People sometimes confuse process and bureaucracy. Process is good—it helps to get things done smoothly and efficiently; bureaucracy is bad—it’s process calcified, convoluted, politically corrupted, or just plain unnecessary.
Good process is an easy-to-use and flexible method of accomplishing various business functions. It is informal without being haphazard, and neither ambiguous or confusing.
Occasional surveys (internally asking staff and externally asking vendors and customers how things are working) alert you to when processes start to mutate.
By creating a skeletal process and a corresponding graphic in areas where it is needed (financial controls, hiring, purchasing, etc.), you lay the framework for your growth in the future, no matter how hectic.
Bureaucracy may stem from a manager, whether CEO or first level supervisor, who believes that his staff is so incompetent that it is necessary for him to spell out exactly how every individual action needs to be done. To correct this, the manager responsible must
reduce his own insecurity,
increase his belief in his current staff, or
hire people he thinks are smart!
Bureaucracy is often fed by people’s fear of change, “We’ve always done it like that.” and similar comments are dead giveaways.
Another significant factor that contributes to unnecessary bureaucracy is the failure to align responsibility and authority.
If a person has the responsibility to get something done (design a product, create a Human Resources department, meet a sales quota), she should have enough authority (spend money, hire people, negotiate with outside vendors) to get the job done.
Giving people responsibility without concomitant authority forces them to constantly ask their superiors for permission, thus reducing productivity, and lowering moral.
The final, and most important difference between process and bureaucracy is that people like working for companies with good process in place, and hate working for those mired in bureaucracy, but not for long—they leave—making bureaucracy-eradication a major tool in the retention game.
I grew up watching Fox News. I am reformed now, but there was a time when I thought the stances that were represented on that network aligned with my own belief system.
I remember a segment that they would do called “Culture Wars.” In the piece they would discuss an instance where conservative values were being infringed upon by the liberal left.
An example might be a town that once had a community nativity scene that the courts ruled was unlawful. Fox News would hype this up and explain how there was a war on Christmas and on conservatives.
Fast forward 15 years and it has become apparent that there is a culture war within the ranks of Fox News. Just this week Fox fired one of their top on air personalities, Bill O’Reily. He has been a presence on the network for years and continued to bring in top ratings for his time slot.
It has come to light that O’Reily and Fox paid more than $13 Million to several women to settle alleged sexual harassment charges.
As of right now I am not sure if the allegations are true or not but I will say this, the appearance of impropriety looms large.
Fox has been in the spotlight recently for sexually harassing women that worked there and promoting a culture of sexism. Most networks place attractive people on air, but even the most casual observer can see there is a certain level of skin on Fox News that is not present on other networks.
Before any of the charges came out I was actually amazed that they were so blatant with the way they sexualized the women on the shows as it seemed to detract from the story the women were presenting.
When we look at the specific case of Bill O’Reily I try to look at it from the context of the network as a whole. As a pivotal member of the organization he had a hand in setting the tone for the culture.
As the charges of sexism came to light for the network I thought it only a matter of time until specific charges were leveled at some of the men on air.
I have never worked at a TV network, but I find it hard to imagine that people didn’t talk.
Women who were put in uncomfortable situations would have surly spoken to their coworkers.
Men would have overheard things in locker rooms and elsewhere. The on air talent had to be acutely aware of the sexually charged atmosphere that was prevalent.
Why did it take this long for it to all come out? I guess an easy answer could be money.
In O’Reily’s case he gave money to women so they wouldn’t talk. In the case of on air talent being sexually harassed it may have been money and credibility.
As a man I cannot completely relate, but I have had female coworkers tell me that it’s tough to tell someone you felt harassed for fear that you will be labeled in a negative way.
If we trace it back to adolescence I am sure we all have memories of girls and guys who were put in compromising positions, but didn’t speak out for fear of being ostracized from the group.
Perhaps that is at work at Fox News as well.
My point to all of this is simple. O’Reily benefited from the loose culture of the network. Regardless of whether the allegations are true, he benefited from the fact that he kept silent about the mistreatment around him.
If we take it all the way and he is guilty of misconduct, he benefited from the belief that he would be protected as all of the other aggressors had been.
As a society what must we do to change this error? One way I see it is we must enable people to speak out without fear. That is much easier said than done.
We must also attach shame to actions that take advantage of others. We have gotten to a place where we are uncomfortable confronting others, but in this case we must.
I no longer watch Fox News, but the few times I see it in passing I think about the culture wars within. Ideally they would become transparent and learn from this. I have been alive for longer than two days though and strongly doubt that will be the outcome.
My lesson I have learned is I must be the change, I cannot wait on others to lead it.
It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.
Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.
Money. Everyone’s favorite subject that no one wants to talk about. Especially when it comes to work, as in, “what were you making previously” and “what are you looking for now?”
Tomorrow’s post focuses on a new law enacted in Philadelphia and New York City that has the potential to change that entire, unwanted conversation, forcing managers/companies to focus on the future, as opposed to history.
In a post last week I asked for opinions on the ideas presented in a series of articles in Business Week on managing smarter but especially one that claims that “treating top performers the same as weaker ones is ‘strategic suicide’” and said I would add my thoughts in a future post.
Bob Foster left two interesting comments (well worth your time to click over and read). Regarding pay for performance he tells the story of a company where everybody from the CEO down all quit.
“Taking on the task to salvage the company, I hired new people that met unusual qualifications: they had to be qualified for the job they were applying for; they had to be unemployed and available immediately; they had to work at sub-standard wages; they had to work while knowing the company could close at any minute; and they had to work without supervision. The team that came together produced a highly successful company, and it was not because of high pay, or performance bonuses (there were none). The team stayed together, and performed, because of mutual respect, trust, appreciation, and consideration—people were ‘valued.’ To me, this is the truest form of ‘pay for performance.’”
I agree that trust was one of the key ingredients in what Bob accomplished, but it wasn’t the only one—or maybe I should say that it needs to be based on fairness and honesty.
Bob says the pay was ‘sub-standard’, but I assume that it was universally sub-standard relative to position and experience. If he had chosen to pay part of the team, say 10% more than their peers, the team wouldn’t have coalesced.
And that is exactly why I disagree with the idea of paying top performers, AKA stars, big sign-on bonuses or higher salaries than their peers.
Based on my own experience, 98% of star performers become stars as a function of their management and the ecosystem in which they perform. Change the management, culture or any other parts that comprise that ecosystem and the star may not survive.
Just as a chain is as strong as its weakest link there is no star in any sport, business, media, etc., who can win with a team that is subject to constant turnover and low morale.
Consider this common example.
Two people are hired at the same time with the same background, same GP0 and similar work experience, but with the one exception. One graduated from a ‘name’ school and the other from a community college. Starting salary is $50K, but the manager adds a 20% premium to the first candidate’s offer on the basis that she must be better to have gone to that school.
Neither candidate lived up to their potential because the manager made poor choices. In doing so he set both up to fail but for different reasons; one thought she had it made and the other that he was low value.
Merit bonuses fairly given for effort above and beyond acceptable performance levels make sense as long as they don’t come at the cost of developing new talent.
But one problem with ‘pay for performance’ is the pay often comes before the performance, but there are others and I’ll discuss them more Thursday. In the meantime, here are links to five posts from 2006 that give more detail on the trouble with stars.
This past week we had one bad press event after another and all from different sectors. Let’s review what has transpired so far: Pepsi decided to release an ad that equated the giving of a Pepsi to a police officer as the answer to the protests that have occurred.
It was looked, at the very least, tone deaf, but was also offensive to many who felt Pepsi was attempting to capitalize on societal events that have true impacts.
Our President’s Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, somehow thought it was a clever idea to bring up Hitler as an example of how he was better than the current Syrian regime. If you missed it he essentially said that Hitler never gassed his own people, unlike what Assad has done in Syria.
A basic history lesson will show that Hitler may not have used gas attacks in a combat role but he gassed millions of innocent Jews in death camps throughout Europe. Not exactly a bastion of humanity there.
The event, however, that caught many by surprise was the viral video of a passenger being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight after it was determined that they needed his seat for an employee.
This man was already seated and refused to leave, since he was a doctor and had appointments he needed to make. When he refused to leave, the police were called and he was dragged off screaming. To make matters odder he somehow got back on the plane, bloodied and rambling.
That event was terrible, but then the CEO of United decided to double down and call the man belligerent. Since then the CEO has issued several apologies, but the damage has been done.
What do these three events have in common? I would argue that in each of these cases the leadership of the company, who typically maintains the cultural norms, has failed.
Let’s dive in and see how this could have been prevented to learn from them in the future.
Pepsi had grand ambitions to have a meaningful conversation around current events and sell their product. One critical flaw here, they utilized their in-house marketing team.
They were operating in an echo chamber with no one to tell them to stop and think for a moment. This is something I personally must do in my own life. I must seek out feedback on a continuous basis to determine if I am on the right path.
My goal for this post is not to get political, but we can look at the Sean Spicer event as a leadership problem. He was hired by Donald Trump, who already had an idea of what Sean was like. Since taking the role Sean Spicer has been in hot water several times, this being the latest in a string of gaffs.
This man is essentially the voice of our President, twitter aside. The culture of the White House has enabled him to act recklessly and uncouthly. Similar to the idea that brilliant jerks are ok, we have a similar issue at stake here.
My take-away from this is to put yourself in the shoes of your listeners. Would what you are saying be divisive to your listeners or just plain wrong?
Finally, we have the United Airlines debacle.
Now the event itself was a shock but we need to look at the response since it came to light.
The CEO started by stating the man was belligerent and the CEO supported his employee’s decisions.
I get it, you want to reassure your workforce that you have their back, but in this case the CEO was also viewing this from a legal standpoint.
There is a law that allows you to forcibly remove a passenger if he is belligerent. The CEO labeled that passenger in such a way to protect himself legally. But we all saw the video and beyond refusing to leave the man really wasn’t much of a threat.
To me, this response is indicative of both pride and attempting to cover up rather than solve. That CEO has surrounded himself with folks that are unwilling or unable to push back and offer insight.
I have done that in my own life as well and so must always reach out to those that share different opinions than I or different beliefs, so I can continue to learn.
Originally published in 1957 and now back in print to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, The Hidden Persuaders is Vance Packard’s pioneering and prescient work revealing how advertisers use psychological methods to tap into our unconscious desires in order to “persuade” us to buy the products they are selling.
A classic examination of how our thoughts and feelings are manipulated by business, media and politicians, The Hidden Persuaders was the first book to expose the hidden world of “motivation research,” the psychological technique that advertisers use to probe our minds in order to control our actions as consumers. Through analysis of products, political campaigns and television programs of the 1950s, Packard shows how the insidious manipulation practices that have come to dominate today’s corporate-driven world began.
It was considered highly unethical and, although there was no social media to spread the word, people were vocally upset enough that many companies stopped doing it.
Gone but not forgotten.
The behavioral social science behind Hidden Persuaders continued to grow and became a driving force underlying the deliberate addictiveness of video games.
Uber helps solve this fundamental problem by using psychological inducements and other techniques unearthed by social science to influence when, where and how long drivers work. It’s a quest for a perfectly efficient system: a balance between rider demand and driver supply at the lowest cost to passengers and the company.
Employing hundreds of social scientists and data scientists, Uber has experimented with video game techniques, graphics and noncash rewards of little value that can prod drivers into working longer and harder — and sometimes at hours and locations that are less lucrative for them.
Is it ethical to manipulate a workforce to produce more work at less cost to their non-employer?
Of course, Uber and “ethical action” seems an oxymoron, but psychological manipulation does appear to be on the uptick in many companies.
This article should be required reading for anyone who works in the “gig economy” or is thinking about doing so.
This is as true of executives and management as it is of workers at all levels.
Think of hiring in terms of planting a garden—only these plants have feet.
You’re at the nursery and find a magnificent rose. It’s large, because it’s several years old, has dozens of blooms and buds and is exactly what you wanted for a particular space in your yard.
The directions say that the rose needs full sun to thrive, while the space in your yard only gets four to five hours of morning sun. But the rose is so gorgeous you can’t resist, convincing yourself that those hours from sunrise to 11 will be enough, so you take it home and plant it.
It seems to do OK at first, but as time goes by it gets more straggly and has fewer and fewer blooms.
Finally, you give it to your friend who plants it in a place that gets sun from early morning to sunset.
By the end of the next summer the rose is enormous, covered in blooms and has sprouted three new canes.
One of the things that insanely smart hiring does is ensure that people are planted where they will flourish, whether they are already thriving or are leaving an inhospitable environment.
I said earlier that people are like plants with feet. Abuse a plant, whether intentionally or through neglect, and it will wither and eventually die; abuse your people and sooner or later they will walk.
Insanely smart hiring also gives you a giant edge whether the people market is hot or cold.
By knowing exactly what you need, your culture, management style and the environment you have to offer you are in a position to find hidden and unpolished jewels, as well as those that have lost their luster by being in the wrong place. (Pardon the mixed metaphors.)
These are often candidates that other managers pass on, but who will become your stars—stars with no interest in seeking out something else.
They recognize insanely smart opportunities when they see them.
Only this time it’s Tesla and she still works there; not only works, but loves her company.
“Until somebody stands up, nothing is going to change,” she said in a recent interview, her first comments about a discrimination lawsuit she filed last year. “I’m an advocate of Tesla. I really do believe they are doing great things. That said, I can’t turn a blind eye if there’s something fundamentally wrong going on.”
Tesla’s response was hilarious, in as much as it parroted almost word-for-word the Valley mantra.
“As with any company with more than 30,000 employees, it is inevitable that there will be a small number of individuals who make claims against the company, but that does not mean those claims have merit”
Whoo hoo. Doesn’t that just give you a warm, fuzzy, confident feeling of trust?
Things were better for women 30-40 years ago. What happened?
When Silicon Valley was emerging, after World War II, software programming was considered rote and unglamorous, somewhat secretarial—and therefore suitable for women. The glittering future, it was thought, lay in hardware. But once software revealed its potential—and profitability—the guys flooded in and coding became a male realm.
Now look a bit further and think about the industries notorious for their bad treatment of women.
Wall Street/financial services. Law. Doctors. University-level teaching. Architecture. Chefs. Construction and journeyman crafts. I can keep going.
What do they have in common?
Follow the money.
White and blue collar = high pay.
Pink collar = low pay.
Money means freedom. Freedom to choose. Freedom to walk — from a job or from a relationship.
Put another way, money means control.
The more money you have the more control you have over your world — whether for good or for evil.
So maybe control is the real root cause.
Men (some, not all) need to control women, AKA, mom…
Poor, insecure, little guys.
Trying to change their past by taking revenge on the present and, in doing so, damaging the future.
There are hundreds more posts, articles, books, research, comments, etc. that talk about the downside of jerks — brilliant or otherwise. (In case you’re wondering, the brilliance supposedly offsets the jerk part.)
But it’s a fallacy to think that it’s just women who are creating cultures that don’t tolerate brilliant jerks, just as it is to think that all brilliant jerks are male.
As with any other label, brilliant jerks can be found in any imaginable combination of race, creed, color, national origin, gender identification, size, and shape.
None are worth keeping, because, even if it takes some time, they will poison your culture and run off your team.
Image credit: Kurt Bauschardt
It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.
Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.
Since tomorrow’s post takes yet another look at Silicon Valley culture, sources of the blatant misogyny, and how that relates to brilliant jerks and so-called stars, I thought I’d share Rich Waidmann’s take on the subject.
That means it’s a job requirement at his company that every employee treat everyone else with courtesy and respect as well as “going the extra mile” to take care of people in the community who are less fortunate
Then his company did a survey and found that
More than half (55%) of 250 IT professionals in the US. surveyed said they had been bullied by a co-worker. And 65% have said they dreaded going to work because of bad behavior of a co-worker.
Waidmann believes it shouldn’t be that way so he’s starting a No Jerks Allowed movement in an effort to encourage better cultures.
Way back in 2007 Stanford’s Bob Sutton wrote The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, but looking at the stats I’m not sure how much good it actually did.
The Talmud says, “We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.” Moreover, it’s often as we are that particular day, or even minute, and even as we change, minute to minute, so do others.
Jerks are known to lower productivity and kill innovation, so a lot of good information on identifying and dealing with jerks has been developed since Sutton’s book came out.
Contributing to that effort, here are my four favorite MAP attitudes for dealing with jerks.
Life happens, people react and act out, but that doesn’t mean you have to let their act in.
Consider the source of the comment before considering the comment, then let its effect on you be in direct proportion to your respect for that source.
Use mental imagery to defuse someone’s effect on you. This is especially useful against bullying and intimidation. Do it by having your mental image of the person be one that strips power symbols and adds amusement. (Give me a call if you want my favorite, it’s a bit rude, but has worked well for many people.)
And, finally, the one I try to keep uppermost in my mind at all times
At least some of “them” some of the time consider me a jerk—and some of the time they are probably correct.
I am in sales and as a result I have a ton of metrics that I must account for. How many calls did I do? What is my conversion rate? Are you having a prospecting or velocity issue with closing deals? Is your sales funnel robust enough?
I think you get the idea. These and many other metrics are all important as they can lead to a greater success as you iterate.
By most accounts sales is easy to measure the successes and failures. It’s like sports, who has the most points at the end of the game?
Culture though can be a bit tougher to measure. It’s not a tangible good and as I consider the subject I wonder how can we best measure it?
It’s pretty easy to see the extremes of company cultures and see if they are positive or negative.
Uber had been in the news a lot lately, even their president stepped down after saying they did not align with his values.
On the other hand Google landed the top spot again by glassdoor.com with their annual best places to work.
With a little thought you can see one culture is more negative and the other is pretty positive.
Those are fairly easy examples, but what about all the thousands of other companies in small towns and cities? How do we know if they are indeed a positive place to be and what metrics should we use to measure?
I worked for one company that ranked as a top workplace in the local metro area. This was touted by its recruiters and quite frankly was a selling point for me when I came on board. I had had a terrible experience in a previous company and I was ready for a change!
However, after some time of working at my new place we were given the opportunity to participate in the annual survey that would measure top workplaces.
This poll was, in reality, mandatory and we had to provide so much demographic data that it was very easy to determine who had filled out what survey.
The result was we all wrote very positive reviews and then we were voted top workplace again. I believe the total is four years in a row at this point.
I bring this up as an example of how one metric, annual best workplace surveys, could be wildly skewed and may not be the best metric to utilize.
Where else should we turn to measure? Pay could be a factor of course. Tenure and turnover are factors too.
I had a teacher in college tell me to always ask my interviewer what the turnover for employees under two years was. He felt this was a good measure of the health of the company and the role I was pursuing.
I still ask that question and have found that when turnover is high, culture is low.
At this point I don’t have a silver bullet and will do more research to see if there is a magic quadrant we should be seeking.
I’ll update you next week on whether someone a whole lot smarter than me already did the tough work, or if I stumbled onto a way to start a company measuring culture that is the new hot thing in town.