Tech lead’s performance review checklist

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What are the talking points that you go over during the performance review of a tech lead or a software engineering lead? Here’s the list of the most common I’d start with (and extend with more specific to account for particular projects and responsibilities):

Risks

  • Risks are well-managed
  • Technical debt is well-managed

Execution

  • Priorities are well-defined, communicated and executed
  • Provided quality of products and services is well-defined and consistently meets expectations
  • Infrastructure/operations provide required support for the quality of service and team’s efficiency
  • Number and severity of bugs and incidents stay within expectations and are well-handled
  • Value added vs quality ratio meets expectations and sustainable

Process

  • Team operates at a maximum possible efficiency
  • Engineering process is well-defined and executed
  • Planning process is well-defined and executed

Integration

  • Systems and services are well-integrated into an organization’s infrastructure
  • Team’s plans, execution, products, services are well communicated to the rest of the organization
  • Relevant organization’s information is well communicated to the team

People

  • Career growth, learning capabilities and specific interests are well supported
  • Team has strong morale, supportive attitude and turnout rate is minimal
  • Work schedule is sustainable

Individual Contribution

  • Vision, new projects and ideas leadership is provided and executed
  • Technical leadership is provided
  • Execution (“get shit done”, “make things happen”) leadership is provided
  • Individual engineering contribution is significant
  • Potential candidates and hires are brought in to meet the growth demand

The above list is by no means full or applicable to all teams and organizations and is given in no specific order or the priority. Engineering and technical leads at a different time and place may have completely different responsibilities and expectations. A lot depends on the organization’s size and structure, on the team’s place in the organization, current projects and their priority and more.

It is usually helpful to grade the points with scores, e.g.:

1 – terrible – puts organization’s big projects, competitive advantage, success at risk or causes direct failure
2 – bad – consistent performance at that level puts organization’s projects at risk
3 – satisfactorysupports on the proper level (and does not jeopardize) organization’s projects, etc. and other team’s work
4 – goodunlocks/enables new and boosts existing organization’s projects, etc.; boosts work of other teams
5 – exceptionalcreates new organization’s projects, competitive advantage, plays big role in the success of the organization

I find it not only incredibly useful, but many times fun if the reviewee and reviewer perform grading independently and then compare the scores. This helps to identify the gaps in expectations and priorities, and ultimately bring both sides on the same page by setting the right focus for the future.

What are the talking points that you use during the tech lead performance review?

 

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