Reviewing your progress: Time for a pit stop on your journey to Agile Performance Management

If you've been following our journey to agile performance management, we're almost 70% along the road we set out to travel.

It’s time for a pit stop, to take stock of how far we've come and to regroup for what remains.

Our objective is to change the way that organisations and leaders help their people reach peak performance and to do that we have so far

  • Decided what conversation types and topics we want to institutionalise to support regular feedback conversations
  • Set various frequencies for feedback to match to the rhythm of each part of the business
  • Strengthened individual competency in giving and receiving feedback using growth mindset, relationship and communication styles
  • Found ways to build a movement behind change, using goal gradient effect and leaning in to the natural enthusiasm of early adopters and influencers to spread the feedback habit
  • Identified ways to measure the health of our feedback culture and the quality of conversations
  • Discovered techniques to spot bias and stereotyping, and methods to deal with them when they show up.

That's quite a lot of ground to cover, a lot of resources used, and a lot of change to bed down and perpetuate with each future intake of new people into our organisation.

There are 2 important questions to answer at this pit stop; is it working, and is it sustainable?

In episode one of our journey we looked at the kind of indicators that would define when our journey was 'done'. This pit stop is the time to review those indicators to see if they have been heading in the right direction. It's also a good time to reappraise the indicators you chose at the start. Are they still fit for purpose based on what you now know? And are they tangible enough to show a return on investment in the boardroom so that you have continuing support?

Your transformation journey should be reaching the crossroads where it becomes less about experimentation and discovery and more about execution and refinement of what is getting best results.

Your measures ought to be transferring beyond feel good leading indicators, and into bottom line results.

The kind of results attainable and measurable by the time you are 6-8 months in to performance management transformation are

  • Reduction in attrition, particularly regrettable attrition
  • An uptick in Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and employee Net Promoter Scores
  • Improvement in levels of discretionary effort
  • Reduction in injury, sickness and lost time to injury
  • A raised level of promotion from within and succession options
  • Increased diversity in team composition
  • Increased employee referrals for job vacancies
  • Greater levels and more rapid cycles of process improvement
  • Elevated employer brand, and brand value overall

If it's working, the next concern is sustainability. 

Is it sustainable?

Sustainability is the make or break of transformation versus once off project work. To be sustainable your change needs to become institutionalised; to become the way things get done rather than 'extra work' on top.

It's essential to embed feedback habits into the DNA of the organisation and the way to do this is via natural cues, adding a link to pre-existing processes.

We know that Accenture invested more than $250m in just one year rolling out the change from annual review to continuous coaching. That's not a repeatable investment, and nor should it be necessary if the cues for assessment and coaching conversations become 'normal'. For example;

  • Praise when a write off is avoided or reduced
  • Recognition when a customer acknowledges service excellence
  • Celebration when a new account is won
  • Gratitude when a lead is shared between teams
  • Relief when a mistake is prevented
  • Appreciation when something new is learned
  • Coaching when opportunity to improve is observed
  • …and so on.

These types of cues for feedback go unnoticed every day. If your journey to agile performance management is to be sustainable, they cannot go unnoticed going forward.

They are the cause for feedback conversations, the fuel for your journey.

Have you identified the cues for everyday feedback and trained your people to notice? If not, whilst your at the pit stop to make sure you don't run out of fuel before the finish line is reached. 

Cleaning away the bugs

Of course with any significant change there will be things that don't work out as first anticipated. Bugs and messiness that need to be cleaned up.

Software Developers who are more experienced with agile methods (and bugs) than most refer to suchlike as technical debt.

Permission to fail is at the heart of agile performance management. Try new things, fail fast, learn, adjust ……… and clean up your mess.

The pit stop is the time for a major retrospective. To acknowledge and clear away the remains of bugs and compromises that have accumulated on the journey so far, and restart the next leg of it with a crystal clear view of where we are heading next.

Some typical issues that we should be prepared to clear up at this stage might be 

  • Managers that can't adjust to collaboration, coaching and leading in contrast to the use of position and authority to get things done
  • Team members who haven't built resilience to candid feedback about themselves
  • Individuals at all levels predisposed to a fixed mindset
  • Customers that abuse rather than respect the vulnerability that comes with openness and transparency
  • Stakeholders who don’t recognise the value of stewardship, and that every worker should leave the business stronger than when they came
  • Areas in the business that have paid lip service to the change

Left unattended, such issues in your transformation will build up and blur your vision. Stepping back and holding retrospectives from time to time is the way to take stock and agree the clean up actions that are appropriate. 

Re-joining the road

After your pit stop you should be able to articulate your successes and failures so far with stories and examples that have provided knowledge, experience and confidence to continue or adjust your approach. 

You will have identified and secured the resources and effort required to embed performance management into business as usual so that it's sustainable when the focus of attention moves on. 

You will also have put in the effort to clean up the inevitable messiness that fast moving change involves, putting you into position to start the final leg of this journey in high gear. 

What's your experience? What bugs have your retrospectives revealed about your performance management transformations so far?

We'd love to hear from you in the comments or by having a chat.


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