Performance Management for Agile People



It's an imperfect world, and only consultants and authors can pretend otherwise. Real managers in real companies have to make tradeoffs every day in order to implement agile transformations and then to find a way to continuously improve. Even though performance appraisal is difficult and perhaps counterproductive, you have to do it. This article presents a few ideas on how to try to make the typical appraisal system work slightly better for agile teams. Start there and be creative. Do the best you can for your employees.


  1. "People practices" is an agile way to name what are commonly called HR practices. I don't know where it came from, but I long ago learned that agile people prefer to be "people" instead of "human resources." I long for a beer and a companion who wants to debate the question "Can you ever be agile in a company that has an organization called 'Human Resources'?"
  2. Larman, Craig and Bas Vodde, Scaling Lean and Agile Development (Addison Wesley, 2009), 267-268.
  3. James, Michael, "What HR Doesn't Know about Scrum," Better Software, January 2010.
  4. Deming, W. Edwards, Out of the Crisis (MIT Press, 1986), chapter 3.

About the Author

Alan Atlas has been professionally involved in high tech for nearly thirty years. Starting out with a BA in psychology from Brown University and a BSEE from the University of Massachusetts, he joined Bell Labs as a hardware engineer and promptly went off to Georgia Institute of Technology to get an MSEE. During his time at Bell Labs, he discovered software and taught himself the C programming language. While a senior development manager in web services at, Alan discovered Scrum. He became a Certified ScrumMaster, and he and his team used Scrum for over a year to successfully deliver Amazon S3, the Codie-award-winning web service that provides unlimited Internet-connected storage.

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