Performance Management for Agile People

Performance appraisal is difficult and perhaps even counterproductive, but many employers still require it. Here are a few tips on making it work a little better with agile teams.

On my recent trip to China, I was surprised that the question I was asked most frequently was "How do I do performance management for agile teams"? I wasn't surprised that this was a question, but it's not usually the first one that comes up when people start to talk about making agile work in their companies.

Make no mistake: This is a big question for managers out there, and there are no simple answers. I do have a few practical tips and thoughts to share on the subject. My purpose in this article is to give managers of agile teams a few places from which to start developing their own approach to performance management for agile people.

It's almost amusing that out of the entire universe of people practices [1] that are a part of managing a company, the ones that managers seem most concerned with are a very few:

  • How do I evaluate individual performance so I can give the right pay and bonuses to the right people?
  • How do I identify star performers and keep them from leaving?
  • How do I identify poor performers so I can "manage" them (usually implying "manage them out")?
  • How can I support or reward team performance in my company's individual-oriented performance management system?

So, let's take a look at why this is a difficult question and then toss away the theory in favor of imperfect but workable approaches that you can use next week.

Performance Management BasicsWhy It Doesn't Work

My bible on performance management is Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why They Backfire and What to Do Instead by Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins. This book provides a good thought framework for this issue. Let's start there.


AgileConnection is a TechWell community.

Through conferences, training, consulting, and online resources, TechWell helps you develop and deliver great software every day.