Dictionary meaning of reward is something given or received in return for a service, metric, hardship etc.

In typical reward system one celebrates success of an individual or team based on their hard work or value added to organisation (usually one is rewarded for success). Ceremonies are held and art effects are presented in form of monetary items, recognition certificates and well done emails. In reward communication these keywords are mostly used “going extra mile”, “proactive behavior”, “going out-of-the-way”, “excellent team work” etc.

I understand that reward system plays important role in organisation’s culture and shows that people are treated with respect and valued for their contribution. High point in these ceremonies  are usually individual or a team getting the reward but not the steps that one took to be rewarded (I understand that there are small speeches and emails. But do you really remember who was the top performer in your team 6 months ago? and why they received the reward (ah ha.. a moment for thought perhaps).

This idea has been flickering in my mind that reward system and understanding system are interlinked with each other and by combining these systems we can help teams better understand about the actual behavior that led someone to get rewarded.

Some of the basic characteristics of combined system can be (I call this “Understanding System”)

  • Better recognition and radiation of non-formal learning
  • Spaced learning rather than cramped learning
  • Increased motivation
  • Acceleration in idea generation
  • Increased workplace satisfaction and talent retention

I am interested to know what reward system you have in-place for your team and how is it helping your team to learn, grow and understand the actual behavior that led to the reward?

Historically most companies use stock standard individual performance plan processes and tools (monthly meetings, Microsoft Word templates, SMART goals). Common issues are difficulty to maintain and version control Microsoft Word template, monthly meetings become upwards reporting meetings to line management, multiple document copies fly around via emails and mostly performance plan gets created at the start of the year and the next time this document is looked it’s at the end of the year.

Performance plans are all about accomplishing inspiring goals. It is time to get creative, innovative, collaborative and introduce agile methodology into individual performance plans. This year I am assisting my team to turn individual performance plans into agile performance plans.

Here are few things you can do to turn individual performance plan into agile performance plan.

  • Performance Stories: Turn goals into performance stories with clear acceptance criteria.
  • Product Owners: Ask your line manager to become a product owner of your agile performance plan.
  • Less Context Switching: Use agile development tools than no-one has to switch a new system to manage goals.
  • Value Steams: Create inspiriting value steams and let your goals flow thought them e.g. (Thinking, Inspiring Goals, Doing, Done)
  • Lean Principles: Use queue limits for goals and concentrate on finishing the highest priority item
  • Performance Plan Sprints: Turn your monthly individual performance meeting into performance sprint planning and retrospectives.

So how your team is creating individual performance plans this year?

Since the start of agile performance plans in my team I’ve noticed increased participation from team members, new value streams are opening up, collaboration has increased, instant feedback on goals is possible by using Agile tool notifications.

Example of Iron Man Performance Board

How to turn your individual performance plan into agile performance plan

The Exercise:

Last year I ran a Marshmallow Challenge with development teams in Cyberjaya at Experian Malaysia. Majority of the team members worked together in an agile environment for a year.

The Idea:

How agile teams respond to a challenge when they have to do a continues collaboration in order to deliver a working product at the end of time-boxed iteration.

The Outcome:

Our game workshop was full of fun and we learned a lot about collaboration and delivery. Here are the few highlights.
  • Not a single team was able build a standing structure at the first attempt
  • Then we paused and identified areas of improvement
    • Importance of  collaboration
    • How to identify and remove hidden assumptions
    • Test early and test often
  • In the second attempt most teams were able to build a successful structure that can hold a marshmallow

The Question?

How are you testing level of collaborate within your team and what you are doing to improve it?

Workshop Time-lapse

In previous post I explained just one scenario where lack of user feedback during development can land your project into the wilderness with your clients.

Traditionally in software teams roles like business analysts, product owners and usability specialists are responsible for getting client’s feedback by variety of means. It’s time to empower our teams with new feedback and interface testing tools, so they can grab every opportunity to collect smart feedback data and build great products, save cost with higher client satisfaction.

Let me propose few ideas for software development teams

  1. Get closer to your clients by measuring and reducing feedback loop travel time.
  2. To me feedback is a “Value Channel”, so if you create new channels you’ll increase the value of your product.
  3. Use new tools available in the market to collect your feedback.
  4. Make data based decisions rather than emotional ones by validating your idea.
  5. Client’s time is important and providing feedback shouldn’t be more than 2 clicks away.

List of few feedback and interface testing tools

Verify - verifyapp.com
Notable –  notableapp.com
Bugherd - bugherd.com
Usabilla – usabilla.com

What’s your feedback loop travel time and what tools you are using to collect data?

So why not validate your strategy before or during your project before you spend too much time and money.

Ever been a part of a team where

  • You were handed a UI design on a new project.
  • Your teams starts a project and build what it was asked for.
  • This design came from some other team or group.
  • You built this new application it and tested it (all ready to go).
  • Then the aha moment comes when you present this newly build application in front of your clients waiting for a WOW reaction.
  • Opss… your clients say we needed a Zebra and this looks more like a Donkey.

Did someone missed the point somewhere in the whole process?

You’ve got it right! while you were busy building the perfect Zebra no-one asked users for their timely feedback during the development. I am not saying that’s the case with every team but reality of software development business is that teams always try to make perfect application in the first attempt to wow their clients.

Research shows the more client involvement in the product development the better the outcome. The quick you receive feedback the better position you are in to make changes with less cost and you might end-up close to building the perfect Zebra that your client wanted :-)

Let me ask how your team is collecting feedback from clients and how you are making smart data-based decisions?

In order to build your perfect Zebra you can leverage new tools to collect user feedback, these tools are smart, cheap, scalable and will guide your team to make data-based decissions.

In the next blog post I’ll be explaining more about these tools.