A Lean Farm focuses on and develops people.
Last week we had our end of season Performance and Personal Development Reviews. We have trialled various versions of templates and formats for our reviews, continuously improving them to suit our needs and attempting to make them as simple yet effective as possible. We are not perfect yet and will continue to evolve these over time. Our format now is standard for everyone and contains 4 one page documents for each review – First Quarter, Mid-Season, Third Quarter and End of Season. The First Quarter and 3rd Quarter templates are the same as are the Mid-Season and End of Season templates. Keep it simple. In addition there is a one page role and responsibility description document for each role type on farm.
A structured process
A structured development or performance review is an important part of any business. People have a natural desire to know how they are going, where they can improve their knowledge and skills and what actions they should take to move forward in their development. I have heard of some businesses who don’t have these and believe they are a waste of time. Often their employees feel frustrated by this and de-motivated. I am not sure this is a sustainable approach.
We have worked hard to make our process highly transparent and interactive. Each farmer in our team, identifies how they believe they are going against our standard farm priorities. They identify what is going well and what they believe are areas for improvement. Their direct managers then provide their own feedback. Notes and actions are recorded live on a digital screen so that everyone can see and agree what is being written in the review. Once the review is completed an image of the completed review template with any actions is sent via Whatsapp to each farmer so that they can start to work on actions prior to the next review. We don’t like admin work and photos/ Whatsapp are great tools to use to reduce paperwork and keep good records.
Skills matrix a key lean tool
We also use a skills matrix which we are still evolving. This contains an extensive list of specific skills sets that are needed on farm. Each farmer on the team rates their skill level for each specific task that is relevant to their role. This helps us to have a very clear visual of everyone’s skill level and their training requirements so that nothing gets missed. The skills matrix is made available to the whole team so everyone can see each other’s skill level. This encourages coaching and training among the team, but also importantly it enables people to identify those who have the skill in a particular area and who can help them if they need assistance.
The way that a performance review is conducted is very important. It should be a constructive two-way discussion, encouraging both parties to provide honest and open feedback and agree clear actions going forward to enable to bring out the best out of each team member. This should not be about conflict management or reprimanding. That kind of feedback needs to occur immediately at the point of occurrence throughout the year. It should be referred to during the performance review but only as an example of non-acceptable behaviour or actions. The focus during these needs to be on improvement and moving forward in a positive way with clear specific actions to overcome any issues.
Quantitative and Qualitative data
During each quarter prior to a review, it is important to collect specific examples of behaviour or facts for each key criteria that you can use to quantify or qualify any improvements or what is going well for each team member. This makes the discussion much more subjective and accurate rather than vague.
I have attached examples of our PDR templates.