Goal Setting by Upper Level Management

“In the absence of an externalized bureaucratic structure, it becomes more important to have an internalized cognitive structure of what the organization stands for and where it intends to go (Albert et al. 2000)”


The support of upper-level management is one of the most crucial aspects of setting up an effective 360-degree feedback action plan. Though 360-degree feedback is generally a company-wide process, the executives are still the ones who dictate the company’s developmental goals and implement them downwardly (Fleenor et al. 2008). It is very ineffective for employees to agree on a developmental initiative without first having it defined by their leaders. As leaders agree on a set of beliefs, values, and ideals to serve as guidelines, this clear goal can be implemented to the rest of an organization (Alvesson, 2013).

If company executives dictate these goals prior to starting 360-degree feedback, the process will be more constructive. Research shows that the higher up one moves in an organization, the less feedback they receive (Kaplan, Drath, & Jofodimos, 1985). Therefore, agreeing on these goals allows even the executives to receive the same critical feedback they would provide to their subordinates. Research by Edwards and Ewen (1996) discusses the autocracy of organizations and how those in prestigious fields are rarely reviewed. When these objectives are established as a whole, it keeps the system fair to the entire company. Since these goals are so multifaceted and embedded in the organizations, a third party platform service or just a single manager cannot design this process effectively; it takes those who are most involved in the company’ vision to set the benchmarks and goals.

After executives define the company’s universal vision and developmental goals, it is easier to determine the proper scope of 360-degree feedback. It is suggested that it is best to either integrate the feedback system gradually as part of the appraisal program or to introduce it as an entirely new management initiative altogether (Ghorpade, 2000). Trying to combine existing feedback systems is challenging and can obscure results as they are likely created with inconsistent goals.

Depending on the company’s budget, size, and growth rate, different objectives can be set. A 360-degree feedback process does not have to be company-wide, and in many cases, it can be used to gain data for a specific subgroup such as management (Van Velsor, 1998). Another example could be to evaluate a particular group of minorities against a constant to ensure that the company is not racially biased. On a simpler scale, 360-degree feedback could be used to develop more productive and team-oriented employees. From more of an administrative standpoint, 360-degree feedback can be used to define necessary strengths for new recruits to thrive. Additionally using data from a performance review can maximize training initiatives or broaden employee awareness of specific behaviours (Van Velsor 1998). Administratively, 360-degree feedback could also help to determine potential positions to eliminate or consolidate.

Since the process of 360-degree feedback is employee intrusive, establishing long-term objectives is effective as they help to prioritize the learning curve and time allocation for employees. For example, deciding on a bi-yearly initiative will define a scope and allow for goals to be set. These long-term objectives allow for the managers to determine the hours they are willing to invest in labour time completing the surveys as well as additional time in coaching and one-on-one meeting time with managers. Setting up and completing the initial survey is time intensive, but allocating the time for developmental purposes is just as crucial.





Albert, S., Ashforth, B. E., & Dutton, J. E. (2000) “Organizational identity and identification: Charting new waters and building new bridges,” Academy of Management Review, 25: 13-17.

Alvesson, M. (2013). Understanding Organizational Culture. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Ghorpade, J. (2000). Managing five paradoxes of 360-degree feedback. Academy of Management Executive, 14(1), 140–150.

Kaplan, R. E., Kofodimos, J. R., & Drath, W. H. (1987). Development at the top: A review and a prospect. In W Pasmore and R. W. Woodman (Eds.), Research on organizational change and development. Greenwich CT: JAI Press.

McCauley, C. D., Moxley, R. S., Van Velsor, E., (1998). The Handbook for Leadership Development, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 439.