We are all familiar with performance management software, but when I looked at a performance management app it surprised me in, well, a surprising number of ways.
The first surprise was simplicity. Unlike software with many functions, the app — called Katch — focuses on a single thing: better feedback.
I thought I’d need a demo, but realized a couple of screen shots were are all I needed to grasp the basics.
An important distinction
The second surprise is that the distinction between “mobile app with desktop capability” and “desktop software with mobile capability” may seem a matter of semantics; however it turns out to have a fundamental impact on how we envision the tool being used.
A desktop application brings to mind someone sitting down and spending 20 minutes on a task; a smartphone app brings to mind someone spending two minutes on a task. In the case of feedback, this is the difference between success and failure because many people will only ask for (and give) feedback if they can do so on the fly.
Here is how Katch works: an employee selects a few competencies on the app and asks a colleague or customer for a quick rating and comment. Sure there are other features but the simple request for immediate feedback is the heart of it.
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The app is simple and giving feedback is not new, so why is this exciting?
Here is what I see: I imagine a new recruit eagerly seeking out feedback: “How’d I do boss? Boss?” Gradually they will discover that timely feedback is a powerful tool to guide and motivate their own development.
They will also come to see that the act of giving and received feedback builds relationships. It will become an everyday tool, similar to “Liking” something on Facebook.
- The tool is an example of a mobile app with a desktop capability rather than a desktop service with some mobile capabilities. I labeled this point as “interesting” but a younger person might say “Well, of course it’s going to be an app.”
- This type of tool is so straightforward that you don’t need a demo.
- It doesn’t try to automate an existing process; it takes a particular issue and says “How can we make a big impact using smartphone technology?”
What’s really important?
- The value is in a design that understands human behavior, not in features or clever programming. The big issues are not tech issues or even user interface issues; the big issues are about how to structure a human interaction. For example, it is built around requesting feedback rather than being given feedback. That’s why it works.
- Katch is just one example of how we are moving from a world of annual or quarterly reports to real-time data. In the case of feedback this is obviously crucial, but it is just as important in other activities such as managing overtime.
- The user owns the feedback — which is in essence data about their own competencies and reputation. They can take it with them when they leave the company. This is an idea that feels radical to Baby Boomers but is normal to Millennials.