4 ways agile practices are impacting the way you manage your team (and if they aren’t, they should be)

Think agile and you may immediately think ‘tech’. But actually, we’ve seen for a while now the expansion of agile practices and, specifically, the translation of agile ways of working to other functions, as the ‘need for speed’ only increases for many businesses operating in competitive markets. But how does this impact you as a finance leader?

It may be already impacting you in terms of technology-related projects, or you may have gained exposure to it through product development. However, what I want to explore here, is how agile practices are increasingly impacting the way you ‘manage’ your team – from recruitment, through to development and on to performance management and pay.

Here are the headlines:

Iterative performance management

This is a subject we’ve touched on before. Traditional performance management mechanisms (e.g. your annual appraisal) are outdated – and most critically to this discussion – slow. There is much debate over their effectiveness – so much so that many companies have dropped them altogether. In comes the idea of ‘more-immediate’ or ‘course-correct’ feedback – aligned with the concept of scrums, sprints and iterations found in agile practices. Applied by a number of major organisations, this style of feedback requires frequent feedback provided to the employee in actionable chunks, in line with certain deliverables, or projects.

Coaching vs management

Which leads me on to the how. The challenge with immediate, frequent feedback is many traditional performance managers don’t know how to do this. Arise the need for a ‘coach’, over the manager – and the establishment of a ‘coaching’ environment over a ‘managed’ team. Throw out the idea of ‘feedback’ as you know it, these are coaching discussions held at all levels, from peers and direct reports – the idea being that it promotes better performance via idea sharing and communications of lessons learned, rather than silencing this valuable knowledge sharing through the fear of ‘evaluation’.

Pay for performance v.2.0

We could talk forever about the pros and cons of various remuneration models. According to Cappelli and Tavis, research shows that compensation works best as a motivator when it comes as soon as possible after the desired behaviour. Just as your traditional annual performance appraisal is too slow, the associated performance bonus and/or raise that comes with it, is also too slow to drive the desired behaviour. Agile practices are transforming our view on how, and when, to allocate compensation – with some companies using spot bonuses, and other companies eradicating annual raises and instead doing it in line with project cycles or following a significant achievement or demonstration of a desired behaviour..

Scrumming up recruitment

If you think about it, recruiting and project management aren’t that dissimilar. So it should be no surprise that agile ways of working are disrupting your traditional recruitment process. Many organisations are creating agile recruitment teams led by a Scrum Master to run recruitment processes through sprints, with the benefit of rapid course correction, the flexibility of rolling on/off resources as per changes in priorities, and resolution of roadblocks through Kanban white boarding and stand-up Scrums.

There are many ways agile can improve performance outcomes, mainly in terms of speed. If you’re not already embracing these changes in ways of working – get ready, set, go!


Read more: Cappelli, P., & Tavis, A., 2018, ‘HR Goes Agile’, HBR Magazine, March-April

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