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Re: Nobody Expects the Agile Imposition (Part III): People

by raybies (Chaplain)
on Nov 09, 2010 at 15:20 UTC ( #870320=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Nobody Expects the Agile Imposition (Part III): People

great article, and lots to read. I've been on the receiving end of bad appraisals and good ones. I've been laid off as a "poor performer" and kept on as one of the last six in a startup company that once had over 200 employees. in every case, however, what affected my appraisal MORE THAN THE WORK was my relationship with my supervisor--and his ability/willingness to fight for me. Liekwise I've been rehired by the same people multiple times, even when the company's funds were entirely exhausted, because of the good word of the bosses.

IMO, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS. IT doesn't matter if you think the other employees are sucking up to "the man", or if they're going golfing with him and somehow they manage to get all the opportunities. Use the tools the boss wants you to use. Find ways to make your boss's life better. Heck, have a barbeque at your house to show your boss that you're a human being with a family and kids--if you must. The truth is that the boss trusts those he can communicate with and feels he can rely upon. You do what the boss wants when he wants it, in a timely fashion. That's what sticks with the boss. YOU MUST MANAGE THAT RELATIONSHIP.

Employees sometimes get the impression that management should inherently know them--or trust them--or love them--or whatever. While this would be nice, imagine how many relationships succeed when you have high expectations and do nothing to manage that relationship.

btw, Perl has been extremely useful in this regard, due to its ability to get the job done, regardless of how pretty the code or interface. You betchya it's been a factor in allowing me to keep my job.

regarding performance evaluations, I honestly can't get behind them. I find the inherent nature of a team to be in constant strife with anything that encourages competition of one's livelihood to be counterproductive. I find that those who might share their expertise won't do it, if they think that this expertise is their only advantage to being in the job. Especially in companies that "hire the best" you're ranking the best against the best, and the factors that distinguish the best become extremely arbitrary and subjective the more similar the technical merits of the prospective team. So in a team of engineers, where they're all technically competent (or could become so, if given a chance) arbitrary ranking forces a self-destructive grade upon everyone and engineers get rewarded according to the luck of the draw, on his visibility and the "sexiness" of whatever the issue of the day might be--rather than on merit.

I once told my wife, "If I'm actively engaged at work then I'd rather not know about performance evaluations, positive or negative. If they're bad and I've given it my best shot, then I am depressed and think 'why even try?' while if they're really good then I think, 'awesome! I have been working too hard, and really need to take a break.'"

Poor rankings do have the added benefit of placing the boss into constant communication with the wayward employee. It can actually turn into a good thing, if the employee/boss are willing to see it as a way to improve communication. Sadly, that's not how it is used in companies.

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Re^2: Nobody Expects the Agile Imposition (Part III): People
by mr_mischief (Monsignor) on Nov 10, 2010 at 02:50 UTC

    You make some good points. Managing the relationship and having managers use personal connections to judge who to keep, though, are some of the things that will really kill productivity if taken too far. If everyone spends time managing the relationship with their superior rather than getting work done, that's time not spent on getting the work done. It's called politics, and it's exactly the sort of thing a good evaluation system can be used to factor out. The communication that really matters is what helps the team get the work done the smoothest.

    That said, the problem with employee evaluations is that most of them aren't very good. In fact, most of them range from short-sighted to downright stupid and counterproductive. Some evaluations force the evaluator to pick two or three "good" areas and two or three "needs improvement" areas for every employee out of predefined areas that may not even be that relevant to the particular job. Others rank people on a curve rather than allowing for something other than a 10%, 80%, 10% grouping. You might find, if you rate every employee on his or her own work, that you have 30% great employees, 67% good enough employees, 2% employees who need some improvement but are still assets to the company, and 1% who do absolutely nothing of value. This sort of ratio shouldn't be suspect for not fitting the curve. It should be an honor for your recruitment and training staff and process to know you beat the curve. You might find that you have 40% adequate employees, 25% that need improvement, and 35% that do more harm than good. That calls not for removing people and using the same recruitment strategy, but for changing how management finds and chooses candidates.

    In any case, just assigning employees to a rank is silly. Noting for the good or the bad their communication, technical knowledge, organization skills, insightful ideas, attitude, ease of working with the team, and any random factor you notice as positive or negative at the time is more useful. Correct problems as they arise. Keep the data to spot trends and correct negative trends and reward positive ones. Then, when raises, bonuses, layoffs, or whatever decision needs to be made, use the data collected.

    The hardest part of evaluating people individually and not ranking is you're probably not going to have an unlimited budget for raises and bonuses. That means each person has to get some share of what's available. This is why I really like the idea of project bonuses when they make sense in the particular workplace. Everyone on the team gets an even share of a bonus for the particular project. The projects that make more difference to the company get bigger bonuses. There is a drawback, though, in that people will try to transfer out of a team that gets projects assigned with less impact on a regular basis than some other team. OTOH, a lower base pay and more bonuses tied to the success of the project can be a great motivator and a great way to ease cash-flow restrictions on the business.

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