Employee Development – Treat Your Employees Like MVPs (Minimum Viable Performers)

Minimum Viable Employee - MVP

Too often, we treat employee development for top performers like a traditional “waterfall” development cycle (think Gantt chart), with long and frequently unproductive periods between opportunities that have the potential to be transformative for both the employee and the organization.

Some of the reasons I’ve heard of as the cause of this delay are:

  • He lacks the necessary experience
  • She’s just “not ready”
  • There is no one to replace him and the work he does right now

When it comes to employee development, take a page from newer software development methodologies like Scrum, which focus on creating and refining a minimum viable product (MVP), and develop Minimum Viable Performers for your organization.

In software development, a minimum viable product (MVP) is the product with the highest return on investment versus risk. In employee development, the Minimum Viable Performer is the contributor with the highest potential return on investment with the lowest risk. Your top performers have already differentiated themselves by meeting these criteria. Now, it is your job to recognize this and treat them like MVPs in their professional development. Don’t wait for perfection. Instead, know how to identify when your MVP is “ready enough” to switch gears and drive additional impactful change in your business.

There is a fine line between identifying someone as an MVP and making a move prematurely, so be certain you’ve set up clear markers and review processes in advance. You should also start small and increase the complexity and responsibility of opportunities as the MVP continues to prove her ability to stimulate progress.

Here are some examples of traditional employee development contrasted against MVP development:



Punctuated Equilibrium – Long periods of stasis marked by instances of rapid change; little personal or professional development occurs during stasis periods, which leads to lowered overall productivity and satisfaction Rapid Iterative Equilibrium Ensure top performers are involved in your most important opportunities; when one project is over, find another to assign your MVP to right away so he can continue to contribute at a high level, keeping his satisfaction and engagement levels consistently high
Find a new role to move the employee into once her development in her current role is “complete” Provide new opportunities in relatively rapid succession that increase the overall responsibilities of the MVP, assessing fit and progress in short, pre-defined cycles
Wait for all items on the “employee development list” to be checked off before a new role or challenge is considered Identify the key characteristics the employee should exhibit in order to receive additional responsibilities; know the types of responsibilities you would be granting in advance, and create checkpoints along the MVP’s development cycle to see if progress is being made, if the goal needs to be changed or if the she is ready for a new challenge or role
Identify a new role or opportunities only as a counteroffer to another employment opportunity Identify opportunities far in advance – up to one year or more; have an open dialogue about those possibilities, what a path towards them would look like and the performance milestones the MVP would be required to achieve along the way

When weighed against the potential contributions your employee could be making in a new or expanded role, and the increased satisfaction a top performer would likely feel as a result of undertaking and succeeding at a new challenge, it is hard to find a reason not to reduce the time between new opportunities for MVPs.

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