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How to do 360° feedback – using Agile Methodology

Submitted by on Saturday, 18 January 20142 Comments

This post combines two themes we see and hear a lot about in tech at the moment – namely 360° feedback and Agile Methodology. Specifically, is it possible to combine these two factors without derailing your process?

We say yes – but you need to add another element. And that element is strengths-based development. Let us explain…

The future of 360° feedback

Let’s step back for a few moments and share an initial observation. Most people really, really don’t like the performance appraisal process. To many, the annual performance appraisal is about as popular as a visit to the dentist.

Then there are those people (especially in HR) who will say ‘But it’s necessary!’

But what if we took a different view? What if we were to say that feedback is more like brushing teeth than visiting the dentist – and even something that can be enjoyed… but we’ll come back to that in due course…

First we need to understand that no matter how you cut, slice or dice it, the performance appraisal process is very flawed, for reasons we have already touched on here.

And hey, if this business were your business, wouldn’t you like feedback on a more regular basis anyway? Like, say, every two weeks? Wouldn’t you like feedback to be as natural as, say, brushing your teeth? And wouldn’t you like it to be even a little fun?

For those of you who feel we’re in dangerous territory here, please stop reading now. For those of you who have taken the red pill, the realisations that:

 Feedback, to be effective, needs to be given as close to the event as possible

Feedback, to be effective, needs to focus on strengths, not weaknesses (Peter Drucker noted that ‘a person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weakness, let alone on something one cannot do at all.’)

Feedback, to be effective, needs to be specific: specific to the individual, the situation he or she finds herself in, and the strategy the company and team is following

Put those factors together and suddenly we find ourselves far, far away from typical performance appraisal processes.

And this is precisely where the opportunity lies – namely for the future of 360° feedback – which, as we see it, is a combination of Agile Methodology and Strengths-based philosophy.

If you’re interested in doing this, here’s how:

How to do 360° feedback – Agile & Strengths based

We’ve seen before our ‘catch-all’ Strategic Thinking Model that blows many of the complexities in management out of the water using our simple template.

The good news is that this can be adapted for the purposes of an Agile, Strengths-based 360° feedback process, as follows:

First of all, introduce a ‘human’ element to your scrum meetings (if you don’t already do this). This covers all human factors.

Note that one of the weaknesses of some Agile and Scrum methodologies is the lack of a formal performance review and human growth element. The following process can help you bridge that…

360 degree feedback process

360 degree feedback using agile

1. First of all, ensure the atmosphere is one that is safe.

You can do so by saying words to the effect that everyone has peaks and valleys (Drucker again!) as well as their own limited and (even better) biased! perspective. This helps ensure that those receiving feedback do not react personally or negatively to it. And as Marcus Aurelius once wrote, ‘Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.’

2. Next, we recommend eliciting success.

This can start as a 180º (with a colleague). And it needs too be done in the context of the timeframe you are using. So for scrum, two weeks. As follows:

‘Can you tell me a time in the last two weeks when I was at my best?

Note the positive bias you are developing here – you want that to maintain safety as well as promote communication itself. Then follow up with:

‘Did that help you at all?’

and possibly also…

‘If so, can you describe how?’

3. Now, we move onto strengths.

By far the best way to do this is scientifically, using the Highlands Ability Battery. But if for whatever reason you can’t do that assessment, then follow up with:

 ‘Bearing in mind your feedback, can you please tell me what you think my strengths are?’

4. Next, we recommend eliciting shortcomings. Hopefully by this stage you would have received some useful positive feedback – and this can be done as a ‘mill’ (going from team member to team member). Now it’s time to find out how you are hindering your colleagues!

 ‘Can you please tell me about a time when you feel one of my behaviours might have hindered you in any way?’

Note we have now identified some specific help and hinder factors between team members. Also note – we are not creating a laundry list – just one item per 2 weeks is fine (as this is about all we can realistically work on).

Ensuring Feedback is strategic

So far so good. We have safe, flowing communication, and we may have identified some help and hinder factors from colleagues. What’s missing?

…Strategy!

You see, in traditional ‘one size fits all’ performance appraisals, very few of the factors even make a difference as we saw in this post here.

5. So we need to ensure personal success is aligned to team and organisational success.

Bottom line, if any of the help and hinder factors have no real benefit – positive or negative – to your project, team or company – ignore them!

Five Star Teams

This is because they have no strategic value. We are only interested in dealmakers and dealbreakers!

So now we follow up with…

‘How can you see doing more of / less of (behaviour) can help our team / company?’

This checks whether the behaviour identified is really of value at all – or whether this is just a gripe or hygiene factor.

6. Next we move onto suggestions.

Here’s where we return to the strengths-based philosophy. We need to parse out behaviours that are permanent and unchangeable weaknesses, and work in areas of strengths. Here’s one way to do that…

‘Can you suggest some ways you feel I can maximise my strengths in the team?’

 and…

‘Can you suggest some ways you feel I can minimise my weaknesses?’

7. The next step is to move onto self.

Here’s we share our own personal perspective – on both the perceived strengths and weaknesses. In some cases, we may not know ourselves very well. In others, we know ourselves better than anyone else. So this perspective is invaluable and creates buy-in.

8. Lastly, we agree to the steps we will take before the next scrum or feedback session. We do so by making a list on a card before we leave, which then becomes the starting point for the next review process (iterative).

Going 360°…

You can go 360° from here simply by ‘fanning out’, upwards, downwards, and sideways (to other colleagues and even stakeholders from other departments). 

Always remember to keep the session safe by pre-announcing our own biases and limited perspectives!

Implement 360 degree feedback with this programme…

If you would like to implement 360° feedback in your team, then have a look at Five Star Teams, or contact us for more details by following the link below…

 

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2 Comments »

  • It would be very interesting to see how many people went through their annual performance appraisal round if it was entirely voluntary.

    That would give a strong indication of how valuable people thought it was.

    Enjoyed the article

    James

  • admin says:

    Good point James and thank you!

    I think the idea would be to use 360 degrees as part of an agile scrum, on a 2 weekly or (more realistically) monthly basis.

    Forcing the focus to be on Strengths and Strategy may help get the positive mindset going!

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