The Assessment Difficulty Pyramid

Assessment Difficulty Pyramid by Dr. Greg Waddell

I want to share a diagram with you that came to me the other day. It’s about how different kinds of criteria differ in terms of how difficult they are to assess. If assessing the performance of others is part of your job description, then you may find this diagram helpful.

At the base of the diagram, you can find the things that are easiest to assess because they are easier to measure. Skills-base behavior is behavior that is necessary to do your job right. It might be as simple as being able to prepare a professional document using Microsoft Word 2003. Alternatively, it could involve the more complex skills required in specialized professions such as the development of new drugs or the calculation of the correct weight distribution of a new building project.

The acquirement of skills is a relatively easy thing to assess. Either you can do it or you cannot and simple observation can often determine which it is. You simply measure whether the employee is able to perform the work processes, has the technical knowledge, and is capable of managing the organizational issues necessary to complete their job.

At the second level—intellectually based behavior—we get into a more difficult area to measure. People can learn these skills just as they can learn skill-based behavior, but they are more about thinking than they are about doing things. They have to do with how well an individual can analyze a problem, see the big picture, and understand the way their work fits into the larger system. Intellectually based behavior also has to do with how well we understand and use logic (Yes. logic is still important in today’s fuzzy-feely world).

The third level is emotionally based behavior. I’m calling this “attentiveness.” It’s a measure of an individual’s ability to relate well with others and to size up the emotional components of a given situation. Are they able to perceive ahead of time how their actions will affect others at the emotional level? Also at this level, you ask whether they are teachable—or have overly reactive defense mechanisms that prevent them from receiving advice from others.

The spiritual level is, of course, the most difficult level to assess. This is the level of morality and core values. What drives this person to do the things they are doing? The reason this is so difficult to measure is that outward behavior can always be explained in a variety of ways and the only persons who really know the internal motives are the individual themselves and God.

[Unable To Display Diagram]

The Assessment Difficulty Pyramid

We can, however, get a feel for a person’s spiritual state. We can look, for example, at their family life. Do their kids respect them? Do they have a good reputation in their community? Have they demonstrated integrity? Do they have self-control? Do they see the inner side of people?

Now, here is the real dilemma for managers, particularly when they are looking for leaders. The softer the criteria the more difficult it is to measure. YET, the softer the criteria, the more important it is for long-term leadership. Anyone can learn skill-based behaviors. Most people can learn intellectual and emotional-based behaviors. But, spirituality cannot be taught directly. It is the accumulation of our choices and experiences in life.

What do you think? Any HR Specialists out there who can clarify this for us? How do you evaluate your employees or students? How would you adapt this diagram to fit the reality you have experienced?

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