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What is 4×4 Performance Management and Why Does it Work?

Annual performance reviews are a common part of the employee experience in most companies. Team members and managers get together each year to discuss what went well, what can be improved, and goals for the next 12 months.

While performance reviews are important, some people think the traditional process is ineffective and needs to evolve. They believe the intended outcomes make perfect sense but rarely come to fruition. Since the performance review process often fails to deliver, many employees and managers have grown to dread participating in the reviews themselves.

What is 4×4 performance management?

Jason Lauritsen is an HR thought leader who has long advocated for restructuring performance reviews. After discussing common performance management problems with colleagues, he developed a new process known as 4×4 performance management.

Instead of meeting annually, 4×4’s occur at least four times per year. Lauritsen’s reasoning for this frequency is that meeting once a year isn’t nearly enough. Company and departmental priorities change between reviews, and managers and employees likely forget much of what was previously discussed. He says monthly meetings are ideal but quarterly is sufficient.

The 4×4 performance management process also focuses on four defined questions. Managers and employees document their answers and share their thoughts with the other person before their meeting so both individuals know what to expect. The four questions are:

What are your most significant accomplishments since we last met?  
This question starts the meeting off on a positive note by allowing the employee to talk about the work they’ve done that they’re proud of and the progress made since their last review. It gives the manager the chance to give recognition and learn if there are any successes they may have overlooked.

What are the most important things you will focus on before we meet next?
The meeting then transitions from talking about past accomplishes to setting future goals. The manager and employee ensure they’re on the same page and understand the work that needs to be delivered so the team hits its targets.

What obstacles are you encountering right now?
An employee should always have the opportunity to share the problems they’re facing during a review, regardless of the format. This will help the manager learn what resources they need to provide an employee, or issues they need to correct so the employee is set up to accomplish their goals.  

What can I do better or differently as your manager to support you?
This question brings the meeting full circle and gives the employee the opportunity to provide feedback to the manager. By meeting with each team member, the manager will learn what strides they can make to improve as a leader.

Traditional performance reviews often lack structure. The manager is free to decide what areas of the employee’s performance they want to cover, and what areas they want to ignore. This can result in an unfair, overly-harsh review that doesn’t account for the employee’s successes and the roadblocks they faced. It can also lead to a review that is too lenient and doesn’t help the employee learn how they can improve and grow.

Lauritsen’s four questions ensure performance reviews meet all intended outcomes. The manager and employee discuss past achievements, future goals, and problems that need to be overcome so both parties succeed in the workplace.

An employee-led performance review process

Another unique aspect of the 4×4 process is that the employee, not the manager, takes the lead. They’re responsible for scheduling the meeting, documenting the discussion, and following up with the manager post meeting. Lauritsen reasons that the employee should be accountable for their performance review and want to receive feedback on how they’re doing.

A traditional performance review can be an anxiety-inducing experience for the employee. The meeting pops up on their calendar once a year and they go into the room not really knowing what to expect. By giving them the reins and defining what will be discussed, the employee is able to focus on learning how they can do better work, instead of getting through the experience as quickly as possible.

Modernize your employee performance reviews

The 4×4 performance management process may not be perfect for your company; Lauritsen even concedes different questions should be used depending on the company and position.

The takeaway is that any performance review should result in achievements being recognized, areas of improvements being discussed, and future goals being set. If your company’s reviews are falling short, it’s time to consider how the process can be modernized.