Performance Reviews Poor Checklist

Link: It’s Time to Kill Performance Reviews

For many years, folks in the Agile community have been recommending that performance reviews be eliminated from the corporate world.  In 2005 while coaching at Capital One, I remember many discussions on the awfulness of performance reviews.  This was really my first understanding of the depth of culture change required to be Agile.

Now, this concept of eliminating performance reviews is gaining traction outside the Agile environment.  Here is a great LinkedIn Pulse post by Liz Ryan in which she explains in depth about killing performance reviews.

From her article:

A little voice in the back of my brain nagged at me: “Despite your efforts to make them more compassionate and less uncomfortable for everyone, performance reviews are stupid from the get-go, Liz!

“How does one human being get to evaluate another one, when their personalities and perspectives may be radically different?

Consider using other techniques to help with improvement efforts among your staff.  Lean has Kaizen.  Agile has Retrospectives.

Real Agility means that learning is inherent in the culture of an organization.  Performance reviews establish extrinsic motivators for learning… and all the research points to the idea that learning is much more powerful when it is intrinsically motivated.

Consider some other tools that might help your team to work more effectively, while maintaining intrinsic motivation:

Finally, consider that, at least in Scrum, the concept of a self-organizing, self-managing team makes it very difficult to do performance reviews.  It is hard to apportion “blame” or “praise” to individuals.  Each team member is dynamically deciding what to do based on the needs of the team, their own skills, and their interest.  Team members are often collaborating to solve problems and get work done.  Traditional roles with complex RACI definitions are melted away.  Performance reviews are very difficult under these circumstances.

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4 thoughts on “Link: It’s Time to Kill Performance Reviews”

  1. While I agree with everything you say, the big problem is that, in most organisations, not everyone is in a project team. If you eliminate appraisals for those who are, because you have other mechanisms to improve performance, what do you do for those who aren’t?
    Also retrospectives don’t focus on all the aspects that an org cares about, like adherence to company values and behaviours. How would you address this?

    1. Retrospectives _should_ address this, and if they don’t your ScrumMaster isn’t doing a good job. The retrospective should cover skills, team development, organizational culture and standards, definition of “done”, physical and electronic tools, etc. etc. etc. There are hundreds of retrospective techniques that a ScrumMaster should become aware of. The book “Agile Retrospectives” by Esther Derby has a couple dozen techniques. The “Retr-o-mat” is an online tool that has over 100 techniques. That’s how I would start to address that gap.

      For people who are not on project teams, the same problems with performance reviews still exist: they suck. In our own company we don’t do performance reviews. Individuals have responsibilities and we support them with consultation, training, team and management problem-solving, etc. If someone needs help, they ask for it. But also, the leaders at BERTEIG are constantly checking with staff if they need help. Salaries and bonuses are determined using the simplest possible means and are all open across the organization: everyone knows (or can find out) what everyone else’s salary, bonuses and other compensation are. Makes it easier to be fair.

  2. @Chris – Just because not everyone is in a team doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adopt the best approach possible for the people who are.

    @Mishkin – in my experience retrospectives generally focus on team process improvement and seldom tackle competency development and behaviour awareness. Also, what does the team do if the Scrum Master isn’t doing a good job?

    For more than a year I have been evolving an alternative approach that addresses these questions. It is aligned with the Agile values and enables conversations that develop individuals and helps teams stay productive. I believe it is now possible and desirable for Performance Management to become a team responsibility.

    If you are curious about this you can find out more at

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