Innovative Performance Evaluation, the Beer Wheel

Posted by jlubans on February 15, 2019

Caption: Beer Performance Appraisal Wheel

Recently, while touring the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, our guide pointed out the beer tasting wheel used by a 40 member panel – drawn from the staff – of tasters when rating (whether to sell or not) the various flavors produced by this around-the-clock craft brewery.
Daily, thousands of bottles and cans are filled, crated and shipped all over America's Pacific Northwest.
Daily, hundreds of kegs are trucked to bars and restaurants.
The tasting wheel reminded me of an organizational ritual that occurs around this time of year: the annual performance appraisal!
What if we gave supervisors (those doing the ratings) a wheel like this to describe what’s good or not so good about their direct reports. A form of crib sheet like used by teachers in preparing home reports on how Johnny is doing or not doing in school.
No, I am not suggesting a dittoing of the wheel’s terms, like the off-flavor “acetaldehyde” (green apples). Then again, maybe I am!
Surely we could borrow many of the terms to move away from the clichéd and meaningless and to enlarge upon our laconic rating scales: meets expectations (IOW, we have our eye on you, but it is not for promotion), exceeds expectations, far exceeds expectations (a self-actualized person!) and, at the bottom, does not meet expectations, ranging from a five point to ten point scale with liberal decimalization in-between depending on the fussiness of the organization’s culture.
First, a positive word about using those people doing the work in evaluating what they produce. Not long ago, beer assessments were left to designated tasters, those who specialize in quality control or maybe just the brew master. While these people still have an important role, the idea of enlarging the tasting pool makes perfect sense – it’s a form of letting go, a necessary step in leadership if competent people are to do their best job.
One of the earliest business essays on worker involvement in decision-making appeared in the Harvard Business Review as "How I Learned To Let My Workers Lead”. More a personal testament than one of HBRs patented survey articles with 50,000 participants, this essay is about one man’s decision to share decision-making in a sausage factory.
He let the workers taste the sausage; no longer was he the lone taster! According to him, everything got better. I can well believe it.
Back to the wheel;
I see using terms like these to describe staff and performance. My favorites are followed by an exclamation point.
Under TASTE – in the wheel - appears a sub category: “Mouthfeel”
Under that term there’s
Carbonation (gassy or flat)
Mouth coating
Again, for TASTE, there’s “Oxidized” or “Stale”.
Descriptors include:
Under the broad term of ODOR, these terms apply:
Phenolic (band aids)
Need to define aromatic? No problem:
Estery (another solvent-like off flavor)
Use the terms that fit your high and low performers. Make up new ones. Give it a go.

My book, Fables for Leaders is only a click away:

Also, My 2010 democratic workplace book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

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