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5 Great Examples of Agile Organisations

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Are you look­ing to rev­o­lu­tionise and mod­ernise your per­for­mance man­age­ment process? To inspire you on how to change your process­es for the bet­ter, we’ve out­lined our favourite exam­ples of agile organisations. 

Times change — and so do per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tems. Mod­ern, for­ward-think­ing organ­i­sa­tions under­stand the need to adapt process­es and incor­po­rate per­for­mance man­age­ment trends to remain com­pet­i­tive. What’s clear is the old-fash­ioned view of per­for­mance man­age­ment (think per­for­mance rat­ings, year­ly appraisals and stack-rank­ing) is falling out of favour. More and more, com­pa­nies are tran­si­tion­ing to a more agile per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem and have reaped the rewards in terms of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, employ­ee engage­ment and morale.

We’re not going to lie. Organ­i­sa­tion­al change is hard — it can take a lot of work. But shak­ing up your per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem and mak­ing it more agile will ulti­mate­ly result in improved per­for­mance and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty for your com­pa­ny and employees. 

Relat­ed: What is con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance management?

Here we’ll dis­cuss five dynam­ic, agile com­pa­nies, explor­ing how they made their organ­i­sa­tions more agile and how this agili­ty ben­e­fit­ed them.

What Is an Agile Organisation?

An agile organ­i­sa­tion is a com­pa­ny that responds quick­ly to changes in the mar­ket­place and work­place trends. Such com­pa­nies are aware that organ­i­sa­tion­al change is inevitable and so reg­u­lar­ly exam­ine their prac­tices and process­es to ensure they are con­ducive to opti­mal employ­ee engage­ment, morale and per­for­mance. An agile organ­i­sa­tion reacts suc­cess­ful­ly and swift­ly to new com­peti­tors — they are inno­v­a­tive and are con­stant­ly chal­leng­ing them­selves to advance, respond and adjust.

Trade­marks of Agile Organisations

There are five char­ac­ter­is­tics of agile organ­i­sa­tions that dis­tin­guish them from more tra­di­tion­al com­pa­nies in terms of man­age­ment and out­look. Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, agile organ­i­sa­tions are more goal-cen­tric, they have ongo­ing per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions rather than sin­gle annu­al per­for­mance appraisals and they are for­ward-look­ing at all times.

More specif­i­cal­ly, you can gain a fuller appre­ci­a­tion of an agile organ­i­sa­tion from the five char­ac­ter­is­tics below:

  1. Agile organ­i­sa­tions have a shared pur­pose and vision. They are flex­i­ble regard­ing resource allo­ca­tion and in terms of strat­e­gy, they can sense and seize oppor­tu­ni­ties, which gives them an edge competitively.
  2. Agile organ­i­sa­tions gen­er­al­ly have a flat com­pa­ny struc­ture. They have hands-on man­agers, all roles are clear­ly defined and employ­ees are empow­ered to ful­fil their purpose.
  3. Agile organ­i­sa­tions are ded­i­cat­ed to trans­paren­cy and con­tin­u­ous learn­ing. They have a fail fast” atti­tude, mean­ing they are open to exper­i­men­ta­tion. Even if these exper­i­ments fail, they still rep­re­sent valu­able learn­ing opportunities.
  4. Agile organ­i­sa­tions encour­age role mobil­i­ty and entre­pre­neur­ial dri­ve. Engaged employ­ees want to delve into the com­pa­ny and help where they can. Agile busi­ness­es encour­age this think­ing and drive.
  5. Impor­tant­ly, agile organ­i­sa­tions pri­ori­tise effec­tive, user-friend­ly tech­nol­o­gy that facil­i­tates deci­sion mak­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and feedback.

Relat­ed Arti­cle: What’s the pur­pose of per­for­mance management?

Exam­ples of Agile Organisations

1. Clydes­dale and York­shire Bank (CYBG)

Fol­low­ing an inter­nal con­sul­ta­tion process, Clydes­dale and York­shire bank came to the con­clu­sion their per­for­mance man­age­ment process was all process and no pur­pose — it was all about rat­ings and they saw no real improve­ments in terms of performance. 

As Fran­cis Lake, Head of Organ­i­sa­tion­al Devel­op­ment at CYBG, states,​“Our per­for­mance man­age­ment was quite process focused and we knew we need­ed to make changes to ensure there was con­tin­ued improve­ment in per­for­mance and our staff were moti­vat­ed and engaged in their career development.”

CYBG decid­ed to imple­ment an agile con­tin­u­ous feed­back pro­gramme, sup­port­ed by Clear Review per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware.

Under­stand­ably, there was a great deal of fear about enter­ing into some­thing new, but CYBG had been using the old sys­tem for more than a decade and not see­ing the desired results. CYBG’s new sys­tem began with sim­ple, reg­u­lar check-ins between man­ag­er and employ­ee along­side real-time feed­back — no more score­cards or time-con­­sum­ing forms. Teams agree on a set of impor­tant goals they are going to deliv­er over the quar­ter and each employ­ee sets two per­son­al devel­op­ment goals to focus on in the next three months.

Fran­cis said that the new process is marked­ly sim­pler in terms of approach, process and lan­guage used. On top of this, after just three months, the com­pa­ny saw promis­ing results. When every­one was work­ing towards the same com­pa­ny and team goals, they achieved more objec­tives and there was an improve­ment in terms of team­work and per­for­mance across the com­pa­ny. As Fran­cis puts it:

Our per­for­mance man­age­ment approach is now focused on encour­ag­ing feed­back con­ver­sa­tions, cre­at­ing stretch and improved team­work. The tech­nol­o­gy is also giv­ing us insight to dri­ve more change and pro­vide the foun­da­tions for good management.”

2. Gen­er­al Electric

Gen­er­al Elec­tric famous­ly under­went a per­for­mance man­age­ment over­haul in 2015, paving the way for oth­er glob­al com­pa­nies to do the same. After years of the annu­al per­for­mance reviews and their noto­ri­ous rank-and-yank per­for­mance rat­ings sys­tem (which meant rank­ing their employ­ees and reg­u­lar­ly elim­i­nat­ing the bot­tom 10%), GE decid­ed they need­ed to refresh their per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem. The rank­ings sys­tem was the first to go, but the annu­al appraisals remained for a decade longer. Now, they are an agile organ­i­sa­tion that has seen sub­stan­tial improvements.

The new sys­tem relies on man­agers guid­ing and coach­ing employ­ees to achieve their goals, and they work under a much less rigid frame­work. GE also decid­ed to incor­po­rate the use of an app that they built, known as PD@GE, to facil­i­tate the deliv­ery of reg­u­lar employ­ee feed­back and pro­duc­tive per­for­mance conversations.

With the app, each employ­ee sets a series of pri­or­i­ties and asks for insights and feed­back. They can also pro­vide real-time feed­back to oth­ers. Employ­ees can ask for an in-per­­son meet­ing at any time — these con­ver­sa­tions focus on trans­paren­cy, hon­esty and con­tin­u­ous improve­ment. Sonia Boyle, GE Canada’s vice-pres­i­­dent of human resources, says of the system, 

[It] requires a mea­sure of trust and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty […]These char­ac­ter­is­tics won’t appear overnight and will require a com­mit­ment to change and per­son­al development.”

3. Cargill

Pri­or to its seis­mic per­for­mance man­age­ment shift in 2012, food pro­duc­er and dis­trib­u­tor Cargill Inc found it was fail­ing to engage and moti­vate its 155,000 employ­ees world­wide. As a result, Cargill decid­ed to become an agile organ­i­sa­tion, intro­duc­ing what it termed​“every­day per­for­mance man­age­ment”. This sys­tem was based on four prin­ci­ples:

  1. Feed­back needs to be con­tin­u­ous, rather than doc­u­­ment-heavy and sporadic. 
  2. Dai­ly activ­i­ty and prac­tices are pre­dic­tors of per­for­mance man­age­ment quality. 
  3. The rela­tion­ship between employ­ee and man­ag­er is paramount.
  4. Above all things, the sys­tem needs to remain flex­i­ble and agile to meet busi­ness needs.

This new sys­tem was designed to encour­age and incor­po­rate dai­ly, real-time feed­back into its per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem. Since mak­ing this tran­si­tion, the com­pa­ny claims to have seen mea­sur­able improve­ments, and it has become more for­ward-focused rather than mere­ly review­ing past performance.

The results were amaz­ing — 69% of employ­ees said they received feed­back that was use­ful for their pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment. Also, 70% of employ­ees claimed they felt more val­ued fol­low­ing the imple­men­ta­tion of the new sys­tem. From a per­for­mance point of view, man­agers found employ­ees spend­ing more time on tasks that actu­al­ly mat­tered rather than spend­ing hours fill­ing out paperwork.

4. Adobe

We can’t dis­cuss agile per­for­mance man­age­ment with­out men­tion­ing Adobe, one of the most talked-about cas­es when it comes to per­for­mance man­age­ment revamps. In 2012, Don­na Mor­ris, who was Senior Vice Pres­i­dent of Peo­ple Resources at the time, felt the annu­al per­for­mance appraisal and the stack-rank­ing process was bureau­crat­ic, paper­­work-heavy and over­ly com­pli­cat­ed while tak­ing up too many man­age­ment hours. She also found it cre­at­ed bar­ri­ers to team­work, cre­ativ­i­ty and innovation.

The Adobe team decid­ed to ditch annu­al per­for­mance appraisals and prompt­ed reg­u­lar, ongo­ing per­for­mance dis­cus­sions between man­agers and employ­ees by using a sys­tem they called​“Check-in”. Since mak­ing the shift, Adobe has cut vol­un­tary turnover by 30% and invol­un­tary depar­tures rose 50% — mean­ing poor hires were being man­aged out quick­er. On top of this, the com­pa­ny saved 80,000 man­age­ment hours annually.

5. Accen­ture

Accen­ture found that under its old sys­tem,​“Employ­ees that do best […] tend to be the employ­ees that are the most nar­cis­sis­tic and self-pro­­mot­ing.” Accen­ture want­ed to rehaul their sys­tem and encour­age employ­ees who gen­uine­ly con­tributed to the organ­i­sa­tion. As such, they began to incor­po­rate the use of ongo­ing per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions while shift­ing focus back to per­for­mance development. 

Accen­ture decid­ed that forced rank­ing was illog­i­cal, as it forced employ­ees to com­pete with col­leagues who might have a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent role. The new sys­tem is focused more on the employ­ee and help­ing them become the best pos­si­ble ver­sion of themselves.

Find out how Clear Review can help you

If you want to adopt per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware designed to sup­port agile organ­i­sa­tions, get in touch and book a demo of Clear Review today.

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