How the Agile Retrospective activity can benefit all professionals, not just delivery teams
So what is an 'Agile Retrospective?
Agile is a Culture that was originally created to transform software delivery. Agile is guided by The Agile Manifesto and it's accompanying 12 Agile Principles. The Retrospective is an iterative ritual originally created as part of the Scrum Delivery process in 1993 by Jeff Sutherland. Since its original structure, the retrospective hasn't evolved in intention or purpose, but it's content does change regularly to maintain fresh engagement on self learning. Agile teams utilise the Scrum Retrospective practice to act out and improve on abiding by the afore mentioned principles.
Consider changing from an annual performance review to a shorter and more frequent cycle, at least once a month is a good rhythm to keep.
Corporations often exercise a performance review once a year as part of a standard HR endorsed meeting or financial incentive program. The premise is that they are designed as a meeting for the manager to communicate to their employee how they are performing, in accordance with the conversation they had last year. While formal submissions must be done - at a minimum - once every year; there are benefits to having retrospective conversations more frequently with your team, your managers or even yourself;
- mistakes or poor performance can be discussed and resolved close to when the actual event occurred rather than left, forgotten about or not corrected
- the actions within a review become more comfortable because the frequency gives you more practice
- the duration becomes shorter as it only needs to focus on the last few weeks
- the conversation moves from 'a what have you done and scored assessment' to a more mentoring/ perform better focus because you have visibility of the score building every month
A performance review can be transformed from drudgery to good value.
How many performance reviews have you enjoyably benefited from? Not just in the sense of passing the minimum checks to get a bonus but actually gained value that you took away and then put into your job? The majority of satisfaction ratings I’ve gathered are actually determined by the ‘managers communication and socialisation skills’ (as perceived by the recipient) rather than the benefit gained to "perform better". Interestingly enough the same lack of value occurs for managers who deem the performance reviews a logistical report. Even when they try to inject counsel or suggestion it seems pointless to the reciepient because it's so far from when the events occurred. If you start observing, discussing and acting on at least one improvement a month you find that the logistical difficulty or poor communication skills aren't the focus, the work is.
Frequent retrospectives between ranks can soften difficult conversations.
I find it interesting that people can be quite egotistical or power driven when it comes to performance reviews; that is regardless of whether they are the giver or the receiver. In many cases it's because it's someone feels they must exert rank to be respected, or because people are actually so afraid of failing they overproject confidence which really presents as arrogance. The heighten responses to incidental and informative feedback are because of the infrequency at which they occur and the weight of reward based on that infrequent event. When difficult conversations are addressed more frequently a level of comfortably builds up that allows emotions to recede and with training the conversations is simply focusing on the work.
You gain real time visibility of how you are trending over the year, giving you ample opportunity to correct early if do go a bit off track.
Professional athletic teams capture statistics and perform data analysis to identify opportunities to improve - continuously! Without fail the teams will use the information to change their training, their strategy and channel as much improvement into their performance as possible. In fact even amateur and little league teams honour the value of speedy informed data trends. Imagine if they only looked at their statistics once a year? Do you think they would be a winning team? All professionals can use a regular cycle of retrospectives to glean the data they need to analysis opportunity improve, to eliminate mistakes and to continuously learn.