Time to Change Performance Review and Rewards System

I wrote here about the need of changing the HR in agile organizations. Agile HR helps organizations to adapt their culture to be more creative and collaborative and less control and compete oriented. They are here to create best employee experience from the first contact, through day one, support their growth, motivation, and increasing their value to the organization. And once you embrace such collaborative and creative culture, it’s time to redesign the performance review and overall evaluation process. The individual KPIs created by managers for upcoming year becomes irrelevant as the people are inspecting and adapting not only of what they deliver, but also what their roles are as those are changing depending on the needs. Some organizations are going towards team created and measured goals (like OKRs) but the others are removing any fixed goals with exchange to the radical transparency and strong evolutionary purpose. That’s where we talk about team organizations.

If you are not there yet, any type of the 360s, like Comparative Agility, Agility Health radar etc. can be a good start. It helps to start with receiving feedback and learning based on that. We are shifting from management feedback and ranking to self-assessment, peer-feedback, and coaching for growth with regular check-ins. I remember that the biggest shift happened where we stopped evaluating and started coaching people. Help them to design their own journey. We made organizational goals transparent and let teams and individuals to create their own goals. Together with a strong sense of the ownership, it helped to feed the motivation.

Finally the last step is to change the rewards and bonus system. It’s only possible if you already created a culture based on collaboration, transparency and purpose driven. Removing the detailed positions goes hand in hand with changing the evaluation system. The peer feedback is flowing there and back on a daily basis, most of the teams would be running their regular retrospective to improve, and help each other to grow. Most of the agile organizations are shifting towards higher base salary with no variable part as they realize that money are more demotivating factor at the end of the day. In creative complex world incentives for tasks are not really working. So that organizations are decoupling financial rewards from individual performance. If there is any bonus it’s more at the overall organizational level, split to the teams and allowing them to distribute it themselves, then given by the KIPs evaluations or decided by management. Some organizations go further on and make salaries fully transparent to everybody. Such level of transparency is a good review system as any inconsistency is visible to everyone.   

Agile organizations focus on rewarding people behavior, and learning, over just doing your job.  They realize that flexible working hours, self-selection of work, unlimited vacation, work from any place on the world, etc. are better motivation factors than your salary and bonus.

It’s all very different world. And it will not shift overnight. So start small, and inspect and adapt from there. The very first step is to get awareness about what culture you have in the organization and what is the desired culture. You might need a good communication, facilitation, and coaching skill to be able to help your organization to reflect that way, but that’s only the beginning. It’s all about changing mindset. Grow that mindset first, the different practices will follow.

In a summary, Agile HR helps organizations to change their culture to be more creative and collaborative and less control and compete oriented – we build organizations around motivated individuals, involving them in co-creating their journey. Agile HR focuses on the best employee experience from the first contact, through Day one, support their growth, motivation, and increasing their value to the organization. It’s not about processes but a different culture, different mindset.

Agile HR: Start by Getting Awareness



As organizations are changing the way they work, their need for overall business agility is growing. Different departments are trying to not only implement the agile frameworks and apply Scrum or Kanban to enhance their capabilities to deliver value but also completely redesigning their function and AgileHR is one of those departments which requires a radical shift. You need to change the way you look at things and approach things. Agile requires a different culture that is team oriented, and much more collaborative and creative. As many practices organizations currently use for Recruiting  & Onboarding, Positions & Career Paths, Performance Review & Evaluation, and Rewards and Bonus systems are individual oriented, and are coming from competing and controlling cultures, the change is inevitable. The higher level of business agility is in the environment, the stronger pressure is for changing the practices as well. So what is HR role in the agile space?

We can say that: “We build organizations around motivated individuals, involving them in co-creating their journey.” Agile HR focuses on the best employee experience from the first contact, through Day1, supporting their growth, and motivation, and increasing their value to the organization. It’s not about processes but a different culture. We simply create environments enhancing collaboration, co-creation, innovations, and creativity. Very different from what HR role is in traditional environments. I see HR as the core of the transformation. They need to allow it to happen, they need to support that shift.

Continuous Feedback

Every change needs to start with awareness about the current and desired stage. What is our current culture? What are our values? What is the current level of safety? What is the engagement of people? Do we understand employee satisfaction? Are they promoters?

If you look into the ADP Research Institute Global Study of Engagement “Only about 16 percent of employees are ‘Fully Engaged’. This means 84 percent of workers are just ‘Coming to Work’ instead of contributing all they could to their organizations.”

Be aware of those things is a good starting point. Many organizations start by measuring engagement on yearly basis. And it’s a good start. Having the ability to compare results not only to the global data but also to your company trends. But if you start doing it, two interesting things usually happen. First – people start complaining that they have to fill in too many questions at one time, and second that once you start digging into the data and trying to inspect and adapt based on that, people start telling you that their responses are not particularly valid anymore – for example, there was a lot of stress in December, but now, in January we feel we are fine, etc. So sooner or later you realize you need to do such surveys more frequently, and also in a distributed way. The good news is there are many tools that can support that need. I have experience with using Officevibe which is designed to ask one question per week and that way is giving you more frequent data points and trends so you can make it actionable. It’s easier to be measured and you can see the impact of changing the practices right away.



Agile Journey



Agile is a journey. In the beginning, people think it’s about different tools, new processes, new names. They keep comparing it to what they know and they are frustrated that the new way of working doesn’t fit the world they know. They still try to analyze, plan, estimate, and track delivery. The problem with that is that they are changing to agile not because there is a new improved method, but because their current way of working is not as successful as it used to be. There is a strong need for significant change. The traditional way of working was effective in solving predictable problems, not in dealing with complexity. In the current world, organizations need to be more flexible, innovative, and creative to address VUCA challenges. Agile brings new paradigms, a new mindset, a new way of working. It’s not comparable anyhow to the traditional ways of managing and delivering work.

Once they pass the initial phase, stop comparing and start looking for understanding, people often fall into a trap of taking all agile as a ‘religion’. Just follow the process, implement tools, do scrum according to the Scrum Guide! This phase is not much fun either. But they are on a journey, not fighting with any strong resistance anymore, and deepening their knowledge about various practices. People are interested, they want to understand it, do it well, however they are usually asking fundamentally wrong questions, looking for the best practices, believing they can copy & paste practices.

When they experiment, fail, and learn from failures enough, they start realizing the real agility, which is not in practices and tools, but in a different culture, mindset, and approach to things. They start realizing the organization and leadership need to change in order to finish the transformation and allow the agility to be successful. Agile becomes the way you not only organize the work but the way you live. It will bring different values and different perspectives.

 



Top 5 Books You Have To Read Building Agile Organization



People are always asking me what to read. I created the three lists recommending books ScrumMasters shall read, books Product Owners shall read, and books agile leaders shall read. And recently I got some great books from my friends, so I thought I will write one update page referring to them. This list is intended to help people on their agile journey who want to deepen their understanding of what Agile organizations are about and how leadership needs to change.

top 5 books Agile organization

#1: Johanna Rothman – Modern Management Made Easy

The first recommendation is a trilogy Modern Management Made Easy from Johanna Rothman. The books are full of stories and practical examples. Here are few quotes from the three books so you can choose which one is the most interesting for you.

1. Practical Ways to Manage Yourself is focusing on you as a leader. Modern management requires we first manage ourselves—and that might be the most challenging part of management.

“When we exercise our personal integrity, it’s true, we might lose our job or a specific role. However, even I have never immediately lost a job. Very few managers lose their jobs if they say, ‘No,’ to a management request that lacks integrity.”

2. Practical Ways to Lead and Serve (Manage) Others is looking on how to work with other people. Great managers create an environment where people can do their best work.

“Many first-line managers see themselves as the expert, as the sole source of knowledge for their group. You may have started as the expert. However, as soon as you become a manager, start moving out of that expert’s seat. You can’t be the expert for the team.”

3. and finally the Practical Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization are looking at organization as a whole. Learn to create an environment where people can innovate.

“Great managers solve culture problems. And, culture problems are big, messy, systemic problems. You’ll address something over here and something over there will break. You’ll never run out of problems to solve. Maintaining a culture of integrity might be the most challenging job a manager can do.”

All over, the three books bring a nice overview of modern management practices, are easy to read, and give practical examples of how to change your leadership style. Each book covers several myths which help you to reflect on your current practices and change the way you work.

#2: Michael Spayd, Michele Madore – Agile Transformation

Another book I recently got is Agile Transformation: Using the Integral Agile Transformation Framework™ to Think and Lead Differently. It’s looking at agile transformation

“Becoming a transformational leader challenges us to make room for our own deep passion for change, coming up against the personal limitations in us that prevent this change from occurring through us.”

In the world we live in, which is complex and unpredictable, we need to re-think how we are thinking about organizations, leadership, and transformation. How can you work with other leaders, what kind of leadership is required to successfully lead transformational change, and what is realistically required for agile transformation?

#3: Zuzi Sochova – Agile Leader

The third on the recommendation list is my new book The Agile Leader: Leveraging the Power of Influence. It continues where the Great ScrumMaster book finished and is focusing on how to change the organizations and leadership in the agile space. It will help you to unleash your agile leadership potential and guide your entire organization toward agility. It’s a great overview of concepts for managers, directors, executives, and entrepreneurs―anyone, regardless of position, who’s ready to take ownership, challenge the status quo, and become a true agile leader.

“Having a critical mass of agile leaders is the key factor to organizational success in the VUCA world. Supporting agile leadership and growing agile leaders is one of the most important tasks on your agile journey.”

#4: Heidi Helfand – Dynamic Reteaming

The fourth recommended book is looking at evolutions of teams. Dynamic Reteaming: The Art and Wisdom of Changing Teams got recently it’s second edition and it’s a great book for all people interested in the team dynamic.

“Whether you like it or not, your teams are going to change. People will join your team and people will leave your team. You can grow your organization with dynamic reteaming in mind so that you have a resilient and flexible structure, or you can adjust your existing organizations to enable dynamic reteaming.”

#5: 97 Things Every Scrum Practitioner Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts

Finally, there is a fifth recommendation for a very interesting book collected and edited by Gunther Verheyen. This book is a collection of short essays from 97 thought leaders (97 Things Every Scrum Practitioner Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts) who share their insights from their agile journey about transformation, product value delivery, collaboration, people, development practices, ScrumMastery, organizational design, and Scrum.

“Bring the agile values to the organizational level. Address the system in its whole complexity and turn it into a self-organizing network of great teams. At this stage, you can see your organization as a living organism. Being a ScrumMaster is a never-ending journey. The #ScrumMasterWay concept can guide them.”



Agile Transformation Metrics



It’s very common that people ask me how they shall measure the success of their Agile transformation. It’s a hard question because there is no meaningful metrics unless you know why you decided to start the agile transformation at the first place at all. Agile is not your goal, it’s just a way how to achieve some of your more strategic goals i.e. address complexity better, be more change responsive, shorten time to market, be more flexible, … And once you know why you are starting your agile journey, then those reasons are exactly the metrics you are going to measure at the organizational level. All are business-oriented and value-driven  (outcome), so there is no velocity, no story points as those are focusing on output.

Team Measures

If you want to have a fast culture check on how far you have moved towards the agile mindset, you may look into how many experiments the teams are running, what are their actions from the retrospectives, and how they help them to deliver more value, how likely your teams take failure as learning vs. blaming opportunity, how close are they to customers, and how they collaborate vs. work individually or in silos. As a follow-up, you can have a look to your positions (are they rather broad supporting cross-functional teams than detail task-oriented), recruiting (are we hiring for approach and personality over the hard skills), performance review (team-oriented based on peer feedback over the individual), goals and objectives (team-based focused on purpose and outcome over tactical and individual KPIs focused on output), … and I can continue.

Looking to technical practices, you can check how your software teams implemented Extreme Programming practices i.e. Continuous Integration (even one-minute old code is old code), TDD – Test Driven Development (and overall attest automation), if they use pair programming or mob-programming to collaborate, having strong Definition of Done, focusing on one story at a time, and are ready for Continuous Delivery.

All over Agile is about team collaboration, customer-centered value-driven way of working, and short feedback loops. The rest are just practices, processes, and tools which might support your journey or not. The most important is not what exactly you are measuring, but what you are going to change based on that metric. If the metrics is helping you to improve and change your way of working, it’s a good metric. Measuring something just so you have it, or so you can draw a chart is a waste of your time.



Starting the Agile Journey



Understand Scrum is simple. If you don’t know what Scrum is and is not, there is a 17-page definition called Scrum Guide. If you like to know what is agile, go to the four values and 12 principles of Agile Manifesto. The agile community mostly agrees on both. As large products increase the complexity, there is no common agreement on how to apply agile and scrum to multiple teams and organization as a whole. The good news is that there are many options to choose from and many organizations can serve as inspiration on jour journey – Menlo Innovations, Zappos, Valve, Odde, ScrumAlliance, and I can continue. The first two are even often organizing visits to see how they work.

Agile Journey

In agile we love options and know, there is no one way how to do things. Some options are easier to apply, some harder, some less agile, some more. But remember Agile is not your goal, it’s just the way how to achieve your strategic goals so at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. The less agile ways are not necessarily bad options for given circumstances. Some companies go faster, some slower on their agile journey. Your organization needs to be internally ready for the higher level of agility and without direct experience with self-organization at the team level (across the organization at product teams but also at the executive teams and boards), it’s hard to go forward towards the organizational agility, Agile HR, Agile finance, and last but not least Agile leadership. I started this article by referring to the Agile and Scrum definitions. Would the definition of an Agile Organization be useful? It may look that way however I don’t think it’s needed. The Agile organization is not about practices, processes, not frameworks. It’s about being agile. It’s about agility hardcoded in the organizational DNA and culture. It’s about living the values. Be courageous to change the status quo, be open to feedback, respect different opinions, and have focus and commitment to deliver value not only to the customers and shareholders but also employees. So if you want to check your readiness to apply agile principles at the organizational level, start with the values. Do you like them? Do you live them? Or do you think they are not important?



Agile HR: Shape the Culture



I already wrote here that during the agile journey, the Agile HR changes the entire focus from being compliant driven to focus on overall employee experience. Agile HR is about leadership, system coaching, and large groups facilitation. And there is another layer. Agile HR should shape the culture. Yes, that’s right. There is an interesting framework of Competing Values which is in a very simple way describing culture as a tension between control and creative quadrants and competing and collaborative quadrants. The traditional organizations were grounded in the control and competition hemisphere, having the fixed processes, hierarchy and competition at the both individual and organizational level, while the agile organizations are more leaning towards the collaboration and creativity hemisphere changing the focus from individuals to the teams and networks, having higher level of autonomy and empowerment, forming partnerships instead of fighting with competitors.

As organizations continue on their agile journey, the culture is shifting and sooner or later the practices need to follow. For example, having a very hierarchical narrow position structure becomes an obstacle of a higher level of collaboration and self-organization. The silos are in the way of the cross-functional teams so the first step is to get rid of traditional positions i.e. Developer, Analyst, Tester and create a team member position as in the cross-functional team that’s all we need. The steep carrier path gets in the way of collaboration from the other side so organizations usually descale and become (more) flat as they rely more on intrinsic over extrinsic motivation. Speaking about motivation, how many of you are motivated by performance review and KPIs? None? That’s right. So what’s the other option? When we remove the individual goals and KPIs together with the performance review, how can we assure people get actionable feedback? So instead of artificial annual performance conversation, we invest into creating a learning environment where people learn from failures, get frequent peer feedback and mentoring from their colleagues so they can co-create their journey and grow as individuals and teams together. It’s not that much about any magical practices, but more about coaching and facilitation skills – that’s where ScrumMasters could be quite helpful. And I guess I can continue.

And keep in mind, it’s not about practices, processes, and tools, those can only support or make your journey harder. It’s about having a strong sense of purpose, common values, and joined identity. Once you have it, the practices will follow in a very natural way. So where to start? Think about your organization, where your culture is right now, and then think about where you need to be to keep up with nowadays business challenges and stay competitive. Only then, you are ready to assess individual practices. Are they supporting that shift? Are they indifferent? Or are they in the way of the desired culture shift?



Using tribes, squads, and gilds is not Agile by itself



Many Czech corporations are now starting their Agile journey, at least they say so. Despite fancy labels, they don’t have any desire to change so, unfortunately, you can only expect some ‘fake Agile & Scrum’ and no real outcomes nor fun. How do you recognize them? Most of them got inspired by so-called “Spotify model” (which was never supposed to be any model to follow anyway) or got it second-hand from Dutch ING. Both were just a case-studies how they work at the given time. Both case-studies have one thing in common – both organizations went through a significant change in their values, approaches, and culture. Those who only follow what they shared usually don’t get such a culture and don’t pay any attention to the mindset change either. Just re-structure departments to tribes, squads, and guilds, it’s cool, so it must be the right Agile. But unfortunately using cool labels is not enough to be successful so such organizations who blindly followed what the others wrote about in the case-studies are failing miserably in a few months.Agile Transformation

One example from a huge corporation who applied ‘Spotify model’ – after a year of implementing it, they end up in such a mess that they had to throw away a year of the development and start from scratch again. Quite painful. And expensive. They faced the same issues as the most of such corporations. Not enough of collaboration, culture, and mindset. After all, they didn’t really want any change. They just want to mark it ‘done’. We implemented Agile, we are cool. The similar business model like SAFe (apply new process and terminology, you don’t have to change the mindset or your way of working), just in this case we don’t use any ‘trains’ which if you thought about it are out of fashion for years now, but a modern terminology of tribes, squads and guilds. Nonetheless, the result is similar. Unfortunately. One huge American corporation recently started their 13thAgile transformation. How fascinating. The rumors say that this time they are going to make it. It seems they finally understand that Agile transformation is a journey. It’s not about new terminology, it’s not about tools, practices or processes. It’s a different way of working, a different mindset. So even if it looks like a disaster right now, don’t cry :)… another five attempts and you make it as well. You just need to be patient and wait for the right moment. After all, it’s not that hard. Just stop pretending the change is not needed, and start the real transformation. Change your mindset. Change the way you work.

Any change starts small, with a sense of urgency. Only when you have a strong enough strategic reason, you will change. Remember that Agile is not your goal, it’s only the best way how to achieve your goals in the nowadays constantly changing complex world.



The hot topic of the next few years will be leadership



Modern world brings not only the different way of developing software called Agile but also changes in the organizational structure and leadership. You see it more and more often. People at the classes are asking why their managers are not there to hear the message. But very often they are, and they are ready to change the entire organization and their leadership style.

ShuThe ‘Shu’ level of Agile transformation is focused on practices and individuals or teams. How can we start? As a result, we create small isolated islands of Agility where we get to experience and learn more about what does it mean to be Agile. Sometimes companies are looking for shortcuts. But you can’t skip this level. It’s your foundation. If you make it solid, you are more likely going to be successful with Agile at the organizational level. At this level, you might see some improvements, but can’t achieve greater efficiency across the whole organization.

HaThe ‘Ha’ level of Agile Transformation is when you start Scaling phase. This is where the Business Agility starts to take place. That’s where the different leadership starts to be critically needed as you have to grow the different structure and mindset. The key focus is shifting towards how to develop leaders and how senior employees are growing within a company. As the right culture is getting its place, people are coming with innovative creative ideas which can make a difference in the company results. This situation is currently the biggest challenge we are facing now as an industry and its topic of many discussions. Together with Scaling frameworks (like LeSS – Large Scale Scrum) which address the organizational design, we talk about different Agile management practices, Agile HR, Agile in marketing, Agile in finance. Companies that understand this can create an environment that is more efficient, productive, and more successful than anything we have ever achieved with classical management methods.

RiFinally, the ‘Ri’ level of Agile transformation starts when the Business Agility is the normal way you operate your business. We have individual Agile leaders in the organization, and people take over initiatives. This is a time for another organizational shift. At this stage, we have a true Agile executive team, focusing on long-term strategy and Agile Board of Directors focusing on the purpose and vision both working as teams collaborating together. Both truly living Agile values.



Agile Culture



Culture is intangible. It’s hard to touch. Hard to define, hard to measure. However, it is the critical piece for the organizational success. We may debate if culture follows an organizational structure or vice versa, but I don’t think it is important. Culture reflects our values and philosophy. The way we are. Being Agile is about changing mindset. If enough people change their mindset, the culture changes and they become Agile Organization. Simple if you say it this way, but hard to do.

I’ve been looking for a good definition of culture for years. I surprisingly find it at CAL (Certified Agile Leadership) training which I attend from Michael Sahota in California. I very much like his way of describing culture, and I used it as an inspiration for my drawing.

Agile CultureThe culture consists of two parts. The mindset and structure. I’ve always seen the mindset as the most important part of culture, a driving force. Something which can change the structure part if done well. To my belief structure is always preventing us from change, from being successful. So shall we change the structure or mindset?  I would always go for the mindset. It’s harder, but it brings significantly better results. Create a clear goal. Purpose. Something which makes to you stand up every morning and put energy into it. Something you truly believe in and are willing to take ownership and responsibility for. Something which makes you collaborate with others, something which makes your day. When you succeed with the mindset, you are usually ready to change the structure. So I truly believe that structure follows mindset. Which is good, because as the first step you can start with changing yourself. 🙂