Performance Review Pain Relief – The Agile Way

Performance Review Pain ReliefTake a piece of yellow paper, a slice of pizza, and a couple of guys with clipboards – and what do you have?

Last week – it was the latest gathering of the North Bay Agile Meetup group. The topic was “Performance Review Pain Relief.” So what would you do with that piece of paper –- write a performance review –- or make an airplane? At this Meetup –- we did both.

Led by Chris Sims of Agile Learning Labs and Harold Shinsanto –- we formed agile teams of expert paper airplane manufacturers. And in the course of producing some of the most embarrassing paper airplanes in aeronautical history –- the group explored what works and doesn’t work with performance reviews.

In the context of “agile business” –- it would be easy to decree that old-fashioned stack-ranking and personal performance reviews should go by the wayside. After all, rating the performance of individuals relative one another runs counter to the ideas of self-organization, teamwork, and continual improvement so central to agile product development.

And until the HR department hops on board the “agile train” –- are we just stuck? The group decided no. As an agile team –- we can

  • Make sure we clarify “the goal” – understanding the performance criteria for the team and for individuals long before any feedback session
  • Foster a culture of coaching – even when “the boss” is officially only providing annual written feedback in the traditional performance review – coaching can be something done by the team – for the team.
  • Develop systems for continual feedback and improvement – rather than only examining results when the “system” says we must – find ways to frequently improve. Inspect and adapt. Lather, rinse, repeat. Sounds a lot like what we do in agile anyways!
  • And to the Human Resources professionals who may accidentally stumble on the great world of agile, scrum and team-based work – come on over. We’d love to talk. We saved a couple of slices of pizza just for you.
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2 thoughts on “Performance Review Pain Relief – The Agile Way

  1. Hillary

    When I used to do performance reviews they were just…. a performance for the higher ups. Maybe performance reviews should go up instead of down, there’s a thought!

  2. Elizabeth

    So, I’m a reformed HR director and now working in an agile transformation team as a consultant. The great news is HR is engaged and willing to change the process, but are struggling with how. What did your great minds come up with in terms of the “perfect” evaluation for agile teams?


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