I was reading Linkedin Questions weeks ago when I found a question asking about how to do annual performance review for agile team. I read through some answers and found a really short and interesting one. It said “annual review? That’s twelve months feedback loop”.
Imagine a decent competent programmer; Alex, in a performance review session. He had never thought of himself as a star employee but he believed he had done an excellent job this year. It was not long before the manager let him know about some strong feedback from team members. A couple of it really caught him off guard, “does not cooperate well with others”? Where did that come from? Wasn’t he the one who overhauled logging message so support team could get more error information? What about those extra documents he had composed to help tester learn the new feature faster? How was it possible that he had problem in cooperation?
Well, feedback sometimes is largely based on perception and we all know that perception is certainly not the most rational thing in the world. Although Alex has done a lot of things that help other team members to make progress in their tasks but what has stuck in their mind happen to be those situations when Alex refused to be interrupted while he was coding. He is not the type of person who can handle multitasking well. Once he is in his stream of thought, he can afford just only a couple quick chat interruptions. If it seems to take longer then he cut the conversation saying he doesn’t have time right now and go back to his coding.
Now, I will not say that if they all sit together talking and try to figure things out then they will definitely found a solution and we will all live happily in this peaceful world. Working life is hard and people sometimes make it a lot harder than it already is. What I am interested in is the fact that Alex was surprise by those feedbacks. He had never known his colleague was growing the perception of him being not cooperative. It is just sad that no one care to let him know about it. I myself could not find a most effective way to deal with this situation. I just think that keeping Alex in the dark until the year end performance review is not right.
Faster feedback loop
The retrospective at the end the sprint give team members the opportunity to give feedback of the sprint. The feedback should be in the constructive tone so it is a good time to ask for improvement. It doesn’t need to be too direct. I often realize that I need to do better in a particular area when there are some feedbacks indirectly asking for improvement in the tasks I was responsible for. Sometimes I agree with the suggestion, sometimes I don’t but at least I don’t have to wait six months to learn want I need to improve which will be too late for me to change anything.
The problem of Alex could be gradually fixed if it had been raised early. His good intention is still there. It’s not like he think he is done with project and just be bitter at work place waiting to go somewhere else. I still want to improve and with the help of team members, he will improve. If he got the feedback early to gradually work on it then this interruption management should not be too hard to overcome.
A true friend is the one that ready to hurt you for your own good.
I once heard a friend of my sister said about her junior doctor in her hospital (I don’t know the exact term for that). She said that she didn’t care about him enough to say that he was wrong. Sometimes a friend may say something that hurt your feeling just because they care enough to say it. Good friends will give honest feedback in hope that you will improve over time. They will not wait for months to let you know at the worst possible moment.