Agile is a Culture that was originally created to transform software delivery. Agile is guided by The Agile Manifesto and it’s accompanying 12 Agile Principles. The Retrospective is an iterative ritual originally created as part of the Scrum Delivery process in 1993 by Jeff Sutherland. Since its original structure, the retrospective hasn’t evolved in intention or purpose, but it’s content does change regularly to maintain fresh engagement on self learning. Agile teams utilise the Scrum Retrospective practice to act out and improve on abiding by the afore mentioned principles.
Consider changing from an annual performance review to a shorter and more frequent cycle, at least once a month is a good rhythm to keep.
Corporations often exercise a performance review once a year as part of a standard HR endorsed meeting or financial incentive program. The premise is that they are designed as a meeting for the manager to communicate to their employee how they are performing, in accordance with the conversation they had last year. While formal submissions must be done – at a minimum – once every year; there are benefits to having retrospective conversations more frequently with your team, your managers or even yourself;
mistakes or poor performance can be discussed and resolved close to when the actual event occurred rather than left, forgotten about or not corrected
the actions within a review become more comfortable because the frequency gives you more practice
the duration becomes shorter as it only needs to focus on the last few weeks
the conversation moves from ‘a what have you done and scored assessment’ to a more mentoring/ perform better focus because you have visibility of the score building every month
A performance review can be transformed from drudgery to good value.
How many performance reviews have you enjoyably benefited from? Not just in the sense of passing the minimum checks to get a bonus but actually gained value that you took away and then put into your job? The majority of satisfaction ratings I’ve gathered are actually determined by the ‘managers communication and socialisation skills’ (as perceived by the recipient) rather than the benefit gained to “perform better”. Interestingly enough the same lack of value occurs for managers who deem the performance reviews a logistical report. Even when they try to inject counsel or suggestion it seems pointless to the reciepient because it’s so far from when the events occurred. If you start observing, discussing and acting on at least one improvement a month you find that the logistical difficulty or poor communication skills aren’t the focus, the work is.
Frequent retrospectives between ranks can soften difficult conversations.
I find it interesting that people can be quite egotistical or power driven when it comes to performance reviews; that is regardless of whether they are the giver or the receiver. In many cases it’s because it’s someone feels they must exert rank to be respected, or because people are actually so afraid of failing they overproject confidence which really presents as arrogance. The heighten responses to incidental and informative feedback are because of the infrequency at which they occur and the weight of reward based on that infrequent event. When difficult conversations are addressed more frequently a level of comfortably builds up that allows emotions to recede and with training the conversations is simply focusing on the work.
You gain real time visibility of how you are trending over the year, giving you ample opportunity to correct early if do go a bit off track.
Professional athletic teams capture statistics and perform data analysis to identify opportunities to improve – continuously! Without fail the teams will use the information to change their training, their strategy and channel as much improvement into their performance as possible. In fact even amateur and little league teams honour the value of speedy informed data trends. Imagine if they only looked at their statistics once a year? Do you think they would be a winning team? All professionals can use a regular cycle of retrospectives to glean the data they need to analysis opportunity improve, to eliminate mistakes and to continuously learn.
A clever Agile Professional recently asked me to review their Business Model Canvas for his, and a few friends new start-up. It was well filled in, looked like a good structural business model with lots for the starter upperers to do. Partnerships thought out, value propositions cleverly jotted down, and suppliers penciled in. In-fact it was a smart good looking very busy business according to the canvas.
Just one missing thing – they are a start-up, and no where on the canvas did it show WHY they were going to make money…. Don’t be fulled people, a good business structure is useless if people don’t want your products! That team structure or lean sales cycles is absolutely just pretty wallpaper and well oiled people if no-one is interested in buying what you are selling.
So a good bucket of cold water is sometimes needed for entrepreneurs when they are looking to turn the visions into real dollars.
Do a start-up business plan
Prioritise the Business Model Canvas components according to;
Your critical go to market elements (oh no, if we don’t do this we won’t survive the first year)
Your incubator elements (ok, our product is proven to be desirable so will invest a little)
Your proven business success model (future state of desirable beings)
The above prioritisation / reality task will feed into your start-up business plan
Do a market appreciation to identify likely demand of your product;
Where it is underserved
Where it is overserved
Where the problem you are solving sits within that landscape
Then ask yourself
i. are we solving a problem the market actually needs?
ii. What is our solution to that problem in the market
Then go back and re-write your Start-up business plan into slide: ‘Underlying Magic’ (because you now know your differentiator in the market) and update your business model to make that magic happen
Then get back to me
Start-up Business Plan – yes if you can summarise into the below you know your business
Problem – what problem are you solving?
Solution – what’s the solution to the problem you’ve identified?
Business Model – primary info here is – (manufacture, retailer, classified, subscription, service)
Underlying magic – why are you so bloody special? What is your market differentiator?
Product – what is it, how much is it, why will I buy it?
Marketing – where, when, how…
Sales – point of sale, cycles
Competition – primary, etc…
Team – who is going to bring this magic to life?
Projections & Milestones
financial projections based on the above product, marketing conversions, # sales, considering a coherence factor
be careful with this one – you don’t necessarily want to hypothesis and share too much details so good to structure it in bi-annuall milestones, with critical factors & variable projections
the essence is to show that it’s worth doing
Summary – call to action – just inspire me….
Inspire me! Yep it’s an important part of the pitch – not just to yourself, to everyone you are going to want to pitch-into your business to make it succeed. In fact – especially inspire yourself because it does take effort to start-up a successful business and to pull in a regular income
Lean business is an applied philosophy made most famous by Toyota’s Production Systems; also known as Just In Time Delivery. The essence of the methodology is to understand and practice how a business can prosper with the least amount of effort for the most effective results.
Funnily enough for business managers the path taken to profiteering isn’t always the least resistant nor the least in length. A good example is the MBA – Masters of Business Administration. Many supposed prestigious business administrators have earned their stripes by doing years of study but does that make them most profitable? Or does an MBA make a great leader? Not necessarily – it makes you a great business administrator. And yet I bet that 80% of their profit came from 20% of their knowledge!! That’s a confident bet and i’ll back it with introducing the Pareto Principle – more commonly known as the 80-20 rule. Whereby 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers etc. etc.
The importance in the example is not knowing a statistic Principle, it’s knowing that the best thing you can you do for your business is who are the most important customers and what is the most relevant actions I can take.
Let me say that another way. Being lean is about;
eliminating waste – after a while businesses hoard leftovers, ‘just in case’, misdirections – let go
be real about situations – data is apolitical and besides isn’t it time to cut the ego comforting
focus on what is relevant – is this marketing targeting the perfect customer or are we firing blind
always look for efficiency & streamline systems – check Ikea or BMW factories, they are absolutely beautiful processes and environments
Besides practicing ‘smart business’ not ‘traditional business’ on the personal and human side you deserve to save time in your life by asking yourself “is this the best thing I can be doing for myself today?”
Start thinking Lean in your strategies, your positioning and your delivery and subsequent agile practices such a product innovation and scrum will be adopted in an evolutionary manner with less resistance than in lethargic administrative organisations.
Google Ad Words team recently called me to help me go through the set up of my AdSense account. I totally took advantage of the service, to see if it would get me any better page rank or possible page impressions. We set up a campaign to use up my Google keyword AdWords discount.
I noted down some key points to help you think about how it might help you. In a few weeks i’ll update you on how the campaign went