An open, collaborative, and transparent peer-reviews workflow that works.

As I promised in my talk at Commit-Conf, I share this recap of the talk where we summarized the peer reviews workflow in team Neptune at Automattic. First things first, this is the talk video:

What are we doing?

We started explaining what we are doing.

So, in a few words, each Happiness Engineer taking part in the process decides what to submit to be reviewed. We mainly focus on red bots or negative feedbacks. Red Bots are lost opportunities to please our clients and concentrate opportunities to learn. We share green bots as they are opportunities to reuse lessons learned from what the others are doing. The submission itself is pretty straightforward because what we use is a p2 themed post, that is labeled and made a to-do item that can be closed once we have gathered enough feedback.

Our goal is double. On one hand, and the most important: we want to learn from this process. It is not about putting grades on interactions and, consequently on HEs, but about understanding new approaches to enrich ours. Also, we try to generate impacts outside of the team itself: GitHub issues, gathering new ideas to enrich our platform, follow ups with customers are good examples.

Lastly, the implementation is an open and horizontal discussion, where anyone can take part and, or, just take a look.

We also used some examples to illustrate the process. Curious? 1 green and 2 red bots (where people from outside of the team contributed as well. cc: @rclations @correliebre)

Was it really a success?

It was. And we have some hints making me think this way:

  • Ultra-positive unsolicited feedback from team members.
  • Numerous impacts on other teams and workflows. P2 posts published, follow-ups, GH issues…
  • The number of peer reviews we took part in (Hundreds, with about 6 reviews/answers per submitted interaction).
  • The fact that the team (9.8/10) considered our peer reviews workflow was creating a positive impact on team bonding.
  • The fact this process has been reused/adapted in 5 more teams since we presented it in June.
  • The direct but anonymous answer to a clear question:

Success key factors.

We started from a quick brainstorm in our weekly 1:1s… ‘Off the top of your head, what do you think that are the key points for the success of the peer review process we have in Neptune team?’. We made a poll out of these answers where every team member was able to show your personal alignment -or not- with each assertion.

I classified insights into 5 categories explaining why our peer reviews are well perceived in the team, why we participate so much, why are we getting so nice results… As a recap, why the process is successful. here they are these 5 points:

  • Horizontality. Anyone can participate and their contributions are welcomed. No one has a different position so any point of view is equally important.
  • Openness. People from outside of the team can also take part. They are often invited to chime in and complete team member thoughts with new points of view. But as the p2 implementation is visible to anyone within the company, you can also take a look and even if you are not explicitly adding your comments, learn from the discussion.
  • P2 based. Two crucial points here. First, we don’t need to learn a new tool. Besides, P2s are really cool, flexible -pictures, videos, mentions can be included- and searchable, so any discussion integrates the knowledge base.
  • The expected outcomes are learnings, not grades or stats. This releases a lot of tension. And we focus on meaningful discussions instead of judging other team members.
  • We consider this is an amazing exercise to build the team.

The icing on the cake. TEAM MEMBER WORDS.

The protagonists of this effort were the team members and I couldn’t let pass this opportunity without showing what they had expressed. There are many reasons, let me outline them. So we watched this short video/animated gif containing the literal comments you made in the poll:

Thanks, Neptunians. Thanks, Commit-confers

Thousand of thanks to the Neptune team at Automattic.

Millions of thanks to the audience in Commit-Conf for listening to me for half an hour

A big hug to Sofía Martín who gave me complete feedback and a nice talk going back home and to MrFoxTalbot for the fb but also for all the pictures you take in my talk. And the short video when I explained the horizontality 😛

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