Agile Performance Management: Just Do It (And Ditch the Jargon)

by Anita Bowness | Posted | Performance Management

Agile Performance Management: Just Do It (And Ditch the Jargon)

Every industry is full of buzz words and office-speak – those words and phrases you love to hate. You probably have your favorites. And then there’s the latest HR buzz phrase: agile performance management.

Agile started innocently enough as a set of software development principles, but since then it’s spread to other business processes. Now people are touting it as the successor to performance management, urging people to scrap annual performance reviews and adopt agile methods of managing performance.

What’s the value-add of office-speak?

The problem with jargon and buzzwords is they can make a simple idea seem more complex and confusing than it needs to be. So let’s put the labels aside for a minute and really look at what agile performance management is (you’ll notice we’re not taking a “deep dive” into the concept). There are a number of articles written on the subject and they focus on three things:

  • Frequent feedback
  • Regular check-ins
  • Coaching conversations

These are all great things, but they’re not revolutionary. In fact, they’re all things that you should already be doing on a regular basis. Doesn’t that sound far less intimidating than trying to get your managers and employees to learn a whole new way of managing performance? Forget the jargon and office-speak, let’s take a look at what your company should be doing, without any convoluted labels:

Talk with your team

Employees who feel valued and respected for their contributions to your company are far less likely to look for a new job. Managers need coaching and support to have effective conversations with their team members. Employees also need to have a clear understanding of their role and how their work contributes to the company’s success. When they can see a connection between their work and the company’s objectives, they’re more motivated and engaged.

Praise the wins, learn from mistakes

Everyone likes to know how they’re doing. Checking in with employees is important not only to build relationships, but also to keep things on track. Managers should make sure they recognize employees for a job well done, but also discuss issues or potential problems in a timely basis. Constructive criticism is never easy, but it’s critical for learning. With the right approach, managers should be able to discuss any issue with employees without passing judgment or blame. And it goes both ways: employees should be given the tools they need to feel comfortable giving their manager feedback, as well.

Discover employee aspirations

Do employees dream of moving into a management position in a few years? Maybe they want to avoid a management position, but don’t want to stagnate in their job. Is there another role in your company that would keep them challenged and happy? Encourage your managers to find out what their employees really want and have an open discussion about how they can achieve their goals. That way, managers and employees can work together on a development plan that will move their career forward within your business.

Think about your company’s future

Consider where your industry will be in five or 10 years. Do your people have the skills now to ensure your company’s success in the years to come? HR leaders and managers need to determine what knowledge, skills and experience are important to their company, and create development and recruiting plans to build those skills. Involve employees in this discussion. They’re on the front lines; what do they see happening in the industry? What skills do they think are critical to have now and two years from now?

Keep it simple, silly

My favorite motto is KISS: Keep it simple, silly. It’s cliché because it’s true. Don’t make things unnecessarily complicated. We don’t need fancy names like “agile performance management” to describe a process that you should be doing already.

Put simply: The best way to manage your people is to have clear and open conversations between managers and employees on a regular basis. Make sure everyone is clear on their role and has the coaching and support they need to do it well. Understand what skills are important to your business now and plan for the future. There probably is some fancy jargon for this approach, but I think it’s just good business.

5 Ways To Transform The Annual Performance Review

Find a new way to handle your once-a-year approach to performance management.


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5 Ways To Transform The Annual Performance Review

Find a new way to handle your once-a-year approach to performance management.


Try Something New


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