It’s performance review time of year again! It’s hard enough to clear your head and objectively self-reflect on your own performance, let alone on the performance of others. For many of my team this was the first time that they’d been asked to provide 360 feedback on their peers, and so there was an extra level of discomfort. I recorded the following Loom video demonstrating the Situation, Behaviour, Impact (SBI) framework, in order to help them approach the feedback process and make their feedback more actionable. I hope it’s useful to others too.
The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt was brought to my attention when my director came out to discuss our operations team and ask where the bottlenecks in our organisation lay. When he referred to Herbie, I had to know what he meant.
The first thing to note about this book is that it is a story, not your normal dry textbook style business book. I guess teaching through narratives worked for the Bible, so why not a business book? It is a tricky balance though, and I feel at some points the author gets a little distracted by the back story. To make up for this he then compresses a number of key points into one paragraph of wise dialogue. It all flows reasonably well overall, it just means you can’t start skimming what appears to be light reading or you might miss key insights.
So what are the morals? The story starts with plenty of despair and common frustrations, but I love that it also starts with a reasonable company making reasonable decisions – yet everyone is burned out and under resourced. In my experience this is an incredibly common situation and probably where the “work smarter, not harder” phrase comes from. Even though the book sets its story in a manufacturing plant I found it really easy to adapt to my experience, especially working with an Agile software development team.
The solutions expressed in the book are all about a back to basics approach to finding and optimising within your constraints. Every process has a bottleneck, the trick is identifying what it is and then applying techniques to make the best of what you have. For example, if your developers are constantly overworked then test the requirements documents before they start work and offload some of their tasks to other roles who are not bottlenecks. Sounds simple right? To justify these changes to your accountant you can note that if your developer works 50 hours a week and your total operating expenses for a week are $50,000 then the cost of them wasting an hour is $50,000 divided by 50 – $1,000. This is because it adds downtime and inventory jams across the rest of your process and is the limiting factor of overall output. Puts things in perspective right?
The book doesn’t stop there however – it talks about synchronising bottlenecks and non-bottlenecks, the importance of minimising inventory, how to focus on market demand across your organisation, why data is misleading and no substitute for getting out on the floor, problems with modern efficiency accounting practices and even how organising a regular “date night” with your partner is a good idea! Overall I really loved this book, it was very easy to read and relate to. Although it doesn’t mention this, I think it is a great read for fast growing companies that face resource constraints every day and can get easily distracted by their purpose as a company.
How many companies clearly define their culture and HR policy in a public way? Jack Welch of GE famously held the view that the bottom 10% of the company should be fired every year, but in the days of labor shortages that would be frowned upon. That’s why it was refreshing for me to see this slideshow from Netflix. Have a read for yourself, although be warned it is quite long and detailed:
So what do I think? Firstly it is awesome that a company publishes this kind of presentation, everyone should be proud of who they work for and have no problems articulating that to the public. I don’t think there are many companies who are so upfront, open and honest about who they are (in many cases even being aware would be a great start).
In particular I liked:
- “adequate performance gets a generous severence package” – provocative but also highly motivating to myself at least. There is nothing better than being in a team where you know everyone cares as much as you do, and nothing worse than putting your heart into something that sits in someone’s “to do” list.
- Brilliant Jerks – the cost to teamwork is too high. I have had managers who make excuses for a brilliant jerk because they hate the thought of rehiring for a person that is currently letting them put their feet up.
- Rare Responsible Person – Doesn’t wait to be told what to do, Never feels “that’s not my job”. Everyone should pitch in, no-one should feel territorial. If I am struggling I will put my hand up and ask for advice, and I expect others to do the same and welcome my input.
- Value simplicity – No-one can manage lots of small products successfully. Focus on what works, and keep making it work even better.
- High Performance People make few errors – Hire well, trust your people to do their job. Don’t cotton wool bad people and have checks and balances to make sure they don’t do damage. That adds huge amounts of waste and overhead.
- Control through context– Managers should communicate a clear strategy and whatever happens within that strategy is up to the employee.
What did you get out of it? Does your company even have a policy or statement on culture?
Harvard Business Publishing summarised the 360-degree feedback data on over 11,000 leaders from a study completed by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. Here are the 10 most common leadership shortcomings, how many apply to you or your leader?
- Lack energy and enthusiasm
- Accept their own mediocre performance
- Lack clear vision and direction
- Have poor judgement
- Don’t collaborate
- Don’t follow the standards they set for others
- Resist new ideas
- Don’t learn from mistakes
- Lack interpersonal skills
- Fail to develop others
It is interesting to note that the most successful and least successful differed most significantly in their energy and enthusiasm. Can a good leader therefore be trained or are they born? I see some similarities to the concept of “culture comes from the top”. If the CEO demonstrates energy and enthusiasm this has a huge impact on their report’s motivation to follow, and this energy in turn cascades down the chain. Finally poor management is one of the top 10 reasons employees quit their job, so the consequences of bad leaders are serious.
There are a ton of Gen Y related articles being written these days, it seems everyone is trying to grapple with this ‘problem’. I read an article today on the MyCareer website which I thought was more perceptive than most, probably because it actually had quotes that I could relate to. The key quotes for me were:
(Gen Y) have always had security, shelter, money and they are
expecting the same things in their work,” he says.
“You find gen Y is choosing employers based on the types of training and development programs in place, but more importantly on the types of leaders that are in an organisation.
I guess my take on it is that although we take some things for granted (you only have to look at the unemployment figures to understand that), what really makes us tick is a clear development path. Keep challenging, training and giving responsibility and we will provide larger and faster ROI than you have seen before.
I guess the downside is that this progression has the ability to corrupt as well, and spoilt brat syndrome scares the pants off some employers. Clearly some writers have had bad experiences, but I would like to think that this was the exception rather than the norm. So don’t spoil your Gen Y with salary and cute projects, give them real challenges and keep up the communication and respect. Is that so complicated? 🙂