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Archive for the ‘Perf Mgmt’ Category

Dual Residency

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Been in process of updating / doing a blogger’s version of a 5-S. Newer stuff is here: One Pond-Ripples. Focus: influence and impact, values based leadership and engagement, community and this wonderfully esoteric thing called The Greater Good.

I will be pulling a few posts from this blog forward after updating so stay tuned!



The X and I

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There is a great whiteboard video from the originators of the “X” posted at the Employee Engagement Network.  Come back after you watch.

If we can tell our personal story, it helps make engagement more real. If something actually has deep meaning to me and I can relate my own experience to others, I become a more credible source.

This is my personal story–how I have mapped the “x” in numerous sessions of BlessingWhite’s Managing Personal Growth. The story ran long, so I am posting it separately at my blog.

Telling my “x” experience is critical right now as I am about to use it to introduce myself, to open a proposal to our chief officers that is heavily influenced by engagement factors-the soft stuff that can drive operations managers nutty. My leaders need to understand me, my perspective, and most importantly the power of engagement as presented through the “x”. I need credibility, and telling my story here is a good warm-up for me. The X and I.  I’d love to hear your story too.

How Countable Are You?

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“Countability” was coined by John Maxwell in The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork:

9. The Law of Countability. Teammates must be able to count on each other when it counts. Is your integrity unquestionable? Do you perform your work with excellence? Are you dedicated to the team’s success? Can people depend on you? Do your actions bring the team together or rip it apart?

My leader has asked the questions many times: what exactly is “accountability”? What does it mean to hold someone “accountable”?

It’s time to take a swipe at this snipe called accountability.

I am your leader, I am counting on you to make the best possible decisions within your area of responsibility. By the same token, you can count on me as your leader to clearly define what’s expected of you, and to make sure you have the information, skills and tools to deliver on those expectations. A good leader does not count on more than their followers can deliver. A good follower delivers no less than what they are capable of.

Don’t expect me to make decisions for you when you are capable of making the call yourself. That’s just abdicating your responsibility. And, no offense but I have more important things to do. If you make a decision to the best of your ability, within your defined area of countability, you will not be chastised if the decision turns out to be wrong. We need to figure out WHY it was a wrong call, and learn from it together.

We have more than enough definition and structure: work instructions, standard work, targets, ISO9001, leader certification, hourly associate performance expectations and assessments, salaried performance management, policies. All we need to do is execute consistently every day to the best of our ability. No exception to this is acceptable or justifiable on the leaders’ or followers’ part.

Our success hinges on clearly defined expectations and responsibilities and leaders supporting the team–providing what they need, enabling followers to get the job done. A leader cannot succeed without ensuring the success of their followers and having a team that is countable. That is a leader’s number one job.

A company cannot succeed without people who are countable, people who do what is expected of them, up and down the line. When people deliver the goods, they need to know it. When they fall short, they need to know it. And if they need help to pick things up a notch, they need to get it.

Countability applies to all levels of leaders and all followers. No rocket science, nothing more than fundamental chain-of-command.

How countable are you?

Written by Craig

July 2, 2012 at 9:42 am

Was Darwin Right?

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It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change. (Darwin)

Following is a real-world dilemma, once again using the bell curve. What would you do?

You’ve been tasked to research leadership development material for a rather “young” group of leaders in a startup operation. Based on comments and observation you are concerned with the varying levels of team leader buy-in to the training. Your original focus was “what is the best way to get everyone on board?” But the initial effects of the kool-aid have worn down and now you’re beginning to wonder “can we realistically expect everyone to happily hop on the bus and go to Disneyland with us?”

Framed in terms of variation and natural distribution, below is the bell curve of leader buy-in. The left tail is comprised of nay-sayers and no-wayers, while the right tail has visionaries and natural leaders. The largest population is the fence-sitters in the middle.


Would it be more effective to offer elective leadership development to any interested person, regardless of whether they are currently leaders? The “deadwood” on the left can choose to participate and improve, and we may convert some of them. But if they don’t want to or can’t get on the bus, we can’t drag them on board and expect good results.

I really hate to ask this…would we be better off developing from scratch those with potential and the right attitude, rather than attempting to shape and mold miscreants against their will?

This is a major shift for me, may lose some sleep. Your thoughts?

Written by Craig

June 29, 2011 at 6:52 pm

The Bell Curve and Performance Levels

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 As it so often does, a conversation on the Employee Engagement Network  has prompted a spinoff here. The topic on the EEN was recognition and engagement. A few factoids from the posting, based on Gallup data from research of 4mil US workers:

  • Number of workers estimated to be extremely negative about work or “actively disengaged”: 22 million
  • Cost in US dollars due lost productivity, workplace injuries, absences and fraud: 1 trillion
  • Rank of “feeling unappreciated” among reasons for leaving a job: 1

Check out the EEN thread.  For now I’m going to diverge…

 Discussion prompter Steven noted….it’s hard to imagine somebody being a top performer while being disengaged.  

Hard to imagine but not unheard of, if you consider engagement as a combination of high levels of both performance and job satisfaction. There is that rare endangered species that is compelled to excel in their performance regardless of their level of satisfaction. It may be possible to sustain high performance short-term without high satisfaction, but long term the inevitable outcome of “all give and no get” is burnout.

 So there is yet another indicator of the importance of the good fight the practitioners of engagement are embroiled in.

 EEN contributor Anita said: …Usually the high fliers get the rewards, the failures are mentored. and the good enough person is ignored!  Not good for morale.

 Anita’s statement led me to the following. Hopefully it won’t upset statistical purists too much if I borrow their bell curve of normal distribution attributed to variation that can be found in everything under the sun …. Including job performance.

 If you were to plot an organization’s level of job performance by individuals the variation would result in a roughly bell-shaped curve. The low performers and high performers would occupy opposite tail segments of the bell curve while the “good enoughs” are the Great Majority in the middle. For nothing more than critical mass, Anita’s ‘good enoughs’ in the middle are a dangerous segment to ignore.

 What if the “good enough” were made more of a focal point…if that population was positively impacted would not the entire distribution shift to a new, higher midpoint due to critical mass if nothing else? The high performers would be driven to ‘stay ahead of the pack’ while the tail end of the dog would either try to keep up the rear or fall off completely.

 Just thinkin’.

Written by Craig

June 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Culture-Evolution, Revolution? 7-S Thoughts

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We’ve had some good ‘culture’ conversations on the Employee Engagement Network before. Recently, a poster offered this: Is There Collaboration in Your Culture?

The topic just naturally gravitated toward the old dilemma…where does culture come from? How do you change it?

I’ve done a little on Change Management here: see Change is OK, Just Don’t Mess With My Stuff…  but am taking a slightly different view here. To frame my initial response I called on the old standard McKinsey 7-S model, where “shared values” (translated – culture) is at the center of the model. Among the satellite S components: style, strategy, structure, systems.

An individual-based performance mgmt system, departmental silo structure, and misaligned micro goals all encourage all drive “me” style which impacts culture. All “S” components are interrelated. Therefore to consciously impact one all must be addressed. On the flip side, if you mess with one you inadvertently mess with the others. By design or default, the “S” components tend to change together. Better to plan! Strategy and systems drive style / culture:

  1. Strategy: set goals that require collaboration to complete.
  2. Systems: use performance mgmt to manage those collaborative projects. Interdependent success (or failure)
  3. Style: items 1 and 2 demand communication, collaboration, teamwork

EEN contributor Steven wrote…too many companies are rewarding individual efforts and ignoring successful teamwork. Emphasis–cross functional teamwork. I feel it’s even worse going half the distance, falling in love with the “t” word but only within departments / functions. So instead of a cowboy culture you have gang affiliation, still turf-centered.

Ben’s comment in the EEN discussion will hopefully trigger discussion…The culprit is top management. They create the culture and their people follow their leadership whether it is good, bad, or ugly.

I support that view, under two specific conditions. First, where a founding leader instills his own values upon the organization, and they take root and are nurtured by subsequent leadership. Second, when leadership re-engineers an organization that addresses all seven “S” components together. A rarity?

Other than those two instances, in my opinion culture is evolutionary—the ultimate collaboration.

Written by Craig

April 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm

More on Performance Management

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See prior post. Another performance management conversation is taking place now on the EEN, a few excerpts and my thoughts follow. You have to sign up and be a member of the specific group to join the discussion, but at least you can check it out here.  

David Marklew started the discussion with this:

What would the reaction in your organisation be if an announcement was published stating that they (performance appraisals) were being scrapped – happy faces or sad faces from both sides? I’m smiling just at the thought of the reaction.  

Is perf mgmt just a seasonally hot topic? Maybe, considering that PM is typically only thought about “seasonally”. One of my issues with it, or more accurately with the way it is misused.

First need, I think, is to re-think what it is: an alignment and planning process, then a project management / status reporting tool. As such, it cannot be a semi-annual check-box ritual to comply with HR policy. If a project management tool, and the business plan drives the projects, how frequent should the touches be? Re-positioning elevates the relevance and importance.

(John) SMART objectives tend to be outdated very quickly – far more quickly than the time to the next appraisal…Per the comment above, when projects and priorities change plans need to change too. No way can they be carved in stone at the start of the period and left alone.

(John again) some managers will avoid feeding back on performance and development progress if there is nothing in place. This is one of my biggest concerns. Hate to say it but sometimes we need to be nudged into talking to one another!

Alison nailed it for me: It isn’t the tool which needs to be abolished, what about the skill of the user, how it’s used and how it’s positioned, these are surely key to how engaging the action is, like with most tools….Perhaps tailor made appraisals with a central core of organisational requirements might engage

If core competencies, or guiding principles etc etc exist, how well do they get driven into reality? To me, using a perf mgmt process is one ideal way. An issue, however, is how to objectively assess a person’s performance on the softer attributes.

At issue also is what Alison notes as the skill of the user. Like most anything else clarity, fairness and consistency are essential. Without these perf mgmt is a dangerous loaded weapon.

(David B) they have become so bureaucratic that many managers dread that “time of the year” when they have to be done…think about it, a time of the year, not ongoing!  I’m in the camp of de-formalizing them, but making sure at the same time that that kind of communication doesn’t fall through the cracks, and that people get feedback along the way.  So yes, scrap the “system”…

Need: ongoing, regular touches. Give people the skills they need to effectively use the process, including giving and receiving feedback (TALKING to each other??!). Use the process to manage execution of the business plan, as well as to drive the softer attributes into reality.

Balance the process by adding the individual development element.

David B said expect managers to do their job…. a well designed perf mgmt system should simply be a value-adding tool to help them do their job!

Written by Craig

March 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm