Individual performance in Scrum enviornment

Last post 01:37 pm November 16, 2017
by Ian Mitchell
18 replies
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05:36 pm November 7, 2017

How can we measure individual performance of team members in a Scrum team, without breaking the fundamental Scrum values?

Individual performance measurement is necessary for career growth and promotions. It can affect employee motivation.

06:14 pm November 7, 2017

Individual performance metrics are against the spirit of Scrum.

One simple example:

Suppose you are tracking team members individual velocity; How are the following expectations affected? What do you think?

  • Team members should help each other on any problem.
  • Team members should coach each other on technologies, domain, product etc.
  • Team members give their best estimates
07:15 pm November 7, 2017

"Individual performance metrics are against the spirit of Scrum."

 

A few ways to incorporate individual performance metrics might be:

1) "How well do you predict your performance on tasks assigned to you from the Sprint Backlog? (i.e. do the estimates you provide turn out to be accurate?) "

2) "How often do you accept and/or provide help to other team members?"

3) "How well do you understand and follow Scrum?"

 

These can all be measured to some extent:

1) % predict accurately (where you were primary estimator and developer on the item) 

2) # of times helping/helped on development task and/or scrum assistance,

3) certifications or tests or # of times demonstrably unaware of Scrum rules, events, artifacts, or roles.

08:15 pm November 7, 2017

Hi Greg,

Do you think that these two metrics are realistic and can be applied in real world scenario? And if you think so, what may be the consequences in the team if you apply these metrics?

1) "How well do you predict your performance on tasks assigned to you from the Sprint Backlog? (i.e. do the estimates you provide turn out to be accurate?) "

2) "How often do you accept and/or provide help to other team members?"

 

Btw, this is somehow a good practice but imho should not be a performance metric:

3) "How well do you understand and follow Scrum?"

09:21 pm November 7, 2017

I read the "performance metrics" question as pertaining to personnel reviews on an annual or quarterly basis.

Performance metrics on predicting performance might result in over-predicting and thus under-performing even if performance matches the (over-estimated) prediction. This must be watched for, but the Development Team may be able to assess each estimate as a whole, and they are ultimately responsible for it as well. Predicting correctly is a sign of a mature developer and is something that comes up on performance reviews.

Over-providing and asking for more help than needed just to meet a metric is also worth watching for, but the ability to ask and receive help is crucial to a functioning team, and for our team, is a fire-able offense.

"Reasonable" needs to be added to each of those two metrics and can be addressed somewhat in quarterly or annual personnel performance reviews.

Understanding and following Scrum, or rather persistently misunderstanding and not following the Rules of Scrum seems both measurable and important, IMHO. An employee that needs consistent reminding of the same Rules over a long period of time would need to know that that is noticed. However, continuously reminding any or all employees of different Scrum Rules and company procedures is part of everyone's path of learning, and should not be confused with needed consistent reminding of the same Rules.

 

09:39 pm November 7, 2017

Shouldn’t the onus be on the organization to change its career structure first, including advancement prospects, before any such attempt at measuring people in Scrum terms is made?

10:06 pm November 7, 2017

Paraphrasing the Scrum Guide:

 

Development Teams are self-organizing. No one tells the team how to deliver PBI's.   Scrum recognizes no titles or sub-teams within the Development Team.   Accountability belongs solely to the entire Development Team.

 

Any attempt to evaluate individual performance in regards to delivering work product is against Scrum, and should be made visible whenever it is attempted.   Individual performance measurement is not required for career growth, and in fact will have a de-motivating effect.

 

That said, there are ways to conform to existing organization practices around individual evaluation that do not run counter to scrum.

  • Assess how much the Team Member has learned over the evaluation period.   Set additional learning goals to be evaluated in the future
  • 360 reviews within a Development Team can provide valuable feedback to management
  • Assess how much the Team Member has taught others in the Team/organization over the evaluation period (knowledge transfer, cross-training)
  • How has the Team Member contributed to continuous improvement initiatives within the Team (Kaizen)?
  • Establish Team Objectives (meeting forecasts, PO and customer satisfaction) as a significant part of the Development Team member's review
  • Avoid metrics that attempt to measure individual contribution to work product

 

 

02:11 am November 8, 2017

Shouldn’t the onus be on the organization to change its career structure first, including advancement prospects, before any such attempt at measuring people in Scrum terms is made?

Let's try to be more specific. In your experience, what career structure (and hierarchical structure) is best suited to work with Scrum teams is Software industry? How will people advance in their career using this career structure and how the individual performance will be measured?

I fail to understand how changing the career structure solves the problem with measuring individual performance.

02:24 am November 8, 2017

Assess how much the Team Member has learned over the evaluation period.   Set additional learning goals to be evaluated in the future

It is difficult to evaluate how much one Team Member has learned. It is even more difficult to objectively compare how much he learned in comparison to other team members or other employees if you need to decide who to promote. Also, from a company point of view, they care more about the value that the Team Member brings and how he applies his knowledge. 

360 reviews within a Development Team can provide valuable feedback to management

In my opinion, team members with better "people" skills may be rated better on 360 reviews. Also, what if more than one team member wants to advance to the same position in his career path. Will this affect the 360 review process? Also, this process might affect negatively on the team themselves, the team member with the lowest score might not be willing to be part of the team anymore.

Assess how much the Team Member has taught others in the Team/organization over the evaluation period (knowledge transfer, cross-training)

How would you do that? This can be very subjective.
 

Establish Team Objectives (meeting forecasts, PO and customer satisfaction) as a significant part of the Development Team member's review

 How would you measure his individual contribution to the team objectives?

02:37 am November 8, 2017

In my experience, the best thing to do is to take a problem to the teams themselves. In this case, given a parent organization’s business context, how would team members actually choose to be measured?

Has the wider organization thought about that approach? If not, why not? Does it need to change in order to have self-organizing teams in the first place, so that measuring individual “performance” is brought within their competence?

09:34 am November 8, 2017

In my experience, the best thing to do is to take a problem to the teams themselves. In this case, given a parent organization’s business context, how would team members actually choose to be measured?

Has the wider organization thought about that approach? If not, why not? Does it need to change in order to have self-organizing teams in the first place, so that measuring individual “performance” is brought within their competence?

Great!  I completely agree with you! And I am now in the position that you have described, so we can be even more specific. In my concrete scenario, the problem of individual performance measurement is in the hands of the team itself. The wider organization already thought about this approach and implemented it.

Now the problem is the question that you asked.

In this case, given a parent organization’s business context, how would team members actually choose to be measured?

 This is the actual question that I need help answering. In your experience, what is some good way for the team to organize itself to reliably and fairly measure individual performance? I don't see what is the connection with the business context, because the PO is the one that will decide what he thinks brings more value and order the backlog accordingly, but the industry in question is online sales (selling services online). Development team is working on the website used to provide that service.

10:14 am November 8, 2017

How have the Scrum Teams in the organization chosen to do this? Having properly taken matters to the team, what is the approach they actually came up with?

If they are struggling with this issue, check that the desire for individual performance measurement genuinely come from them, and not from some other authority. In Scrum, teams know best how to organize themselves for value delivery in their business context - and if and how to measure individual performance - than a third party will.

Personally, in my experience, I would concur with the assessment that it is better to focus on teamwork than on individual performance.

12:18 pm November 8, 2017

Ian, thank you for your feedback. It is very valuable.

I understand your position. I agree that it is better to focus on teamwork than on individual performance (this is also in the spirit of Scrum, working together to reach common goal).

This leads me to the conclusion that maybe there is no way to measure individual performance without breaking the fundamental Scrum values.

If that is the case, we need to choose what is more important, implementing Scrum in its entirety or measuring individual performance.

Individual performance measurement (if done correctly and in a transparent way) is a fair way to:

- Decide on promotions

- Decide on salary raise

- Decide on bonus amount etc.

A fair way to determine these things is crucial for employee motivation. Unfair way to determine these things is even more crucial and causes employee demotivation.

Scientific paper: https://goo.gl/v8xB59

 

In my experience (almost a decade in IT industry) I haven't witnessed a way to measure individual performance without breaking Scrum value, on any project or organization.

I asked a lot of Agile practitioners this question and haven't got an example. Do you have such experience?

01:29 pm November 8, 2017

The only way would be if teams themselves considered it to be important, and of use to them when doing their work. It’s possible that they might do. They might decide that they work best with different pay grades, and prescribed career paths, and assessments and measures for each individual to aim for. If so, then they must decide what they want, perhaps by leaving room for experimentation. None of this actually breaks Scrum or its values, as long as it comes from the team and is not imposed on them by some other perceived authority. In my experience however, individual performance measures typically do come from such an imposition, and hence it is difficult to find genuine and valid examples of their application.

 

09:30 pm November 8, 2017

It is difficult to evaluate how much one Team Member has learned. It is even more difficult to objectively compare how much he learned in comparison to other team members or other employees if you need to decide who to promote. Also, from a company point of view, they care more about the value that the Team Member brings and how he applies his knowledge. 

Why is it difficult in your organization to evaluate what a Team Member has learned?   Why would you ever compare what one team member has learned to another?   What has more value to your company - a team member applying his knowledge to deliver work product, or a team member educating others about what he or she knows?

In my opinion, team members with better "people" skills may be rated better on 360 reviews.

Why do you feel that "people" skills are somehow negative or unimportant in Scrum? 

Also, what if more than one team member wants to advance to the same position in his career path. Will this affect the 360 review process?

Why do you believe that your team members are so selfish and cut-throat that they would manipulate their 360 reviews to benefit themselves?   If this is reality in your company, then you have far more issues creating a toxic environment than can ever be addressed through Scrum.

 the team member with the lowest score might not be willing to be part of the team anymore.

And how would any team member learn that they scored the lowest?   My suggestion was that these evaluation may provide valuable feedback to management, not to be shared among team members.

How would you (assess how much the Team Member has taught others in the Team/organization)? This can be very subjective.

Why would it be subjective?   Did the team member take time to instruct or educate others?   Were these efforts captured or reflected in their 360 reviews?   Can the team member identify events where they provided such teaching?

 How would you measure his individual contribution to the team objectives?

I wouldn't.   I would make the team's accomplishments a significant portion of that person's review.

06:27 am November 11, 2017

Why is it difficult in your organization to evaluate what a Team Member has learned?

1. How would you measure it? Tests?  
2. How would you measure how much of that knowledge actually is applicable in his current position?
3. How would you measure if he actually applied that knowledge?
4. How would you measure if the applied knowledge brought any value to the company or not?

And how would any team member learn that they scored the lowest?   My suggestion was that these evaluation may provide valuable feedback to management, not to be shared among team members.

In my opinion, lack of transparency of the evaluation process is one of the main reasons why people leave companies. If the team member is not satisfied with his evaluation, and there is no visibility why his evaluation is the way it is, he can't perceive the process as fair. 

Individual performance measurement is not required for career growth, and in fact will have a de-motivating effect.

In your experience, what process or a framework can be used for career growth? Can the same framework be used for calculating salary or bonus amount?

03:10 pm November 13, 2017

It looks more a Management than Scrum issue to me. Maybee you can find some ideas with Jurgen Appelo work's.

https://management30.com/product/workouts/salary-formula-compensation-plan/

01:37 pm November 16, 2017

Individual performance can sometimes be aligned to the overcoming of agile pain-points. For example, an organization may have too few architects, security specialists, data stewards etc. for those interests to be represented across and within multiple cross-functional teams. A reward structure may then be put in place for dev team members who "step up to the mark" and champion one or more of those rare and much-needed specialisms. If this helps a team to overcome its dependencies, then team members may value this approach.