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Managing performance in agile workplaces

Agile performance

Every organisation, of every size, in any sector needs to make sure that that the right people are doing the right jobs, are performing at their best, and that there is a supply of capable and motivated employees to fulfil current and future goals.

This applies as much to agile organisations as it does to more traditionally structured ones.

The Agile Model

The agile model comes originally from software development and is based on:

  • Individuals and interactions rather than process and tools
  • Working solutions rather than lots of documentation
  • Collaboration with customer, rather than fixed negotiation

The idea is to change as you go along, not following one plan that’s written at the beginning and never changes. This is critical for meeting the fast-changing product and service requirements of customers and clients.

Agile companies and teams are also characterised by lack of hierarchy and autonomous teams.

Even if your organisations doesn’t call itself ‘Agile’, it may be that you are using some of these agile principles to speed up and improve the quality of your products and services – and build your competitiveness.

You may be agile without even realising it!

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Performance management in an agile environment

But managing performance in an agile organisation is a bit different from the traditional way of doing things…that’s probably why the old-fashioned performance management cycle – six month and annual appraisal, lots of form filling, and not much future planning – doesn’t work well now (if it ever did).

McKinsey has published an article on Performance Management in Agile organisations. The article says the core performance management practices for agile organisations are:

– Continuous feedback from multiple sources

– Line managers must, as a core part of their role, promote, coach and develop their people, not tell them what to do

– Make team and individual goals and targets really clear and share these throughout the teams – this makes it much easier for performance to be seen by everyone and adjustments to be made as they go along.

– Use collective objective setting that is dynamic and regular.

-Differentiate individual contribution to team performance based on desired values, mind-sets, and behaviours

Key principles

In our experience, this can be pared down further to 3 key principles:

  1. Constant communication on progress
  2. Regular review of goals and adjusting as required, and as the working requirements change
  3. Regular feedback from customers, stakeholders and other colleagues (not just the boss) given that collaboration is key
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Implementing a great idea

So how can this be implemented?

We suggest a step by step process:

1. Clarity of goals and tools to share goals – make team goal setting and monitoring a regular activity that is prioritised.

2. Use an online platform that is fast and easy for people to get feedback when they need it, and also provides options for development points. The feedback should be tailored to the goals and values of the team and the organisation, making it more engaging, meaningful and effective.

3. Train team leaders how to give feedback, coach and help their teams set goals.

It’s important to ensure that the performance review process is clear and fair and equitable. Employees also require fairness in order to be able to trust the performance management process so this has to be built in from the start.

On that note, why not involve employees in designing your agile performance management process?

For more information on continuous feedback and goal setting, and tools to support them, contact me via my Linked In profile.

McKinsey: Performance Management in Agile Organisations

Capterra: What Exactly Is Agile? A Definition of Agile Project Management