The Agile methodology got its start in the realm of software development. From there, it has spread to virtually every industry. That’s a testament to its versatility, but also the value Agile’s core components offer.

The time has come for performance management to go Agile, as well.

Of course, performance management often seems anything but agile or flexible. It’s sometimes cumbersome and quite often inflexible. Too many times, it is used as a goad to prod employees toward desired goals. However, it does not have to be that way.

The Art of Agile Performance Management: A Guide for Businesses

This post will explore the reality of Agile performance management. We will also help you understand why it is so critical that old ways of doing things are abandoned. It’s time to modernize PM and the Agile methodology offers a viable way to do just that.

The Goal of Performance Management

Businesses go to great lengths to ensure that they only bring top talent on board. As a manager, chances are good that you only want to hire the best of the best. Why? It’s all about performance, right?

Hiring top-tier talent ensures that you have the best people and the best performance. The problem is that this leaves a lot of people out of the loop. It also greatly limits your reach when it comes to sourcing talent.

At its heart, performance management is about taking an employee who might not be considered top 5% talent and building them up to the point that you need them. It’s about managing performance, after all. That means so much more than just pointing out when your people are not achieving desired goals. It means taking an active hand in building them up and guiding them toward better outcomes.

This is precisely what Agile excels at doing. With the right performance management plan, you can transform any employee into a so-called A player. Doing so will require a better understanding of how Agile performance management differs from other options, though.

Agile Is Collaborative

Older styles of performance management followed a top-down format. Agile is different. It levels the playing field, so to speak. With a focus on collaboration, it becomes possible to create a deep, meaningful conversation around performance and how to improve it, but everyone involved has a voice in the discussion. Agile helps make possible:

  • Collaboration and coaching between the employee and the manager, including feedback to the manager from the employee.
  • The ability to observe and highlight both desired and undesirable behaviors and provide real-time course correction that enables not just behavioral changes, but understanding of why those changes are necessary.
  • Public recognition of desirable actions, beneficial attitudes, and important values that drive employee engagement, but also buy-in from other employees in the organization.
  • Creating a sense of belonging and community between employees and even across departments and teams within the organization.

Changes to Management

Agile performance management does more than just usher in a more collaborative focus. It changes how leaders see management in the first place. In the past, managers were focused on checking details. They commanded and demanded.

Today, those aspects are fading away. Managers must still have authority, but the focus has moved from checking the details to providing robust coaching whenever and wherever necessary. Coaching is not just another word for punitive or corrective action, though.

At its heart, coaching is about collaboration. The coach must work together (collaboratively) with the employee at each stage. Without collaboration, it is simply a one-way flow of information, which rarely achieves lasting change and improvement.

Collaboration Creates Real Change

Why is there such a focus on collaboration in Agile-based performance management? Simply put, it’s about creating a two-way conversation, rather than a one-way flow of information. In the older style of performance management, employees had no real ownership. They were inundated with outdated information from a manager about actions that took place perhaps months in the past. It lacked meaning and veracity. There was no real sense of value.

With a collaborative, real-time, two-way conversation, the paradigm changes. Because employees receive coaching on actions, behaviors, and decisions they made just days in the past, everything is different. Rather than disengagement, they become engaged. Rather than disassociating themselves from the experience, they feel a sense of ownership and accountability.

The result of this is simple: real, lasting change that drives not just important changes in employee behavior, but in attitude, and in overall goals for the organization.

Kick OKRs to the Curb

In the past, objectives and key results (OKRs) were the yardsticks by which performance was measured. Today, that’s not really the case, at least not with Agile-based performance management. In this case, OKRs are seen as largely obsolete.

They are being replaced by more important values and metrics, including:

  • Innovation
  • Willingness to take risks
  • Willingness to question
  • Accountability
  • Flexibility
  • Persistence

Ultimately, it is more of an alignment between performance metrics and human qualities, characteristics, and values. It’s a humanizing force that turns performance management from an abstract process to a human-building force powered by collaboration. Of course, feedback is still important, and managers must understand the most valuable form of feedback to use this method effectively.

The Value of Recognition

Yes, employees must still be made aware of negative behaviors. However, the single most potent form of feedback is recognition of a job well done. That could be closing a major sale. It could be making a dissatisfied customer satisfied. It could be virtually anything – the point is to recognize not just the victory, but the role of the employee (and their behavior) in achieving that.

Parting Thoughts

Is Agile performance management right for all organizations? Yes, it is, but it will require time and strategy to implement. Find ways to work Agile methodology into your existing processes and slowly transform the situation over time. This helps avoid the paralysis that can stem from overhauling a process overnight. Finally, make sure that your efforts are backed up with the right technology – eLeaP’s performance management system can help you revolutionize your performance management process.