To foster, where we disagree

Peer Review: Identify, nurture and reflect on your skills

In a previous article, I described a method for maturing as a Scrum Master, while keeping focused on your project, as a flexible model to identify and to nurture relevant skills, without loosing yourself in theory. (Not only for Scrum Masters.) Basically a combination of the Kano model to prioritise skills and the Peer Review technique to nurture them with feasible action items.

Here, I am going to describe a typically Peer Review, the way we conduct it at Mayflower for the advanced training our Guilds of Scrum Masters and Product Owners, or as one approach for our in-house coaching affairs.

This will be a How-to — feel free to use it as a template for your own Peer Reviews.

There is a tl;dr; in form of an agenda at the end of this article.

Timeframe and teammates

I recommend a timeframe of 90 minutes. This is suitable for up to four people (one reviewgee and three peers). (Reviewgee is not a word.)

The person being reviewed should pick her/his peers. The peers should not consist of direct colleagues, only — while it is useful, that at least one peer has an advanced knowledge on the topic being discussed, diversity is key in a Peer Review, as well as everywhere else. A suitable peer knows, what you are doing, or is directly affected by your work. (Out of experience: a trainee may be as “useful” as a senior member, so do not be afraid of inviting “less experienced” people — usually it’s just “less time spent with your company”, than “less experience”. ;-)

Please keep in mind: While having less than three peers in your group is totally fine (you need at least one peer for obvious reasons), more than four peers won’t add much additional value and probably will just mess with your timeframe.

Key: 90 minutes. One person being reviewed. Up to three peers.

Setting the stage

I want to be honest with you — I always want to skip this part, because I always feel like “hey, everyone knows, why we are here, so what’s the point of a formal introduction to this meeting? Can’t we just be friends and have a chill?”

No, you can’t. While it feels cheesy to the host, setting the stage formally will kind of “frame your audience”. That is: your peers will understand the purpose of this meeting and as a result, they will stay focused and engaged with the peer review. (This is, why you never want to skip the setting the stage part in any meeting, by the way.)

Key: Welcome everyone to the party, explain, why you are facilitating the peer review (here: to compare self-perception with the perception of your peers, so that you will be able to spot the differences, which are key to improve upon further iterations) and ask for the expectations of your peers.

Peer Review

For each item (here: each skill), that you want to get reviewed and to improve, there are five simple classifications. So in the peer review, you present your skill/item and describe it — and then ask your peers, how they would rate them on a given scale.

This scale ist:

  • Role Model: There is a given track record and we can name examples and people, who got inspired by them. These people name you as a role model for the given category.
  • Maker: There is a given track record and we can name examples.
  • Teammate: There are a few examples and few people now them.
  • Padawan: We can name one example and a few efforts in the right direction.
  • Spectator: There are no examples and personally, one is interested in other areas of interest.
We may, or we may not have Star Wars inspired cards for the Peer Review process.

Please, keep in mind: it is not important, where you rank in particular, but where you and your peers differentiate the most. It is the delta on your perception giving you a hint, where you should focus on with future efforts.

If there is a delta — come to an agreement on how to improve the situation with a suitable action item, in a second step.

Review & Closing

After you went through your skills/items being reviewed (or you have reached the end of your timebox), I recommend to take the opportunity to take a step back and to review your elaborated action items.

Regarding the timeframe (let’s say, three months until the next peer review) and the overall workload (your daily business lurking around) — on what action item do you want to commit yourself to?

Write down/document this commitment, so you can track your progress over time and over the following peer reviews.

Try to match these results with everyone’s expectations, as stated in the setting-the-stage part.

Be brave enough to ask for feedback on the peer review meeting, so that you get a hint on where to improve your methodology for the next execution. A simple ROTI (Return On Time Invested) should be sufficient.

How-to Peer Review

tl;dr;

  • Timeframe & teammates
    90 minutes. One person being reviewed. Up to three peers.
  • Setting the stage (5 minutes)
    Welcome everyone to the party, explain, why you are facilitating the peer review (here: to compare self-perception with the perception of your peers, so that you will be able to spot the differences, which are key to improve upon further iterations) and ask for the expectations of your peers.
  • Peer Review (up to 80 minutes)
    Present each of your our skills/items and describe it — and then ask your peers, how they would rate them on a given scale. If there is a delta — come to an agreement on how to improve the situation with a suitable action item, in a second step.
  • Review & Closing (5 minutes)
    What action item do you want to commit yourself to (timeframe: 3 months)? Then ask for feedback on the peer review meeting (ROTI).
I just love this image by Mitchel Hollander (via Unsplash). Scrolling down to the end of this article, watching the hands disappear into a void makes me want to share and to clap these hands … ;-)

Curious about details, mad about something or happy to share your own ideas? Feel free to add a comment, to follow @robsblog on Twitter or contact me via LinkedIn or Xing.

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