Performance Reviews: The Gathering

Who says a performance review can't be fun?

Recently my company started changing the way we do performance reviews. Rather than a formal, once a year, nerve-wracking process, like many other companies we have decided to adopt a more informal and frequent review process.

Our approach means employees get more time to meet with their personnel manager face-to-face, which is especially beneficial if you are working on a client site and don't get to see your managers regularly. Rather than filling out a template of performance measures, employees are encouraged to come up with their own format for reporting their performance on a monthly basis. The primary goal is to provide your manager with enough information to prompt a meaningful conversation about performance.

So far this approach has been far more fruitful than any previous process I've experienced. Informal meetings create an environment where people are more open to sharing their concerns and more willing to identify opportunities to improve. A single performance meeting in a year means every failure is seen as A Big Deal, and renders most feedback untimely and ineffective. A monthly check-in is a great way to foster a collaborative approach to problem solving, and helps build a more holistic view of your performance over time.

In particular, the opportunity to create your own performance review format is a great way for employees to express their creativity and highlight accomplishments in a fun way. As a gamer, I tend to think of my performance the same way I would think of a character leveling up or gaining new skills. When I was working a large-scale enterprise project with several large teams, I used a DnD Character Sheet style format*. The project was my campaign, and each new challenge represented a new quest, with the potential for new loot in the form of skills or abilities, or just life lessons learned.

*Look for my character sheet performance review in a future post!

Recently I've been jumping around and working on a number of smaller efforts. I struggled with how to talk about my performance on these disparate efforts until I remembered how fun it can be to open up booster packs of Magic cards and figure out what you've got to work with.

For one of my most recent performance reviews, I whipped up a few cards that summarize some of the efforts I've helped out with:

I managed an effort to update the page templates for an internal application called IBIS. As the Page Master, it was my job to ensure that all pages were transformed appropriately, and that all defects were fixed before deploying. Once we successfully deployed, my work was completed.

Magic Card: Ice Cream Queen For Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, we led over a dozen children through a full life-cycle software development process to develop an application that takes orders for an ice cream party. I taught the kids about analysis, why it's important to ask good questions, and how to approach testing (hint: 9000 scoops is probably an error).

Magic Card: Golden Letter I was very honored to receive a letter of recommendation for my team from a recent client. We had just completed a full website redesign which included a searchable online database, order processing, and customer service functionality. This recommendation really spoke to our team's ability to work together (lifelink) and bolstered our confidence in our abilities.