Killing career reviews with fire — Brink’s Quarterly Stacking

Annual review time. Remember that? Or perhaps you’re still in the kind of machinery that has one hot month of a mountains of appraisals to complete.

When we set up Brink, we committed to rethink traditional business processes that we don’t think work really well. Career and performance review type processes were near the top of my list.

About a year ago, we created a new kind of review and reflection process to reconciled a couple of our strongly held beliefs:

  • Feedback is best done in the moment and on an ongoing basis
  • Measuring personal progress over a decent stretch of time (like a quarter) matters and is useful

How might we give feedback in the moment and reflect on our growth and performance over a stretch of time? A process we call Stacking

Over the past year, we have carved out time once a quarter to reflect, share and offer each other inquiries for the period ahead. It’s come to be a cherished part of our culture that we look forward to. One year in, we’ve also seen that it works and has gently shaped each of our ambitions and decisions.

We’re keen to see how it grows and evolves as our team does. But for now, here’s how our Quarterly Stacking works:

  • We gather for breakfast — an important aspect of the ritual that contributes to the sense of occasion and time away from the ins and outs of a normal day
  • Spend the first 45 minutes or so reflecting on how the last quarter has played out, whether we’ve moved forward on what was discussed and shared last time
  • Draw up our Stack template, which is just one sheet of paper, divided into three sections: goals, values and inquiry
  • GOALS relate to Brink and how we contribute to the business’s ambitions for the quarter ahead
  • VALUES invite us to reflect on how we are embodying Brink’s values of exponential impact, sparking safety, embracing hard truths and GSD
  • INQUIRY offers space for questions, ambitions or dreams we have on behalf of one another
  • Now we can Stack things up in each of those three columns. The stuff that we’re nailing goes at the bottom, things at the top are more of a stretch
  • With the template done, we pass the sheet of paper to the left or right and work our thoughts into one another’s sheets, taking time, working quietly and keep passing until we get our own Stack back
  • Stacks are full of appreciation at the bottom and ambitions at the top — it’s always quite moving and quite fascinating to see your Stacks at the end of the process. We take a moment to let it all sink in before asking clarifying questions and sharing a discussion
  • Keep the Stacks handy, refer back to them and bring them to breakfast the following quarter

As a team we’re always working on improving our processes, meaning most things go through rounds and rounds of dissatisfied iteration. Our Stacking though, stays the same… only the breakfast venue switches out.

What do you think? Do you have ways to review the quarter as a team? And what do you think the critical success factors are for working like this? For us, giving performance and tangible, work-related feedback in the moment is key to making this work. What have we missed? We’d love to hear from you.

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Credit where credit’s due: Rob Hinchcliffe first came up with the idea of ‘talent stacking’ when we were working together years ago. Over time, we’ve evolved it into the three sections described above. Thanks Rob!