It’s Time to Ditch the Annual Performance Review

An Example – My Round Table:

Following is real-world example of the output of a team roundtable performance review, mine. From one of the best teams I’ve ever had the privilege of serving.

Self Review

In the context of this team, what are my most significant strengths?In the context of this team, what are my most significant area(s) for development?

Looking forward, how can the team help me enhance my impact on the team


Strong agile mindset, values, beliefs and principles

True servant leader, enabler of self-organization

Good coach

Decent mentor

Excellent facilitator

Fearless experimenter

Coaching beyond the team

Facilitating organizational-level learning

Letting go of trying to move the immovable

Better managing my stress and frustration thru daily meditation

Maintaining higher levels of positivity

Better coordinating across teams

Smiling more

Exercising my gratitude muscles more

Facilitate/coaching product/intake

better grooming of backlog

better story writing

50% of all our experiments will fail; trouble is we don’t know in advance which 50% so…

Increase the feedback loops with me

If I/we tried something (1-1 or team based) and it works, let me know. I need more positive reinforcement

And don’t hesitate to let me know clearly about the other 50%….

Let me know “where it hurts” – so I’m more aware and can design experiments

Be more mindful of our “time boxes” – especially daily stand up.

Showing up at 10:00 is late. Showing up a 9:58 is on time.

Come to daily fully prepared. Check the board in advance.

Relentlessly think, speak and communicate in terms of the 3 W’s:

Who, what, when.

Avoid pronouns – somebody, it, that, him, we – use proper names instead.

Provide more context by using the word “because” (I need your input by Thursday because code freeze is Friday.)

Always honor your commitments – especially on retro / action items (say + mean + do); enlist your team mates to help hold you accountable, coach you, etc.; circle back if you fail or are delayed to reset expectations

Ensure relevant conversations (meetings, slack, water cooler) get documented so they are easily shared and discoverable (use Confluence, JIRA).

Team Feedback

“Thanks, I appreciate the feedback.” Click To Tweet
In the context of this team, what are the Andy’s most significant strengths?In the context of this team, what are this Andy’s  most significant area(s) for development?Looking forward, how can the team help Andy enhance his impact on the team?


ability to put people in place without insulting them

approachable, but still gets stuff done

rejects conformity in ways that other people don’t

Stop shielding us so much, team wants to carry more burdens

looking at 30,000 ft, sometimes miss details (Jeff did an action item but didn’t update in confluence, Andy didn’t know)

cognitive bias – see too much success in people and not enough flaws; give more feedback to team members

you value order over creativity, intensity, impulsivity of the moment

we can communicate better to share missing details

let the chaos unfold

we can go over to product owners and designers to collaborate more



an excellent mentor, partner, coach & teammate

can seamlessly change between roles, know the difference between them

a key driver focused on making sure this is a team of people, creating an atmosphere where we can create trust

great, non-traditional & much-needed retrospectives

not afraid to talk about or complain about dysfunction (individual or process)

extremely passionate about the team & what we do, and relenting in making it known to everyone else

being transparent, keeping a record of it, having meetings in public, etc.

you lead in the midst of craziness

confuse over-communication with clarity; you know all the details, but you lose clarity in your mission (TLDR). Strike a balance between everyone knowing facts & choosing the most important thing to communicate in this moment

a tendency for defensiveness – defensive of our team & the way our team does something, sometimes interrupting those who disagree (you may be less heard because of it)

i don’t know many people who are immovable – it’s a challenge of understanding where person is coming from (people aren’t lost causes)

identify people you feel are becoming lost causes, find ways to resurface those people to the light. sitting down & articulating why certain people are difficult, how do we make it better

ask difficult individuals – what are you getting out of this, what are you interested in, how do you want to grow? You might naturally extract what their burdens are & be able to delegate or assist in other ways. Example: (oh, they’re responsible for something they didn’t want responsibility over, I can help re-delegate & discuss).

in getting lost in facts, we can do better job as a team to communicate to the rest of the organization that we’re awesome while getting the things we need to get more awesome stuff done

Create a retro where the team can bring up items they want to talk about



energy and passion for subject matter – you genuinely love what you do

put a lot of effort into this & it shows, in thew ay you carry yourself, the way the team performs

you’re someone others can learn from

willingness to receive feedback

you’re fearless, open to feedback good or bad, shows tremendous strength

you’re the hub of this wheel, you show empathy toward all involved parties

over-communication vs clarity – SMs have so many different audiences – peers, teams, offshore folks, vendors, SLT.

Taylor message using ‘Who what when’ approach. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience, provide enough context so they know what’s going on, but not too much so they’re overwhelmed

resurrect weekly SM meeting, give you ample opportunities to coach other SMs, your experiments benefit your team, if you share, can help other teams too (especially retros in terms of having lively retro).

can help w/influence – there are some immovable people, but not all.



coaching – great coach with others within and outside of the team

you manage crazy well

retro with rings – pushing us to our stretch zone

you keep yourself in check – a little crazy in a safe environment, good balance

creativity – i’ve never had a SM like you, in a good way

team mood is great

not afraid to try new ideas, like creating PRs

always want to learn new things

fostered trust with team to take on new tasks

let us fail (occasionally), less hovering. Let us fail, we’ll fix it together, and then you don’t have to intervene.n/a


I appreciate you for rearranging the seats, it helps those of us who sat far away from the team, feels great to be re-included

Thanks for being honest about things, especially things you were opposed to at a high level

Sometimes you take responsibility for more than you should, spread responsibilities down to the team, this will help the team be aware of what’s happening & help figure out solutions togethern/a


you’re way more technical than you let on (customer emails)

you have an amazing talent for reading people on an emotional level, bring people up when they need it

the best SM ever, created great intake process, thank you.

you trusted us to do a crazy thing, that trust is hard to find

we delivered but wouldn’t have if it weren’t for you (we wouldn’t have started down that road without you)

standup could be improved – you’re an offender of making standup too long (6 minute standup, 3 minutes for 25 people, 3 minutes for Andy).

Do keep telling Steve to make his own tickets (trying to get over bad habit)

I can help facilitate a general meeting for announcements


“I’m gonna make her an example – your’e asking for too much, what are you taking out of the sprint”

Loved being initiated into team structure, no b/s here, you have to follow agile.

You’re empathetic, can apologize when someone’s offended, great at handling conflict

An amazing teacher, really look up to you

The reason I’m around the team so much is because of you – I feel like I’m a member of this team

someone not as sadistic as me might have taken that initiation a little rough.

groom more – you let the product team get away with too much. You’re tough, but be tougher, shine light on what’s missing & what we should give to you.

i’ll hold myself accountable to team, try not to take advantage of their willingness to get things done even w/few details of what should be built

larger picture grooming initiative – seeing product overview that then goes into specific tickets (3 Cs)

two options: do it for upgrades or new new customers (both NextGen), think about the user flow for signing up for internet, mobile, upgrades

write what your process flow is, so we know how to get the team involved sooner

gather requirements, then D2C devs and designer, talk it out



great coach and mentor

you are brave and fearless

you lead by example – willing to say when you’re wrong

a great agile ambassador

willing to help anyone

always looking out for the team

improve backlog grooming

manage stress

share your burdens when possible

I can remind you about meditation

I can help brainstorm ideas for backlog grooming

Self Summary

  • Listen more actively, instead of responding out of defensiveness.
  • Get context, understand the other person’s position, embrace the moment.
  • When responding, focus more on clarity through simplicity of the message.
  • Shield the team less, let team fail more.

Performance Review Follow-up:

  • Focus on grooming activities more, include entire team & see where it goes.
  • Allow the team to direct the experiments in retro – “where do you want to go, what do you want to try? How do we continuously improve?”

What’s Next?

Feedback received will only help change things forward to the extent that it gets acted upon. Click To Tweet

So what do you think? Would you rather wait around for 12 months and then find out all the things you can have been continuously responding to? Or would you rather get honest, sincere feedback that makes you, and your team, better? What’s stopping you from trying out a new approach to performance reviews?

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