Maria Matarelli Blogs

Friday, January 20, 2012

Motivating People in a Team Environment

How do you handle performance reviews and set goals for people on teams while a company is still focused on rewarding individuals?

There may be a delay from when a company moves to using an Agile approach and the time for their HR department to catch up and adjust their practices accordingly with a new work environment.

Imagine a work culture where employees take responsibility for soliciting feedback on their own performance and development. Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins discuss Abolishing Performance Appraisals, Why They Backfire and What to Do Instead. As outlined in the book summary: "Coens and Jenkins argue instead that appraisals do not accomplish what they are supposed to and that, in fact, they are counterproductive. They offer compelling evidence to demonstrate that appraisals backfire as they examine the five functions (coaching, feedback, setting pay, determining promotions, and documentation) for which appraisals are designed." 
Ian Cook provides an overview of this approach:!abolishing.html

The challenge lies in that managers are expected to set goals for individuals in an Agile environment where the person is working on a team where priorities are set by the Product Owner and the team is guided by the Scrum Master while HR is mandating that goals be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Based)

In the following article (, Alan Atlas breaks down performance management for agile people while focusing on the following primary management concerns:
  • How do I evaluate individual performance so I can give the right pay and bonuses to the right people?
  • How do I identify star performers and keep them from leaving?
  • How do I identify poor performers so I can “manage” them (usually implying “manage them out”)?
  • How can I support/reward team performance in my company’s individual-oriented performance management system?
These are the primary areas of focus, however while still on that middle ground during a transition to Agile, HR is still expecting that goals be set for individuals the same as in a traditional environment.

An approach of identifying some desired behaviors as well as a some specific goals may be a reasonable middle ground. Looking at what the individual does to improve the performance of the team, the level of quality consistently achieved and incorporating feedback from other team members may be incorporated into an approach. Differentiators may include how they assist other team members, active contribution and maintaining quality while striving for continuous improvement as a team. Another approach may be in setting the same goals for individuals on a team. Some goals may be a balance of both specific goals and general goals. Some people will get feedback and set benchmarks for improvement and while team goals are tied to producing product, look at how are team members are contributing to achieving those goals and tie in individual goals or setting the same goals for each of the team members. What have you found that works in your environment?

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