When performing appraisals, one of the most common responses I get is that there are no surprises in the results, people claim that they already knew everything that I have identified. After spending a week or two reading loads of documents, interviewing people at all levels, spending days and nights going through the evidence, comparing and contrasting... I haven't said anything new. Luckily, I am glad with this, not disappointed as one might have expected: If management did not know this information, they would be bad management indeed for not knowing what is going on their organization; also, this is the information that was given to me by the staff, so they should know it as well.
The difference between the results of the appraisal and what "everyone already knew" is that I have now formalized it, put it in writing and shone a light on the consequences and implications. I am not really interested in just identifying that activities are performed according to standards, I am interested in finding out what is really stopping the organization from being more efficient and so the results tend to focus on making sure that the management and participants understand the impact, risks and consequences of their weaknesses and what can be done in order to improve the efficiency of the organization.
Also, I believe that it is my duty to tell management what their employees dare not say. It is very rare that this has caused problems, usually management appreciates finally hearing the reality of the situation.
The act of communicating the result is critical because this is a time when all the participants, both management and staff are required to listen to something they might not want to hear - and that is the first step to resolving some of the issues. Frequently, I find that the issues reside largely in a lack of trust at some level. It might be that the staff do not trust management or what they are doing with the measurements and data they keep on collecting. Sometimes, management does not trust the staff and requires more and more controls, audits and measurements seeking to identify who is not being sufficiently productive. In most cases, I find both situations are present and are re-enforcing each other. The lack of trust from one side is perceived and encourages a breakdown in trust on the other side.