Forced Ranking & Bell Curve For
20 - 70 - 10
first used in 1990s
Jack Welch suggested that forced ranking helped grow GE's
revenues to $130 billion in 2000 from $70 billion in 1995
Geography 60% of Fortune 500 companies doing forced
Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) in 2011
But it believed that companies
kept the game and changed the name
Rank or Yank
Up Or Out
Talent Management Process
Leadership Assessment Procedure
Pay for Performance
Why Forced Ranking ?
Why Forced Distribution ?
It aligns employees in accordance with pre-assigned performance distribution %’s
Dick Grote in his book says “… in the right company at
the right time, forced ranking creates a more productive
workforce where top talent is appreciated, rewarded, and
What does it actually mean?
• Rather than a criterion based tool, it is more about distinguishing
individuals by ranking them against their peers
Questions On Using Bell Curve
What does an Agile Enterprise Value Most?
If the whole team consistently delivers well, do we still rank only 10% -
20% as top performers
In agile enterprise, where product failures can happen faster, can
performance failures be also detected early?
Is it still fair when teams are accountable & responsible already?
…but do we need to link performance measurement to
increment and bonus?
How To Battle It Out
Low Performers Middle Performers High Performers
Let’s Be Agile
• Use the very principles of Agile
o Short term goals
o Short cycles of delivery
o Continuous Improvement
o Measure Of Progress
o Servant-”Leadership” Model
o Focus shift from Individuals to teams
Change For Organizations
• Decide what is valuable
o For example it could be
o Business Value To Customer and/or Business Value to Org
• Have short term goals, build them into larger goals
o For example, Goals tied to delivering working product
• All goals need to be measurable
• Focus On Self-Organizing aspect
o For example, how individuals group together to form teams and
• Derive feedback out of frequent retrospectives to
Change For Managers
• Managers to coach than dictate
• Foster a culture of self-organizing in the teams by
o encouraging decision making
• Have high-ended questions in the review
o For example
o How could I have done better in the team?
o How we could deliver the product with more quality?
• Engage early
• Have a culture of trust and respect (ref. Paul L Marciano’s book)
• Empower – by providing training, resources &
• Set expectations in collaboration with teams
A Sample Questionnaire
• I regularly ask employees how I can help them in being
o As team and as individuals
• Any more => Exercise
Change For Individuals In Teams
• Utilize retrospectives
• Turn into coaches for peers or other team-members
• Learn and encourage learning
• Pro-active than reactive
• Any more…..???
Recommended Use Of Bell Curve
Do use forced ranking if you can
But only to remove non-agilists from the team
• Overhaul – Think of abolishing performance reviews
• Capitalize principles of Agile to build performance
• Separate pay/compensation from performance
• Methods like 360 degree feedback are redundant
• Trust & Respect