Agile Performance Management

So what is agile performance management?

Performance Management has its beginnings in the 1950’s and has generally improved over time. The radical shift / most step change occurred in the 1990’s was mainly driven by technological change. While the workplace itself was changing, performance management was being further developed. The availability of computers made it possible for documents and spreadsheets to be set up to track performance. As a manual process, using handwritten and typed reports, this was a very time consuming undertaking. Still the core of performance management remains the same, feedback and assessment.


Performance Management which is carried out once a year and possibly linked to a pay review is not conducive to open and honest conversations. It is also retrospective and in covering a full year it is time intensive and requires good records on the part of both manager and employee. In the real world most people are too busy to have the opportunity to be so super organised. In fast paced and dymanic workplace, an annual retrospective review is not very useful or meets the needs of the organisation.


The agile concept is an extension of the Agile Project Management process which is popular in the software industry. So what’s difference with Agile Performance Management? It is the immediacy of feedback. In a workplace where work is more collaborative and fast moving, waiting a year to get feedback makes no sense. What agile performance does is provide regular and relevant feedback.


So how does it work?

What you do is to hold short informal meetings, some organisations have them standing up, and ask three key questions. What are you did you work on yesterday, are there any impediments to progress and what will you do today.


The communication is instant. This is followed up by a weekly or fortnightly reviews which are informally documented. These feed in to monthly or more realistically quarterly performance reviews. In an ever changing and fast paced workplace, yearly feedback just does not cut it.


Agile Performance Management plugs the holes that exist in performance management. It takes what doesn’t work well with performance management, fixes it and then supercharges it.


What are the key features of Agile Performance Management?

The two most important features of Agile Performance Management are development focus and regular check-ins. This shift in focus recognises that:
  1. A more skilled and capable workforce can perform at a higher level.
  2. Just like on an elite sporting team, regular feedback, communication and coaching is needed to create high levels of performance.
It’s critical to realise that these two important features are part of a wider group of improvements in Agile Performance Management. Let’s take a look at what they are.


1. More frequent feedback

In Agile Performance Management, we want to reduce the feedback gap as much as possible. Take the example of a live concert feedback is immediate. As a result the shared enthusiasm and energy builds. Adjusting and negative feedback also needs to be timely, but in private. One of the additional benefits is that feedback can reduce work-related stress, in other words you know where you stand.

2. Regular check-ins with your people

Think for your favourite sporting team and imagine their manager setting goals for players for the year and then then not talk about them until the end of the season. It’s easy to see just how ridiculous that would be.  But that is exactly what a large number of businesses do once a year.

For leaders, goals are an important tool because they allow you to give team members autonomy along with responsibility.  They provide direction for the team members to follow.  They also allow you to align your people to the big picture strategy of the organisation. If the leaders are serious about the goals, it makes perfect sense to check-in with team members to regularly discuss and adjust your course.


3. Using the power of Social Recognition

In the new world of work which is more collaborative, social recognition encourages people to be their best.  The term “social” is referring to both:
  • The visibility of positive recognition amongst the group.
  • Recognition coming not just from managers, but from a person’s peers.
Recognition from colleagues regarding achievements is highly valued on a personal level. Most people would be spurred on to keep making similar efforts.


4. Developing Skills and competencies

Having access to talented people with the right skills can make or break a business.  As a result Agile Performance Management puts a greater emphasis on skills and capability development. Agile Performance Management has a more forward looking approach. It’s not just appraising performance but building capability and skills for the future. Development goals play an important part of the planning picture.


We hope this short article has provided you with some food for thought. While the concept of Agile Performance management is recent the basis is an age old one of good communications making for good performance.

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