McKinsey is a global partnership of close to 1,500 colleagues based in more than 60 countries around the world. Without successful partners we cannot be a successful firm. One of the key ways in which we maintain our values and connectivity is that we run a single integrated global evaluation process for partners.
Let me bring this to life with my involvement in the process in the spring of this year. I am based in Shanghai and responsible for evaluating our partners in Russia, Ukraine, Poland and the Czech Republic.
Of course, we leverage technology, but the core of the process is the time I invest face to face with these partners. The first step in the process has me receiving a number of documents electronically that detail which colleagues a partner has worked with, which clients the partner has served, and a write up from the partner of his own assessment of his growth as a leader over the last year.
Leadership has multiple relevant dimensions for us – people leadership, entrepreneurial leadership, Firm building leadership, and knowledge leadership, as examples. Based on this, I will conduct interviews with as many of the colleagues a partner has worked with as it takes for me to get comfortable that I have a complete picture of their achievements. This will be a minimum of 15 but could be a lot more. I will also have a lengthy discussion with each partner I am evaluating, sometimes several, each several hours in length. As this was the first year I was evaluating these colleagues, I flew to visit them in their offices so that we could get to know each other better.
With this deep qualitative input from the interviews, I sit down to prepare a structured summary of everything that I have learned, and make a recommendation on rating, but more importantly, on what the key points of feedback should be. I do this by writing a draft of the feedback memo.
Few things are absolute in the process. One element that is, however, is any shortcoming on values. If colleagues have values concerns about a partner, it is impossible for them to be highly rated, and feedback must lead off with this topic.
Armed with my write ups, I set off to spend a week in the McKinsey Learning Center in Kitzbuhel, Austria with 50 partner colleagues that have been making the same preparations. We divide into teams of about a dozen partners from all around the world, and go through a process of challenge on each colleague being reviewed.
I summarize my findings on a specific partner to my team. I am challenged on the thoroughness of my preparation, on the rationale for my findings, and my recommendations for feedback are picked apart and put back together. Once the colleagues in the room are confident we have a full understanding, we vote, and until there is a clear majority on the outcome we will continue the discussion. Indeed, even if there is a clear majority, any individual can reopen the discussion if they feel the majority is missing the importance of some topic. Some days the team will meet long into the evening.
It is always tempting to view the process as done at this point, but in many ways the most important step is yet to come. Giving feedback in writing and verbally is the step that leads to impact and helps our colleagues become more successful in the year ahead. I practice extensively in advance how I am going to communicate the key messages. On the videoconference feedback sessions, I test multiple times to ensure I have really made myself clear. Allowing the feedback conversations to run as long as is helpful for the recipient is part of the plan. Following up a few months later is also.
This is incredibly time intensive for all concerned, and while we add technology to enhance the process, we consider it absolutely essential that this remains a global process. It has been this way throughout my nearly 30 years at McKinsey, and I don’t envision it ever changing.
Image credit: Kitzbuhel, Tirol, Austria – geordietyke / Flickr