Performance Factory for Agile and Lean Organizations

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Summary:

Implementing agile and lean performance appraisals presents some unique challenges. This article discusses how to do so in a way that helps to enhance the agile and lean practices that so clearly result in excellent team and organizational performance. The good news is that agile and lean performance management is much more effective than other methods.

Managing the performance of employees in any company is a complex endeavor. Agile and lean organizations face the additional burden of implementing an approach to performance management that is in alignment with the nature of agile and lean development. Implementing agile and lean performance appraisals presents some unique challenges and this article discusses how to do so in a way that helps to enhance the agile and lean practices that so clearly result in excellent team and organizational performance. The good news is that agile and lean performance management is much more effective than other methods. Read on if you want to get your performance management on track the agile and lean way!

Personality in the Workplace
My column called Personality Matters (in the CM Journal)provides psychological insights that are relevant to IT professionals. In the recent book Configuration Management Best Practices: Practical Methods that Work in the Real World, Addison-Wesley 2010, which I coauthored with Bob Aiello, I discuss the personality issues that are essential to consider when implementing CM Best Practices in practical settings. The workplace often presents many challenges including culture, team dynamics and critical success factors to consider in helping teams be more effective. Agile/Lean presents some unique challenges and any approach to performance management needs to take these considerations into account.

How Am I Doing?
The best part of writing for the Agile and CM Journal is getting feedback from my colleagues who share common interests. Every email that I receive, whether the person agrees or disagrees with what I have written, is valued and appreciated. Everyone needs feedback in order to improve and grow. But not all feedback is constructive. Sadly, many managers are not skilled at providing constructive feedback which can help improve the performance of their organization?s most valuable resource. Whether you are in an Agile organization or not, well-articulated feedback is absolutely essential. 

Performance Evaluations
W. Edwards Deming listed Evaluations of performance, merit rating, or annual reviews as one of the seven deadly diseases in his groundbreaking book, Out of the Crisis, published in the 1980s. Deming explained that many performance evaluations "lead to short term thinking, destroy teamwork, and build fear." Jurgen Appelo points out, in his book Management 3.0, that the Poppendieck's Seven Principles of Lean are based, in part, on Deming's fourteen points for management. Traditional performance evaluations are often inconsistent with agile principles. But that doesn't mean that we don?t need to help team members improve their performance. Instead, performance evaluation should be a continuous function that is delivered as part of coaching and, as a result, is very much in alignment with agile. 

Coaching Performance
The role of the coach is implicit and valued in any competitive sport. Ken Schwaber uses the football metaphor from which SCRUM derives its name (based upon the circle of Rugby team members who fight to get possession of the ball). Coaches are evaluated based upon their ability to provide continuous and valueble feedback that directly results in improved performance for the individual and the team. Good coaches lead their team to Championships while ineffective coaches are often replaced by the team owners. Coaching may involve providing tough feedback and also acknowledgment of a job well-done. Successful, coaches motivate athletes to put forth incredible efforts designed to produce amazing results.

About the author

Leslie  Sachs's picture Leslie Sachs

Leslie Sachs is a New York state certified school psychologist and the COO of Yellow Spider, Inc. (http://yellowspiderinc.com). Leslie is the coauthor of Configuration Management Best Practices: Practical Methods that Work in the Real World, Addison-Wesley Professional (http://cmbestpractices.com). Ms. Sachs has more than twenty years of experience in the psychology field and has worked in a variety of clinical and business settings where she has provided many effective interventions designed to improve the social and educational functioning of both individuals and groups. Ms. Sachs has an M.S. in School Psychology from Pace University and interned in Bellevue's Psychiatric Center in New York city. A firm believer in the uniqueness of every individual, she has recently done advanced training with Mel Levine's "All Kinds of Minds" Institute. She may be reached at LeslieASachs@gmail.com, or link with her http://www.linkedin.com/in/lesliesachs.

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