Update on Mid-term Reviews & enhancing the WIP

I spoke recently about my plans for mid term reviews this year.  Mid term reviews are a crucial part of letting a tech know how they are progressing and reminding them that what is cool and interesting may not actually be what was agreed as in the business interests at the start of the year.

In order to turn the activity into something other than an objective review I asked my team to jump on seek and find themselves two jobs.  The first was what they thought their next Job should be.  The second was the job they wanted to be in within 5 years.  I know my team fairly well and have talked to them a bit about where they see themselves, so there was nothing really surprising.  Two of my staff want to progress to being Functional Managers and then to IT Manager.  Interestingly both came up with different IT Mangers ads which was helpful and both took the time to find roles which gave us some meet to talk about, rather than just shopping titles.

So from there the process moved to looking at each ad in turn.  Its a testament to these guys individual effectiveness that both are actually getting above 80%  on their next job ads.  Its great as well to kick off a process by going down the list with them and ticking the majority of criteria on the page.  I made a point to steer away from the technical as I wanted to emphasis to them both that working at a management level involves being able to separate yourself from the specific skill set that you have as an Engineer.

The process worked very well because I had made it specifically about them.  You can ask someone about their career, but by tieing it to a specific job they can invest in it, and being able to say ‘Yeah you could probably get this with a few of these items’ gives them a real interest in discussing those items rather than getting defensive.  It also served really well for me to make a mental note of what I should be getting them involved in to help get them that last 20%.

For the 5 Year job, it was the reverse, both had about 20% of the criteria, and had about 80% to work on.  About 60% of that 80% was stuff that they would pick up in that next role we had just discussed, so we were able to tie it back to their career progression and make it something real and meaningful.  The conversation was able to end on a positive because we could show how they were going to be able to progress from their current role to that role and they were left with the idea that the company valued them enough to take an interest in their future.

On the whole it was a great experience and when we do full term reviews in Jan I am going to ask them to bring back those ads and their new goal jobs.

While were talking about new ideas, I wanted to share something from our Week In Progress meetings.  I should start by saying I hate WIP meetings.  The idea that I need to wait for a scheduled meeting to find out whats going on in my team annoys me.  I try and speak to everyone at least once a day and find out what they are up to, even if its just a hello.  But the fact of the matter is people like WIP meetings.  I guess the thing is by catching people informally they miss how their contribution is valued in the rest of the team and the chance to see the ‘big picture.’

So I’m learning to love the WIP…

Typically we follow the format of everyone running around the table and sharing what they are doing.  I do the same and try and give as much of a brain dump as confidentiality allows.  I work on the idea that if people dont know what you are planning they cant help you realise that plan.  I’ve also worked for enough ‘knowledge is power, I could tell you but then I’d have to kill your secret squirrel’ types to know that’s not a great way to run a boat.  I wanted to start to move beyond that so we introduced question of the week this week.  The idea started as a way to get feedback on what was working and what wasn’t.  So I started with just that

‘Tell us something that made your life easier’

‘Tell us something that didn’t’

Surprisingly the lack of Earl Grey tea, and Decaf Tea (I didn’t even know that was a thing) is something that makes people want to go home again.  So we ordered some better teas (AKA the $5 fix) and not only do people feel like they are valued, they no longer have to drink that Lipton’s rubbish…

The goal is to mix it up the next few weeks with some other themes like:

Tell us one thing you did to make the company succeed

Tell us your ‘Fist pump’ moment

Tell us one thing you did to save the company a dollar

I’m going to intersperse the good and bad question on alternate weeks to try and encourage people to deal with the small stuff.


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