It's not for everyone; but I personally really appreciated timely feedback on what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong.
For the last few annual reviews it's been pretty hands off from my side of things - anything that is brought up about great things I did or things I struggle with we've talked about it already numerous times over the year. If you're surprised in your annual review you're doing something wrong.
I think performance reviews can be eliminated entirely. VPs that are in charge of products could be evaluated on how much revenue their product brings in. VPs could have the power to fire anyone working under them. Same with the managers working under the VPs.
The idea is to motivate employees to achieve one thing: bringing in more revenue (which is the goal of all for-profit companies anyways). There's no need to slice and dice the "performance" into pieces. Just empower people and measure revenue.
Often times it is very difficult for an employee to identify the reasons why they are not performing up to expectations (this even applies to the revenue model).
In our research, we have also found that a culture driven only by numbers and money typically produce unhappy employees and decreased morale. Cultures that are driven on improvement and achievement through performance tend to produce happier employees that are excited to work for a what is likely unique company.
Ultimately, we created MicroEval to increase the conversations happening in the work place. And we want to provide the participants of those conversations concrete things to talk about. Having identified the nuances of one's performance gives them a clearer target for improvement.
This is a (slightly) different area, but during my year as a teacher, my much more experienced coworker, who came from the New Jersey system, couldn't emphasize enough that anytime a "problem" student committed any infraction, no matter how minor, he wanted us to write it down. He was quite explicit that this documentation should be based on our view of the student, not the conduct, and that the purpose was that, should a parent complain about actions we were taking against their child, we wanted to have a huge file of infractions to show off.
(Clarification of "based on the student, not the conduct" -- otherwise good student commits an infraction that might merit discipline ("She punched through the girls' bathroom window"). We don't care. Awful student commits a minor infraction ("Talking in class"). We write it down.)
Further, you might want to read http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aaron-greenspan/why-i-sued-goo... for an example of court thinking:
'In fact, clause 6 of the AdSense for Content Terms and Conditions does not allow Google to terminate accounts for "no" reason--only "any" reason. Much to my amusement, the judge interrupted her to make a point that sounded familiar.
"But you couldn't terminate my account because of the color of my eyes, could you? I have brown eyes. You couldn't terminate my account because of that."
Ms. Milani reiterated her previous arguments, but the judge didn't buy them.'
Personally, I would argue that "the guy has brown eyes" is sufficient "any" reason, but I appear to be losing the popular battle.
I think the real question for something like this is: Can you convince management that its a big enough problem?
Ask any rank and file employee at a mid size company and they will tell you that evaluations are miserable, and borderline useless. When I mentioned some ideas for improving evaluations to my manager at my current job, the feedback I got was basically that the current system "wasn't great", (and basically everyone agreed), but it wasn't bad enough to justify the pain of switching to something else.
Convince the decision makers that bad evaluations are enough of a problem to justify switching, and then make it easy to do so, and reviews could actually (gasp!) become useful again.
If there is no measurable difference, can you do the world a service and reduce the buzzword usage?
When I'm faced with a question like "Did this individual contribute to collaborative innovation and excellence in a dynamic group setting?" I tend to throw-up in my mouth a little and stop giving honest answers and start thinking about which answer will most benefit me...