David Maister analyzes how long the plan and/or review cycle should be. Yearly review is too infrequent because accountability at the beginning is too low and at the end is too high. I’d add that after ten or twelve months you don’t have even a chance to remember what exactly you were doing back then during January and you end up unconsciously measuring last several months instead of the whole year.
On the other hand month is too short because for David it’s too close to micromanagement and it’s too vulnerable for unplanned events (client opportunities, emergencies and alike). I’d add that it’s often very hart to set, and measure, goals for such a short time. It’s also quite an effort to make good reviews so making it monthly can be challenging for a manager. Oh, at least it should be the effort, in other case I wouldn’t say reviews are really good.
In general I agree with David. Having said that, I’m far from setting 3-month period of time as a universal plan and review cycle. It all depends on what you’re going to plan and review. When you’re working on a small project or in a small informal team, it’s often more reasonable to use shorter cycles.
For example, in Overto (which is my pet project) we use 2- or 3-week cycle to review what has been already done and what we want to do in the next cycle. It’s all very informal and we do it when we feel like it but it’s always less than a month. And it works. That’s because we’re self-managing team and the product vision is changing constantly. We don’t have the time to wait a quarter to change the course.
Yes, there are much more projects which would fit better to 3-month review cycle. I believe most of bigger, well-defined projects would. Bigger means 6 weeks or longer in this case. The same is with more formalized teams, where goals are rather set than collectively agreed. That’s why in most cases I’d choose (and I’ve chosen) quarter as a review cycle. From my experience it works especially well with performance reviews. If I had to choose a cycle for performance reviews it would definitely be a 3-month period of time. Preferably filled with informal face-to-face chats when needed.