Let’s talk about performance with Clements Radenborg
Let’s talk about performance: An interview with Agile Coach Clements Radenborg
Clements Radenborg has been through the motions of corporate organizations and driving Agile transformations dutch telco giant KPN. Nowadays, he is dedicated to revolutionizing performance management. In this interview, we tap into his expertise as an Agile coach, focusing on the question: how can performance management support Agile?
What Agile experience do you bring to the table?
I implemented DevOps in the context of Agile teams at KPN and have worked as a scrum master in numerous organizations since then.
If you compare the numerous organizations that work Agile, what do you think makes them tick – what drives Agile success?
There is a huge difference between doing and being Agile. The rituals are deceivingly easy to implement, but the difference shows between doing and becoming clear when tension has to be managed. To be more specific: how does pressure from stakeholders such as clients get managed? If thru client and management conversations, sudden changes are made to priorities and backlogs to resolve the tension, an Agile culture is killed before you know it. So maintaining Agile ways of working in suspenseful times might be the biggest task.
Talking about suspense: performance might be the hardest topic to talk about in organizations.
Traditionally performance management belonged to the domain of the manager and the dreaded year cycle of evaluations. I never met anyone who was enthusiastic about that approach. In agile implementations, on the other hand, talking about performance is all over the place. Good retrospectives can do a lot of magic.
How do you stimulate people to speak up and dare to be direct to each other in terms of performance evaluation?
The agile coach can help to build psychological safety. This is done by:
- Developing a culture of feedback. Contrary to popular beliefs, feedback does not only consist of talking about what’s needed to be done better. It is also about recognizing and acknowledging the efforts that people are making. So building up a culture of feedback can start with giving each other compliments.
- Tolerating failure. This is not an open invitation to tolerate any failure. Rather, a good conversation has to take place about which failures are acceptable to the organization and whatnot. It is about detailing and enriching the failure picture, to move beyond blunt and open statements such as “it is okay to make mistakes.”
What changes to classic performance management have to be made to support Agile Ways?
It is important to realize that the team is now the focal point and not individuals. So talking about individual performance should primarily take place within the team, and not in a bilateral setting. This is already possible if the organization still has a traditional HR cycle with the need for individual ratings. In one implementation we worked with it like this:
- All team members that retain their position in a team are apparently adding value;
- Standard team members will score a 3 out of 5 (with which the traditional yearly individual evaluation is a fact);
- If a team member advocates a 4 or 5 rating this has to be brought up in the team, a portfolio has to be built up, and a peer committee reviews this portfolio.
Agile has been around for quite a while. How do you see the future of Agile ways of working?
The goal of agile, to be flexible, adaptable, will only become more relevant in these complex and turbulent conditions we work and live in these days.