The Scrum Master Performance Review – Overview

As the end of the year approaches, you may be facing the task of preparing for and/or receiving an annual performance review. Like many others (such as Esther Derby), I feel that we need to start thinking differently about this tradition. The reasons are many and Esther does a fine job of describing the reasons the current process is flawed and is probably more of a disservice to our people so I won’t get into specifics. Needless to say but there is just something about the typical performance review that does not feel natural in a truly Agile organization.

So, if you are in an organization moving to a whole-system Agile methodology, you may be in the same dilemma – how do you provide performance reviews when the people who report to you are in self-governing and self-accountable teams? How do you get insight into how well people are performing without being a member of one of those teams? How do we create, as the book “Get Rid of the Performance Review” states, a dynamic setting where employees joyfully live up to their potential?

With seven Scrum Masters now reporting to me organizationally, I needed to come up with this dynamic setting that fit into the current system of performance management, yet still make this a meaningful experience for my team. Scrum Masters are also a bit tricky as they typically don’t have quantitative metrics associated to the role, such as developers or testers may have. Until a broader performance review system is in place, I have experimented with a few things and while many of this could be found in leadership books everywhere, here are the steps I used this year. I will be drilling into the details of each of these over the next couple of weeks.

NOTE: Before going through this, the going in assumption is that you are NOT dealing with someone with substantial performance or HR issues and this person has the desire to be an exceptional Scrum Master within your organization. If you are dealing with someone who shouldn’t be or doesn’t want to be a Scrum Master then take the necessary steps to move this person into a better role as soon as possible.

PREPARATION (details)

1. Set clear and visual expectations for the Scrum Master role. There is just something about seeing a picture…

2. Meet with the Product Owners to explain what they should expect from their Scrum Master.

3. Schedule regular sessions with individual Scrum Masters to deliver ongoing feedback, praise, and encouragement.

DATA GATHERING (details)

4. Observe, Observe, Observe. (throughout the year) I’ll be discussing what to look for in a detailed post.

5. Meet with the Product Owner for specific feedback on their happiness with the progress of their product vision and team performance. (Ongoing but not overly frequent and formally a couple weeks before the review)

6. Get specific feedback from the team members identified in #4. (a couple weeks before the review)

TRANSLATION (details)

7. Define the meaning of “exceeds expectations” for the Scrum Master role.

8. Cross-reference the Scrum Master expectation headings with company performance categories.

9. Determine ratings based on your definition of “exceeds expectations” and your cross-reference exercise.

DELIVERING THE RESULTS (details)

10. Visually and specifically show the results based on the Scrum Master expectations.

11. Focus on the positive and personal strengths (75%) and show the specifics for any areas of development (25%).

12. Reveal and discuss the ratings from #9 and how they were translated from the expectations.

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