Factory Week is an intense and exciting exercise in togetherness, as there’s rarely more than five feet between you and another Boxer at any given time. It’s super collaborative and requires that team members work together in all kinds of creative and constructive ways, which requires trust, open communication and open minds. Which is why I was surprised when I heard we’d be doing Peer Reviews during Factory Week. I couldn’t imagine how this could possibly be a good idea in such close quarters. And I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Having spent most of my career working for large corporations who gave you your opinion if they wanted it, I had previously experienced this process as something between puppetry and propaganda building. You know the routine: Please complete this “anonymous” form by rating others' performance on a scale of 1 – 10… where a 7 is really a 2 hiding behind fear of retribution. Sadly, many companies still take this same approach, leaving employees with little more than a scorecard (or hurt feelings) and employers with inconclusive metrics by which to guide or measure performance. It’s all very hush hush unless there’s a problem with your scores.
In true SmallBox fashion, however, the Peer Review process is completely different and completely transparent. To an outsider, it probably looks a lot like speed dating (but with a whole lot more honesty). There are 5 rounds in which teams of 3 or 4 sit together and each person answers 5 open-ended questions about each of the others with honesty, kindness, and did I say, honesty? These are the five questions:
1. What can you count on me for?
2. What can you not count on me for?
3. What is my greatest gift?
4. Do you have any advice for me?
5. Is there anything else it would help for me to know?
(source: Culture Sync)
Not only do you give this feedback in a group setting, but you receive all of the same feedback in the same way – eyeball to eyeball, in rapid succession. When that round is over, you switch groups, rinse and repeat.
This kind of face-to-face feedback is not always comfortable (but it gets easier with each round). Sometimes it feels a bit like answering that age-old question, “Does my butt look fat in these jeans?" Uh....NEXT question please! It can be awkward, and messy, but it's also hugely helpful because nothing gets lost in translation. This type of Peer Review process provides a heightened level of accountability within well-established boundaries. It also gives you permission to fail and a reason to try again, while encouraging empathy and acceptance. But mostly it feels like a safe way to exchange perspectives and build trust.
A few key take-aways from my first day – a) Giving tough love is actually harder than receiving it, b)The more you hear the same advice, the less personally you tend to take it but the more weight you should give it c) It feels good to look someone in the face and say something nice about them. Do it often – rinse and repeat.