Archive for September, 2009

Thought for Today…

What would the world look like if people didn’t have a self serving bias when it came to business relationships?

Get Rid of the Performance Review—Amen Brother!

I have never really been motivated by money.  And, I have long ago ceased needing to have my ego stroked by hearing that I am good at what I do.  So, where then does the performance review process leave me?  Flat I guess.

I wholeheartedly agree that the performance review process is a farce at best and criminally insane at worst.  Over the years, I have worked for the gamut of different types of companies…from an employee owned marketing research supplier to several Fortune 100 companies.  And you know what, I can say with a large degree of certainty that these performance reviews have been little more than the system punishing me in the following manner: 1) most of the performance evaluation systems I have experienced have had a forced ranking component, meaning that only a very small number of individuals could receive the best score and just a bit larger percentage could get the second best score.  Most individuals had to fall into the “solid performer” mix and 2) the scores I received on my reviews generally did not match the write up of the performance that was supposed to explain the scores I received.  The funniest (ironic) thing I experienced with the second “punishment” happened years ago when a friend in HR said she had seen my performance review and to me that she thought that my boss was a tough grader, especially considering the write up he had given me.  Interestingly, that conversation left me feeling vindicated rather than deflated.  Someone (albeit with no clout or authority to help) had seen my inequity and apologized for it!

So if it was a perfect world, I would be able to say “hey, let’s not waste the hour going through your personal feelings about me relative to the others in our department.  I’ve got work to do.”  But, back in the real world….I just sit and take it, thank him for the kind words, promise to do better over the next year and be on my way.

That said, I am not so sure I agree with Samuel A Culbert’s assessment of using the coaching session as a substitute for a performance appraisal.  While I do agree that an alternative must be found, the coaching session will only be successful if the manager and subordinate both understand the purpose of the coaching session and actively work to make the session productive.  If we fail annually, how do we expect to be successful on a bi-weekly basis? My employer has bi-weekly coaching sessions.  For some, who have the right boss and subordinate, this type of team work is successful.  However, for a majority of employees and bosses, these sessions are little more than a run down of current work, the boss telling the employee all the things he/she is doing wrong and end with the ironic “what can I do to help you accomplish your goals over the next two weeks?”  

And now, back to work…there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Thought for Today…

Though our mountains of work never seem to dissipate, we need to stop and rejoice the work (however small) that does make it off our desk each day.

Southwest Airlines—The company I would love to work for…

The problem faced by Southwest is one of those “good” problems to have.  The only reason they are having a problem is because they are so good at what they do.  Other airlines want desperately to imitate what they are doing operationally so that they can achieve the same profits they are enjoying.     The competition itself really isn’t the most pressing issue for Southwest.  It really comes down to two things:  1) can Southwest sustain its family culture as it grows and 2) how can it convince the outside world (the investment community) of that it can sustain it? 

From the competition front, I think believe that Southwest is absolutely fine.  Even if United and Continental can “cherry pick” some of the frequent flyers, Southwest has nothing to worry about in the long run.  The reason why I believe that the competition won’t be troublesome for long is because of the following:

  • Neither Continental nor United have the employee focus necessary to pull off the team and family spirit, mutual respect and overall trust so evident at Southwest. 
  • Neither Continental nor United have the Union relationship to ensure that each key area of employee service will work together.  Thus, there can be no “enforceable” system that ensures that the pilots and flight attendants pitch in in other areas necessary. That said, there will always be some dedicated employees that will go above and beyond because they are so committed to the organization.
  • The other airlines don’t pay by the flight.  By paying by the flight, Southwest is encouraging their flight attendants and pilots to be more flexible with their schedules so that they can increase their monthly pay (by taking more flights—which should be shorter than that of their competitors).
  • While not stated, I am certain that neither Continental nor United provides the amount of training and cross training that Southwest provides.
  • Both organizations are focused solely on operating efficiency, not necessarily on satisfying either the employee or the customer.
  • This “short haul” focus is almost a paradigm shift for Continental—and one they forgot to tell their best customers (frequent flyers) about according to the story.  It’s never good to surprise the customer, unless it means you are giving them a benefit they didn’t expect to receive—clearly not the case here.

Here are some questions I would have for Ann Rhoads: While logic would dictate that your people are your competitive advantage, why are you so convinced that you need to transform the People Department?  It would seem me that, based on the data presented, you are doing everything right.  What makes you think changes are needed? Because the outside world is worried that you are too good?  

There is one thing that I think that Southwest should be worried about but they haven’t discussed… that’s that they are very touchy feely folks.  Should they accidently let the wrong person into “the club”, they could have a lawsuit on their hands.

So after all of this, what do I think that southwest should do?  Ask the employees and ask the customers.  They need to understand exactly why customers are using Southwest rather than the competitors.  They also need to model their customers so that they truly understand who these customers are and how loyal they are to Southwest.  If they are concerned at all that they are getting too big for their britches, they should have more employee focus groups—basically do more of what they are doing, not shake things up.

Now, in relation to the second article, I think they should be worried about what happens when Herb leaves.  Will his culture leave with him?  That will be their ultimate challenge.

Jesica’s Story—The Tragedy of a System Gone Bad


Being a parent, this story was doubly hard for me to read.   It is amazing how many times the system failed Jesica and her family.   That said, the doctors and everyone involved failed as well.  Why wouldn’t  the doctor have checked the chart to make sure that everything matched?  Where was the patient ownership and dedication?

For me, it brings up the question, as a paying customer, how much expertise and dedication should I reasonably expect from the healthcare system?  And, from the doctors?    Jesica and her family did nothing wrong and there was absolutely nothing they could have done to change the outcome of the surgery.  And yet, Jesica is still no longer with us.

While this story is tragic and the failures inexcusable, there are some really positive aspects of the story.  To me they are:

  • The surgeon took complete ownership of the failure
  • The hospital took ownership of the failure and looked to see what the underlying problems were and took steps to correct them
  • The hospital automatically tore up the bill, even knowing that  a lawsuit was coming
  • And, most importantly, changes to the entire system/process by which organs are obtained and transplanted have been implemented.  And, hopefully, this means that in the future, this type of mistake won’t happen again.

This story should remind us all that all systems and processes are subject to failure and need to be reevaluated often.   Hey, if they can’t get a heart transplant surgery process right, how likely is it that I have a problem with the systems in my department?  Pretty darn high!

Thought for Today…

Trust takes a long time to build and seconds to break, don’t get sloppy!

Big brother healthcare—we are watching you…

Reading the story Get Healthy—Or Else left me very conflicted.  On the one hand, I really wish that my employer would provide even half of the services that Scotts provides to/demands use of by its employees.   On the other hand, my life is my business not my employer’s.  So how much control do we have to give up to get a little more in the way of services? It’s a fine line


That said, I really dislike Scotts’ negative motivational approach.   I wonder if Mr. Hagedorn ever thought about trying a volunteer strategy to his “gonna get my company healthy approach”.   That’s my main issue with his tyrannical approach.  If he had just implemented at least the cheaper elements of his program on a volunteer basis, it is very possible that he could have achieved a similar health result as he did by demanding health conformity.


Now, let’s talk about employees’ right to healthcare by their employer.  Healthcare today seems to be a cost of entry for employers when it comes to hiring quality employees.  I have to say I would have to look twice at a company at which I was interviewing if it didn’t offer health insurance.  So, do I feel entitled to health insurance?  Heck yeah!  Lest you think I am one of those “taker” types, I should tell you that I take my own health seriously.  I get all the age and gender appropriate tests, probes and proddings and I exercise regularly.  So, do I expect to have health insurance from my employer?  Yes, but at the end of the day, I do my part to earn that health insurance.  And, I wish more of my co-workers felt and did the same.

Screaming managers—firm believers in attracting flies with vinegar!

 If you have been in the workforce long enough, you will inevitably get a screamer boss.  In addition to the screaming, screamer bosses are also of the belittling ilk.  I had the “pleasure” of having a screamer/belittler in the early part of my career.  Some would say I got it out of my system early…the feeling that I had to or deserved to take that kind of abuse that is.  That time in my life is certainly over.  Life is way too short to take that kind of abuse.  

 I often wonder what happened in their childhood or early work life to make them screamers.  Did they have a “screamer role model”?  Did they enjoy the abuse so much that they felt the need to share the experience with others?  No way to tell really.  But I think the main reason there are still screamer bosses out there is because Senior Management lets it happen either explicitly or implicitly.  

 Seeing the screamer/belittler in action just makes my skin crawl.  I just watch in wonder and think how is it possible that this jerk boss thinks that this type of behavior is going to motivate his/her employee to be more productive?  If anything, that behavior is going to cause at least 10 times the amount of complaining minutes to other employees as the act of screaming actually took.  How is that productive?

Thought for Today…

Our greatest point of corporate failure comes when we ignore our employees to “satisfy” our customers.

Thought for Today…

Today can be a mountain or a mole hill…your choice.

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