Beyond Criticism: Redefining 360-Degree Feedback for Success

In a recent podcast, esteemed management consultant Pat Lencioni blasted the universally-known 360-Degree Assessment tool, tearing it apart virtually. Surprised initially, I soon realized that Pat’s negative experience was rooted in the worst version of the tool. My extensive use of 360-Degree Feedback over the years, with various clients, has proven exceptionally helpful.

What would somebody say in defence of 360? asks Pat Lencioni in the podcast. Actually, I will. Here we go.

What is “360-Degree Feedback”

The 360-Degree Feedback, also known as ‘360-Degree Appraisal,’ ‘360-Degree Assessment,’ or ‘multi-rater feedback,’ emerged in the 1980s. It derives its name from collecting feedback from various sources—supervisors, peers, subordinates, and sometimes external stakeholders like clients—offering a comprehensive view of an individual’s performance.

TL;DR video WITH real A360 feedback sample - analyzed and explained.

(Watch this video version of this article: it includes real 360-feedback data on a client executive, analyzed and explained for you.)

It’s crucial to recognize that, irrespective of the application, 360-Degree Feedback is only a tool. Its effectiveness varies based on implementation, and its value is intrinsically tied to the expertise of the specialist applying it. This distinction is vital because, as asserted by The Table Group, the 360 feedback “does not work.” Or does it?

Why Pat is so negative about the tool

Pat Lencioni’s negative view of the tool can be traced back to his unfortunate experience in the last century. The key issues include:

  • The tool being used for annual performance reviews, a practice known for its inefficiencies.
  • Recency bias affecting the accuracy of assessments due to infrequent reviews.
  • Lack of ongoing feedback leading to diminished employee engagement (and worse performance)
  • Administrative burden during once-a-year reviews, diverting resources from more impactful mechanisms and productive work altogether.
  • Subjective or inaccurate feedback from individuals with limited visibility into the assessed person’s yearly performance.

These root causes render “Pat’s” version of 360-Degree Feedback not only useless but detrimental to organizational efficiency.

Why I Recommend 360-Degree Assessment

Having customized and administered the 360-Degree Assessment for over a decade, I view it as a valuable tool within my consulting toolbox. I often incorporate this Assessment in clients’ initial cultural assessments or to identify areas for improvement in individual managers. While it can be used for performance feedback, its real value lies in employee development rather than serving as the basis for salary reviews.

While the Assessment may be administered using internal resources, engaging an external professional in the process brings additional benefits, including reduced people-management workload, better customization, and clearer results. In most cases, the Assessment can be administered online, facilitating the entire process for all parties: more convenient to provide feedback and easier to interpret the results presented as summary tables and graphs. In addition, an online setup administered by an external specialist often encourages employees to be more open, fostering a more transparent feedback environment.

Well-administered 360-Degree Assessment provides valuable information for effective, meaningful personal development plans based on unbiased feedback. It is particularly impactful when applied to a senior management team within the context of an organizational performance improvement project.

Administering a 360-Degree Assessment isn’t rocket science, but adhering to simple rules and best practices is crucial for maximizing its value. I’ll share my best practices with you in the second part of the article – here.