It is time for the Year-End appraisals again. I as an (Agile) manager always hated them and this is why:

Appraisals in general do not work.

– As a true Agile manager, you let the team organize itself as most as possible. Evaluating on an individual level, conflicts with this principle.

– You can have a team that performs at the cost of individual goals or individuals that perform at the cost of team goals. Often they are not aligned.

– But most of all: many aspects of what makes a good team are incredibly hard (if not impossible) to track to an individual level.


Here are some common pitfalls even the advanced (Agile) organisation fall into:

– (Try to) judge over individuals in a team. The team should do that itself. Instead evaluate the team as a team.

– Ask the Scrum Master to do the appraisals. It puts him into a position you don’t want him to be. Believe me, I’ve experienced it.

– Ask any of the teams’ individuals to judge over others in general. This undermines trust.

So what can you do?

Did I already mention that traditional appraisals are a bad thing? But hey, sometimes it is company policy to have yearly appraisals. You could of-course try to change the policy but you might not succeed in that (see this blog).

You can also try to make the most of it because appraisals are not necessarily a bad thing. It is often a perfect time to reflect on each other (teams on management and vice-versa). Some co-workers I worked with wanted to have such moments. And as long as you avoid the mentioned pitfalls, why not?

Also, you can see where an individual needs support and help them to set and achieve individual goals (as long as they align with the team goals). Of course as a good Manager you do this every single day, right?

So once a year you just take notes 🙂

But if you really want to have good appraisals, you should try having 360 reviews.

It truly enables a group of coworkers to provide feedback on an employee’s performance. Prerequisite for these kind of appraisals is that you have a climate of trust.

But what about bonuses?

If the company policy requires to determine an individual end-of-year bonus you have four options:

– Be stubborn and don’t do it at all, they don’t work anyway;

– Give all the team members the same share;

– Do some nice things for the team as a whole, if the policy allows this;

– Try implementing a team ranking system.

The latter seems to be a current trend but results differ. One of the systems I would like to see in action is the Peer-to-Peer bonus system described by Jurjen Appelo here. Tools like 15five could support this system.