The Quarterly Review

The Human Element

Professional growth, like physical growth, happens gradually. This makes it easy to miss changes as they occur. Thus, we benefit from regular and intentional reflection—the Quarterly Review.

Foster open dialogue by making the Quarterly Review a non-threatening experience.

How can we achieve a non-threatening experience? We work towards this goal by structuring it as a no-surprises event. Surprises are eliminated when the review covers topics previously discussed. This means the Quarterly Review is an extension of our 1on1s. So if we want to conduct effective reviews, then consistent meaningful 1on1s are essential.

Finally, a no-surprises approach means the Quarterly Review is documented and introduced to new hires as part of the onboarding process. Staff know when it’s coming, why it’s done, and what to expect.

The Business Obligation

Help people perform to their potential. We have this responsibility to our staff and company. The Quarterly Review provides a consistent and repeatable process to follow through on that obligation.

How often should these be done?

As time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult to recall what happened since the last review. Furthermore, since reviews should provide a marker of growth, extending the time between reviews increases the odds of staff feeling stagnant. The sweet spot is between 3-6 months.

A Humane Approach

The recommended process is:

  1. Provide staff the questions, asking them to return written answers
  2. Prepare by reading and giving thought to their answers
  3. Discuss the answers together
  4. Document the highlights of the conversation

The Questions

Prior experiences—whether professional or personal—may cause some to feel apprehensive about sharing candidly. The questions below are carefully worded to encourage staff to answer in ways that are comfortable to them.

  1. What made you feel proud last quarter?
  2. Were there enough learning opportunities?
  3. What was challenging?
  4. What might be challenging next quarter?
  5. What excites you about next quarter?


These questions are adapted from a tweet by Bryan Cantrill.

The Discussion

The five questions above focus on the What. From there you can open up the discussion to the Why and How. For example, Why do you feel that way? How can I better help?

As a manager, we have additional topics to prepare. For example, you’ll likely want to review:

  • Positive accomplishments and progress
  • Any ongoing performance issues
  • Upcoming business goals and how they can support those

Do not delay performance discussions until a Quarterly Review. Instead, have an ongoing conversation with feedback given in context.