Posted tagged ‘management practices to axe’

Management Practices To Axe

February 11, 2010

Liz Ryan of Business Week has an interesting article titled Ten Management Practices to Axe. I have repeated six of the practices selected by Ryan below. What do you think about the practices below? Should they be axed or do you think they have value?

Forced Ranking

The idea behind forced ranking is that when you evaluate your employees against one another, you’ll see who’s most critical on the team and who’s most expendable. This theory rests on the notion that we can exhort our reports to work together for the sake of the team 364 days a year and then, when it really counts, pit them against one another in a zero-sum competitive exercise. That’s a decent strategy for TV shows such as Survivor but disastrous for organizations that intend to stay in business for the long term. What to do instead: Evaluate employees against written goals and move quickly to remove poor performers all the time (not just once a year).

Overdone Policy Manuals

You know who’s making money for your employer right now? Workers who are selling, building, or inventing stuff. You know who’s spending the business’s money right now? Other employees (most easily found in HR, IT, and Finance) who’ve been commanded to write, administer, and enforce the 10,000 policies that make up your company’s employee handbook. Overblown policy efforts squelch creativity, bake fear into your culture, and make busywork for countless office admins, on top of wasting paper, time, and brain cells. What to do instead? Nuke one unnecessary or outdated policy every week and require the CEO’s signature to add any new ones.

Social Media Thought Police

It’s reasonable to block Youtube (GOOG) in the office because of the bandwidth it consumes. The recent e-mail message I received from a worker who’d just been informed of her employer’s “no LinkedIn profiles permitted” policy sets a new low for organizational paranoia. Memo to your general counsel: Human beings work in your business, not robots or replicants. People have lives, brands, and connections beyond your walls, and those human entanglements are more likely to help your business than to hurt it. What to do instead: Treat people like babies only if you want them to act like babies. Let the rest of them update their LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter accounts appropriately, and if they’re not getting their work done, deal with that problem on its own.

360-Degree Feedback Programs

I have a second-grader, and if my second-grader has something to say to his little friend Dylan, I encourage him to say it directly. I don’t tell him, “Fill out this form, and we’ll have the other kids fill out forms, too, and then we’ll tell Dylan what all the kids think of him, anonymously.” Apart from the fact that my kid doesn’t know what “anonymously” means, this is very bad coaching for a budding communicator. The 360-degree feedback system is a crutch for poor managers. We need more forthright discussion among our teams, not sneaky group feedback mechanisms masquerading as career development tools. What to do instead: Ditch the 360 system and teach your employees how to give one another constructive criticism. (Teach your managers how to do it, too.)

Mandatory Performance-Review Bell Curves

The evil twin to forced ranking systems is the annual review protocol that commands managers to assign their employees in equal numbers into groups of Poor, Fair, Good, Above Average, and Excellent employees. If a CEO has so little faith in his or her managers that she’d plan for, much less settle for, a workforce where 50% of the people range from so-so to dismal, that CEO requires too little from the management team. Forcing performance-review (and salary-increase) distributions into a bell curve exalts and institutionalizes mediocrity. What to do instead: Set high standards for employee reviews and raise them every year. Counsel or remove managers who can’t move past Easy Grader status, and trust the rest of your managers to review their employees fairly. If you can’t trust your leadership team members to assess their employees, how can you trust them to manage at all?

Timekeeping Courtesy of Henry Ford

If you employ white-collar “knowledge workers” in your organization, you’re better off giving them challenging assignments and standing back than managing them like assembly-line workers. An obsession with arrival and departure times is not the way to signal to your employees, “We’re expecting great things from you,” and neither are picky payroll practices that require salaried employees to use fractions of sick and personal days to attend to pressing life situations. Nothing spells “you’re a cog in the machine” like a policy that happily allows you to work until midnight on a client project, then docks your pay when you’re half an hour late arriving to work the next day. What to do instead: Set goals with your salaried employees, see that they meet them, and leave the how-and-where issues to your brilliant team members to manage for themselves.