn’t make sense”.


Well, I’ve complained a bit, so now it’s time for an alternative. The solution that has been used in Objectivity for 3 years. These are 1to1 meetings that have successfully replaced the performance appraisal process. Probably it`s not the most complicated solution in the word: every employee meets the leader every 4 weeks to talk about:

  1. own development,
  2. feedback, not only received by the employee, but also the one received by the leader from the employee,
  3. generally how the things are, about the successes and even about the difficulties.


The description of this process can be presented in 3 points, because we don’t even have a special form for it. And it works anyway. Moreover, each such leader, once for about 8 weeks, holds 1to1 with their HR Business Partner. And in this case, first and foremost, points A and C are applied. B also happens, but more often these meetings are the source of information about what is liked and what bothers the people in the company – that the training policy is not as it should be, that we should change something in the benefits. And we make changes, because we ask in order to do something about it. It`s worth mentioning that the beginnings of 1to1 with HR in IT company may not be a bed of roses. There are some leaders, who after the 4th meeting conclude that this is the first meeting of this type, which hasn’t been a complete waste of time. What’s more they are deeply convinced that it’s a compliment.


At this point the Reader may ask: if the supervisors don’t have time to meet the employees once a year for the evaluation meeting, how come they find time to meet employees once a month for an hour? And although it’s unkind to parry a question with a question, this is what raises my doubts: is it really about the lack of time? I have this deeply held conviction, bordering on certainty, that it’s more a matter of deep reluctance of managers to MBO than a matter of time. And this reluctance doesn’t come as a surprise to me, which probably has been noticed by some of the more watchful readers earlier in this post:)


Hoping not to provoke a political discussion, let me conclude: there’s nothing else for us but to wait for a political system better than democracy, perhaps eventually someone invents it.




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4 thoughts in Comments

  1. Piotr

    Thank you for this post. I fully agree.
    Great people, continuous development and a deep trust – these are the pillars of our solution for people management in Objectivity.

  2. Peter Brookes-Smith

    What a breath of fresh air!

    I too have lived under the tyranny and mass delusion of MBO and SMART (there are other bedfellows that we may think about too).

    It sounds so convincing and everyone seems to be doing it so it must be right; yes?

    From the top tiers of management, it looks like a solution that you can “do” to a company.

    To the middle tiers it can seem like a lifebelt of proven process and method that can make you feel competent.

    To the mediocre, it is often a system to be gamed in order to produce the “right” answers and secure a pay increase or promotion.

    For the incompetent, I have no experience that it improves their lot or helps the company manage them.

    For the competent, conscientious and hard working majority, it’s a nuisance that distracts from the real issues and takes valuable time to ensure you don’t get harmed.

    Of course it solves some problems but in my experience it creates more dangerous ones.

    Of course an organism that doesn’t follow a centrally planned and controlled path will sometimes be chaotic. Better that than march like lemmings into obscurity.

    In my experience, thriving and surviving are much more likely with more local autonomy within a broad framework that is based on deeply held beliefs.

  3. Susanta Ghosh

    I really liked the article!

    Having worked in few well known multi-national organisation, I know all too well the drawbacks of management thinking that believes in central command and control (or a top down) approach.

    I have also experienced few places where the approach is “Distributed Authority” – a step up from “Delegated Authority”. It creates a level of employee engagement that is an envy for the world.

    A book from my MBA days comes to my mind – “Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning” by Henry Mintzberg.


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