Friday, September 1, 2017

Bi-Annual Goal Setting Process Q&A

When attending Agile 2017 this year there was a great new track called the Audacious Salon.


While in this track I had many great experiences but one in particular had really caught the imagination of the attendees. The session was titled: "No Complaints... Upside Only: Good News about the Agile Movement from Agile Veterans". It had a great structure too. There was a sofa with 2 seats. One was reserved for the current speaker and the other was there for the next person up to tell the story. The goal was to hear as many agile success stories as possible and it was really cool to hear these awesome stories.

The reason I am writing this blog is because during that event I went up and told a story about our Bi-Annual Review process. I explained how it worked and how we put it together and afterward I received many questions from people there and even received a few email questions. So I am going to answer them here.

First the story I told


Our team had been doing Bi-annual goal setting during our standard review process for years. The manager was expected to come up with goals for the employee every 6 months and then 6 months later the goals would be reviewed. The process however felt very forced and it did not feel like it was accomplishing much. In fact the process was simply treated as a waste of time rather than something to be taken seriously. After we started to transition to scaling the team we were approaching the goal setting period and during a team retro we decided to retrospect on the process itself.

We identified the requirements from HR. They simply needed 2 goals from us, which meant that we were making a few assumptions that we could re-think. Out first retro resulted in a peer facilitated retrospective to support scaling. After trying it once we did another retro. We had identified that we came up with goals to satisfy HR but more importantly we had a lot of satisfied team members. One of which said "This is the first time in my that I have come out of a review process with goals relevant to me and my career."

How it worked


First the facilitator would facilitate a timeline retrospective:


 Positive events over the last 6 months would go above the line, Negative events would go below the line.

Then the facilitator would host a force field retrospective:

Positive forces on the left and negative forces on the right. A force in this context is some ongoing condition that effects the person continuously. For example supportive team members is not an event but rather is a positive force. Forces either push you forward (positive) or hold you back (negative).


Once you have finished the timeline and force field your facilitator will prompt you with a few questions to get a few more items out on the sheet. Once there has been a sufficient silent period the facilitator asks for 6 potential goals to "turn up the good" or "reduce the bad".  The resulting goals will contain 2 Timeline Related goals, one from positive, one from negative. There will also be 4 force field Goals, 2 from positive forces and 2 from negative.


Finally the peer facilitated retrospective will close and the team member will bring the 6 goals to me (the department director.)



Once together we work together to find the 2 goals that best fit both the organization and the employee and submit the goals to HR. What we end up with are very unique, highly targeted and relevant "S.M.A.R.T." goals that people want to work toward.

What happened next?

We continued to develop the system over the next 2 review periods hosting a retrospective about the process each time. The new additions were made in order to better allocate peer facilitators. The first time we ran this experiment we discovered that there were a few people who were being selected as facilitators for a majority of the people in the department. What we did as a result of these retrospectives was limited the W.I.P. for the facilitators.

We write "Facilitators" on a piece of flip chart paper and posted stickies containing the volunteer facilitators names on the sheet of paper. The presence of the name of the facilitator on the sheet signifies they are currently available to facilitate. The team member then takes a name off of the paper and does the retro with that person handing the facilitator their sticky with their name on it. Once the retrospective is completed the facilitator has the option to put their name back up on the paper or not. This allows for breaks as well depending on demand. We ended up with a higher verity of facilitators and many people in the department getting experience coaching.

What questions did you get?


First I want to say I am happy to answer questions out there so ask them in comments, twitter, email etc...

Above I tried to answer most of the verbal questions I received at the conference but Tiffany Powley asked some great questions via email that I wanted to cover:

The peer coach facilitated two personal retrospective styles.  I think they were:


Timeline:  Is that like a journey line, that shows the high and low points across the last 6-12 months.  

The best way to look at the timeline retro is a list of experiences and how did those experiences effect you. These are not continuous forces, rather they are single highlights or low points caused by some short event. Examples would include attendance to conferences, arguments with coworkers, and software releases etc... The objective is to frame the goal setting in this section around situational reactions or preparation for future events. If I had a bad software release I might create a goal around doing more TDD.

Force-field:  I did some research and perhaps it's something like this:  reflect on what factors, practices and circumstances either pushed the person forward towards our goal or pushed us back. 

Yes these are continuous that drive you or hold you back. Easy examples of these are Supportive team members, an education program that is helping learn, or a dysfunctional organizational process that makes work difficult. An unsaid objective here is to identify the things that may be causing a fatalistic mentality. For example: "We will never get to Zero Bugs because we never get time to learn how to do TDD" The force in this example is the inability to learn during work hours. A potential goal here would be to request time, or use time to learn each day in order to move this force in the right direction.

After the individual had their drafted 6 goals, they met with you to discuss and decide.  What was your motivation for that choice?

The 2 goals for timeline and 4 goals for force field was decided on since forces could have more of a long term continuous impact. We picked 6 goals to reduce decision fatigue after we work through the value of each goal relative to the individual and the business. I also hold one on one meetings during this time to have an open ended discussion.

Individuals worked with a peer coach to define the 6 goals.  Did your peer coaches have any coaching training​, were they the leaders on the team, or something different? 

All of our team members have some form of coaching training. Everyone also gets opportunities to facilitate retrospectives. The first time we tried this it was primarily experienced facilitators, however it has become more open since then.




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