Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mary Poppendieck on Compensation

I just got back from tonight's Agile Bazaar meeting. Making the decision to go or not was pretty difficult. On the one hand there was an offer to have free beer and pizza and watch the season premier of Lost in HiDef after having been deprived of Lost for so long. On the other hand was driving an hour out of my way for the opportunity to hear Mary Poppendieck give a talk on compensation. So of course, I went to hear what Mary had to say.

She told us it was her first version of the talk. There were some rough edges, but it was well worth the trip. It was a fascinating review of the various forms of incentive-based compensation and performance appraisals. The one area of difficulty for me was realizing that Mary is not actually opposed to different levels of compensation for different individuals (which was what I thought she was saying), but rather some of the traditional methods for determining individual compensation.

Thinking about compensation models is not something I do every day, so I'm not going to attempt to summarize Mary's talk. But if you have a chance to attend Mary's talk on this subject, I highly recommend it. Even if you disagree with her points, it will expose some of the assumptions that you might not have even realized you were making and give you some new ways of thinking about compensation.

I'm not sure if this was a point that Mary was making or not, but my biggest take-away was that one of the most natural links between Agile and compensation is to have at least some amount of link between the monetary performance of the product that an Agile team produces and that team's compensation. One of the hallmarks of Agile is rapid feedback. If one of the best ways to have people work on the right things is to make sure they know what the right things are, isn't the surest measure of "the right thing" the success of the end product rather than arbitrary measurements that are disconnected from product success?

The next meeting will be a talk by Steve Berczuk about the connection between developer workspaces and Agile development. Details when I have 'em.

No comments: