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Performance Management Framework

In order to achieve our goals, we must think about how we break it down, and manage performance to it. At DoubleGDP, managing performance has three primary components:

  • Team-level Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) that we use to drive company growth and development of new capabilities
  • Team-level Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that we use to measure health of existing organizational capabilities
  • Individual performance feedback, that we use to grow as individuals and develop our careers

Our process is modeled after GitLab's but simplified because we're so much smaller. You can learn more about their process through their pages on OKRs, KPIs, and 360 feedback.

Key aspects of DoubleGDP performance management

The most important aspects of our performance framework are:

  • We have one north star -- revenue growth. This helps us measure the results of all of our other efforts and prioritize what matters.
  • OKRs are written and evaluated each quarter and are intended primarily for organization functions or teams rather than individuals. They articulate measurable goals we aim to achieve in order to materially advance our capabilities. They should be focused and ambitious -- i.e. we should expect between 1 and 3 OKRs per function and set them to stretch us beyond what we are sure we can achieve.
  • KPIs are also at a function or team level and measure the health of existing capabilities. Each function has responsibilities that they must contribute in order for the company to run. Finance pays invoices and closes the books; engineering rapidly builds high-quality features; our product serves users. Each function will keep a variety of Performance Indicators (PIs) to evaluate whether it's delivering what's needed. Those that are most important will be considered "Key" (a "KPI") and raised to the awareness of other departments.
  • Individual performance feedback focuses on creating a productive dialog between a team member and their manager. It aims to build self-awareness and foster professional development. We do not have numerical scores or a formal process that ties personal goals with team OKRs or PIs. Instead, the process will collect input from the team member and others familiar with their work around strengths, areas for improvement, and general. We also facilitate feedback from team members to their managers.

Note that we do not have a compensation review process at this time.

Our performance management framework aims to emphasize that results are achieved through teamwork. Managers and team members may choose in certain cases to articulate personal goals, but we don't have a company-wide policy to set goals at an individual level or to give numeric scores to attainment of them. Individuals are accountable to helping the team achieve its goals, and for approaching their work in ways consistent with our values. We think these outcomes will be best achieved through promoting a healthy dialog between a team member and their manager, informed by the input received from peers and with consideration to overall team performance.

Some more of the rationale behind this approach:

  • We want to prioritize team results over individual outcomes
  • We don't want to create disincentives for taking on ambitious goals, or for playing a supporting role
  • Effective teams often realign their individual work based on the challenges they're facing, and individual goals set quarterly can make it difficult for people to reprioritize quickly
  • It takes discretion and context to properly understand someone's contribution, and putting emphasis on evaluating individual goals can distract from most important things
  • For clarity, managers do have accountability for achievement of team results

Performance management process

How we implement OKRs and KPIs

Notes on our implementation of OKRs and KPIs:

  • An objective and key result should be able to be read in this phrase: "We aim to achieve    objective   , as measured by    key result   "
  • Each Objective or KR will be prefixed with its year and quarter in the format yyyy-qq
  • Each Objective is captured an an Epic that articulates what we aim to achieve. If the objective has a top-line result against which it will be measured, we will add OKR to its prefix and include that KR in its summary. Some objectives may have several key results and not one primary; in this case we add Objective to its prefix.
  • A Key Result or KR indicates how we evaluate progress of an objective. Each is represented as an issue and should have a clear date and way to measure or observe that it's been met. Each KR issue is nested under its parent Objective epic.
  • KPIs (and PIs) are defined and listed on a function's handbook page. KPIs are shared in a function's sprint update (either from handbook or on slide deck)
  • The top-level OKR epic and its children are used to promote visibility on what we aim to achieve, and we use the Health status of its issues to monitor progress to goal. In order to keep the OKRs easy to understand, we do not link the operational issues and epics that track our work into this hierarchy. (i.e. the work to accomplish the KR should be tracked separately.)

Process when we miss goal

Our north star metric has monthly milestones. We aim to hit these month over month. However, growth is not always continuous and there are times when we won't hit the goal. When this happens, it's a good opportunity for us to understand what went wrong (if applicable) and refocus our energy and creative spirit to get back on track. Our process when this happens is as follows:

  1. Each teammate takes 10-15 minutes to brainstorm 5-10 ideas to improve.
  2. Flag ideas that you particularly like with **
  3. CEO will review all ideas and choose a few to focus on
  4. In the next Sprint Retrospective, we will brainstorm what would be some iterative approaches to those ideas, focusing on simple and actionable near-term steps. For example: can we get 50% of the value of the idea at 10% of the cost? What's the smallest iteration that can make some progress toward the goal?
  5. We'll write a few stories to add to the sprint about to kick off

Managing Underperformance

Managing and identifying underperformance can be one of the most difficult responsibilities of a manager, but it's also one of the most important. As a people leader, to be fair and transparent with the team member, you want to address underperformance in a timely and structured way.

DoubleGDP will leverage GitLab’s skill-based and will-based performance model to identify the root cause of the team members' underperformance and with that determine the suitable remediation plan. The remediation plan will differ based on the type of performance issue.

Core principles for delivering feedback

For all feedback we strive to be kind, fair, and clear.

Remediation for underperformance

Managers should address performance concerns early and not wait until the performance problems have become unrecoverable. Feedback should be given early, it should be specific and documented. Remediation options will vary based on the circumstances, but as a best practice managers should leverage one or more of these approaches:

  1. Coaching - engage with the team member to help diagnose problem(s) and solution(s), perhaps with some outside guidance such as articles or courses. Requires written followup but not cc to peopleops.
  2. Written warning - an explicit notice that performance is not meeting the company’s needs, citing examples of problems and clarity on expectations moving forward. (manager must cc [email protected])
  3. Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) - a formal plan documenting problems, expectations, and a timeline for resolution to avoid termination. (manager must cc [email protected]).

With either a Written Warning or Performance Improvement Plan the team member will meet jointly with their manager and the CEO to review the concerns outlined, discuss remediation steps, share additional context, or request additional help or support.

Coaching

Coaching is the preferred option to deal with underperformance and is the first step in addressing performance issues.

Managers are expected to address performance concerns in a timely manner. Managers should address concerns verbally during one-on-one meetings or in impromptu private coaching sessions with the team member. These conversations should be documented by the manager and shared with the team member so to ensure the context is clearly “coaching related to underperformance” and not simply “feedback” that may be provided more regularly and informally. The written feedback also should ensure alignment on where improvements need to be made and by when, and give the team member an opportunity to request clarification or a conversation with peopleops or the CEO. The note should be brief (a few key bullet points or a paragraph), and should be sent via email to the team member within 24 hours of the verbal discussion.

The GitLab handbook coaching section has other useful tips, including an email template.

Written Warning

A Written Warning is used to bring attention to new or ongoing deficiencies in conduct and/or performance issues. The intent is to define the seriousness of the situation to encourage immediate corrective action. On a zoom meeting, the manager will inform the team member that they will be receiving a written warning. The Warning will identify development areas/gaps, outline what success looks like, and specific action/deliverables and due dates. This letter must then be sent to the team member and to [email protected]

As noted above, after receipt of a Warning, the team member will have an opportunity to discuss jointly with their manager and CEO.

Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

Many companies use a PIP for most involuntary offboarding, as documented support for releasing a team member. At DoubleGDP we think that giving someone a plan while you intend to let them go is a bad experience for the team member, their manager, and the rest of the team.

A PIP at DoubleGDP is not used to "check the box;" a PIP is a genuine last chance to resolve underperformance. A manager should only offer a PIP if they believe that the team member can successfully complete it. The team member should also be committed to successfully completing the PIP and maintaining the level of performance arrived at through the PIP. A PIP will not be successful unless both the team member and the manager believes the team member can succeed.

For team members who truly lack the skill for the role or for those team members who lack the will to be successful, a PIP should not be offered. PIPs, as mentioned above, are for team members who with additional guidance, coaching, resources or tools have the ability to improve and sustain long-term performance.

As noted above, after receipt of a PIP, the team member will have an opportunity to discuss with their manager and CEO together.