Several months ago, I criticized the use of forced ranking in law departments (See my post of May 4, 2005.), but a review of Dick Grote, Forced Ranking (Harvard Bus. Press 2005) presented arguments in favor of that technique. A typical system might classify the top 20 percent of all lawyers in a department as A’s, the next 70 percent as B’s, and the last 10 percent as C’s. “The A’s are given more challenging assignments and disproportionate nurturing. The B’s strive to be A’s. The C’s are fired.” Chilling, no? (See my post of May 14, 2005 on high potentials and executive development.)
According to Grote, “The payoff for developing a rigorous forced-ranking process … is enormous and well worth the effort.” We need some empirical research to back that assertion.
Among Grote’s benefits from forced ranking, the article says that it fights inflated performance reviews and forces managers to identify and state performance differences among their reports. It provides a framework for all manner of personnel decisions and it lets employees know exactly where they stand.”