Thursday, September 26, 2013

Using the Kanban Board and Retrospective Framework to Create Employee Annual Performance Review

First published Dec 2010

How many times did we realize that the end of year performance review is too much too late and not relevant!?
Too much numbers, too many boxes to grade, too many confusing titles, too many meetings to define those measurable issues, too many questions to answer, too much signs...too little visibility and follow-ups and at the end too little employee commitment (that derives from pressure instead of  intent to improve).
Why not changing the performance review to be more agile and open? To be more shared with the employee. Well, there is a way, just use the retrospective framework with a simple kanban board visability.

When I say shared I mean also "under employee responsibility”, not as something to grade, but as something to draw action items from, act upon and be accountable for its outcomes as well as for its progress as any other agile activity. After all, we want those goals to be achieved according to business needs and business value (which changes all the time), we want things to get done more then get graded. 

The traditional performance review usually includes few papers with questions. Some of them are heavy documentation and some a bit lighter. But most of them includes some kind of a ranking table or statements, discussed with the manager, with some kind of comments to follow.
Sometimes Goals we have set in the performance review are no longer relevant when we come back to evaluate them.
Usually this process is under manager control and responsibility. Employee is set to get good grades instead of behavioral change and instead of an agile change fits to business changes.

I will never overrule open discussion, positive feedback and communication. I will overrule the heavy process and the waste included. Furthermore, it does not seem to work and does not seem to fit to the agile mindset.

So, my opinion is to stop the heavy process and start leading to a real performance and employee improvement.
This process then should be lead by the employee to take full responsibility over the outcome and his/hers progress.
When working in an agile organization, we anchorage the teams to be self managed. It means that the team selects its own tasks; accountable for those issues to deliver. Managers are few steps back, no longer dividing tasks or controlling the workflow, rather dealing with the team vision, technology future and cross departments processes.
Agile anchorage communication, it encourage openness between team members, retrospective and feedback over performance and processes.

An agile team that follows those practices becomes a more mature and demanding one. Same goes with an employee, and individual which we expect to be accountable for his acts and goals.
We count on them to deliver, why not counting on them to follow and deliver performance as well?.

How do we do this then?
Well, simple, as always.
Use the scrum retrospective approach.

Meet the employee in person, explain the rules:

Openness, brain storm, concentrating in high value delivered issues, communication, the ability to change and finally and most important – employee responsibility to the process, action items, follow-ups and success as a non negotiable issue (!)
Create a brain storm with the employee over his performance.

·         Divide the brain storm to three main issues:
o   Things we want to continue doing, stop doing, and start doing.
·         Let him share his view.
·         As a facilitator/manager come prepared: Collect the information, write it down.
·         Best practice will be to use the Kanban board (I will explain it later).
·         Visualize the goals and actions.
·         Discuss over each issue shortly.
·         Advice to take some of the stuff offline.
o   We can leave some of the issues in the backlog and concentrating over the high value delivered  issues only.
·         Assign action items.
·         Ask the employee to follow those action items.
From time to time, during the personal meetings, employee presents his goals board.

·         Review the way the employee took responsibility over the action items. What was the process he chose? What was the outcome?
·         You can always add action items from the backlog and assigned them as well.
·         Be flexible to change non fit action items/goals or to add new ones.
The entire set of rules of how to collect information regarding employee performance applies here as well.

**Remember – This time the board is personal, its not a public board to share with the entire team. However, the goals and actions should fit the team expected performance and goals.

What do we gain out of all of this? We gain employee accountability, open discussion, employee control and commitment, the ability to change, the ability to follow the progress, relevant goals and actions, performed action, collaborative effort and a lighter process.

Let's see how Kanban can answer all of those and meet the three retrospective characters detailed above:

1.       Visualize your flow
·         create a simple Kanban board flow to fit the retrospective structure
·         It can hold columns of: "What should we stop doing", "Continue doing", "Start doing"; or : "What went well", "Needs improvement".
·         Don’t forget to add an action item and action columns
2.       Ask the employee to take some time and start filling out tasks in each of those columns (do not assign these tasks yet)

3. Create an open discussion over those issues
4. Decide on action items and place them will the assignee on the action items column.

The board should be followed by the employee, he makes sure to move the action items following his actual progress

A more improved and mature process can hold types of tasks, deferent columns, and assignments to areas or improvements, whatever…..…..


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