With agile environments becoming more commonplace, why are there still difficulties in getting the value they can provide? Why are there products and services that don’t quite hit the mark in meeting needs? Why is the current trend for the length of time with an employer decreasing when the principle of an agile environment is to improve the workspace? Part of it is the agile anti-patterns hidden in plain sight where organizations do not feel they need to change because they are getting what they want: a chance to say they are agile and deliver faster.
Here is the big agile anti-pattern hidden in plain sight that, when addressed, could help make drastic improvements in all areas.
Anti-Pattern – Individual Reviews
The one thing most employees dread going through at some point in the year is performance review season. It is a time when employees get to toot their horn, put everything out to display on whatever projects they worked on and try to think of ways to have anything wrong that happened not fall onto them.
They get to research how they contributed to some lofty goals put out by the senior leadership for the year. Sometimes it is also a “How can I massage these numbers to make them look like I met these goals?” Ultimately, it could end up being a vague statement of the work with some attachment to those larger goals.
Ultimately, it turns into an “all about me” situation. The singular point of the review is to have an individual look as good as they can in the hopes of a raise, bonus or promotion. With that, it goes against the following two principles of the agile manifesto:
Business people and developers must work
together daily throughout the project.
At regular intervals, the team reflects on how
to become more effective then tunes and adjusts
its behaviour accordingly.
Team reviews have so much more power than everyone thinks. That is not to say that one should not overlook the contributions of the individual (I will get into that later). What should be looked at is how the team did as a whole first, then the contributions will implicitly follow. It shows how well the team as a single unit contributed to meeting overall goals and how well they worked together to get there.
- “A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and if one team cannot handle the forces, everybody will suffer. A ritual lodge is no place for the well-meaning ineffectual.” ~ Dion Fortune
Individual reviews, whether 360 or management-conducted, rely on memory; sometimes, that isn’t a good thing to do because the version of the story can be blurred. In a team working with the proper support in place, they work together to have everyone working their best, and there will be proof of what they did and how they all succeeded along the way (i.e. Retrospectives, sprint reviews, feedback loops).
Here are some questions that are sure to come up.
With a team-based performance, would that not impact my bonus?
How would you know? It could. Most organization bonuses are tied to how well the organization did. In a team-based environment, everyone working together to achieve those goals should have higher motivation to achieve them, knowing that it will benefit them individually. As a bonus, there should be fewer multipliers involved.
Won’t this impact any promotions or raises?
A good management team will be aware of the high performers of the team and should adjust accordingly. Especially with regular one-on-one sessions, individual achievements will not go unnoticed. There shouldn’t be a reliance on a form that is filled out once a year; there will be documented proof throughout the year.
Managers will still talk to each other, so if applying for an internal post, that information will be passed along.
Does this mean a change in HR?
Yes, HR will need to get more involved with agile environments and work with everyone to create a team-based review process that everyone can work with.