Now remember, I am supposed to review Forced Ranking, not my own beliefs about things like forced ranking. What was interesting about this one: every month books sit on my desk pending review. None has ever garnered the attention—and unsolicited discussion—as this. In the ensuing nonscientific, nonvalidated, highly biased study, I deduced that mediocre employees just hate the idea of forced ranking, while star performers think it's the best thing since sliced bread. Quelle surprise! (Frankly, regardless of the topic, I'm biased toward Dick Grote anyway. I've been a fan ever since he said, in his great Performance Appraisal Question and Answer Book, that "Supervisors put up with too much [stuff]." )
The author works to overcome some of the problems traditionally associated with the forced-ranking approach. For one, the book is aimed not just at top executives but also
at the line managers who must thoroughly understand the system in order to make it work. He addresses a root cause of failures, noting that (as with most implementation failures), launching a new forced-ranking system will be neither fast nor easy, nor will it prove a panacea or cure-all. Grote dispels myths and, now and again, agrees with criticism of some elements of forced ranking—then offers ways to improve them.
Referencing John Sullivan’s great work
on moving away from being HR socialists (there isn’t anything that shows investing resources in poor performers ever makes them top performers), Grote offers, in his welcome, straight-shooting style, guidelines for getting started, getting it right and making it legal. —J.B.
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