Posted tagged ‘goals’

The Matrix

May 20, 2010

Thanks to some colleagues that, to be honest, are just plain smarter than me, I am becoming a fan of matrices, specifically two by two arrays better known as quadrants.  You know, like Gartner’s “magic quadrant” where everyone wants to be in the upper right hand corner at the happening intersection of The Ability to Execute Boulevard and Visionary Avenue.  Quadrants just seem to be a handy way of partitioning collections of objects into meaningful categories.  I think the other thing about quadrants that seems intuitive are the percentages and how easy they are to calculate and act upon.

For example, in high school, I had a bad haircut and was a bad dresser.  The quadrant for that looks like this:


Intuitively, we can see that my chances of getting a date for the prom were 25% assuming I would have needed a good haircut AND some style.   Sadly, this was empirically proven.

But that’s not my point…

Consider instead the relationship between effort and recognition, seen from your employees’ perspective.  What if your quadrant has these four elements:

Minimal Effort/No Credit
Effort/No Credit
Minimal Effort/Credit

Three of these four outcomes, as a leader, are not what you want.  You certainly don’t want your teams to do the minimum just to get by, right?  But if you don’t make damn certain they get recognition or credit when they DO expend the effort you want, you solved the equation for them!  They stand a one in four chance of a positive outcome.  And even if they’re not math majors, they can figure this one out.

You can mock this and contend its trivial but tell me you’ve never spent time in a large, bureaucratic organization where you can’t figure out why everyone seems so unmotivated.  Do the math, Neo…



    Get Smart!

    March 29, 2010

    Quite a few years ago, I was working with the Vice President of Power Stations at an electric utility back east. I was building a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for our first efforts at doing some “business intelligence” reporting. Not surprisingly, one of the metrics was lost-time accidents at the power stations.  Something we all took very seriously. And for good reason!  From my previous experience working at power stations, I knew that workers do get hurt from time to time. It’s dangerous work.


    So I asked the VP what the “goal” should be for lost time accidents. I figured maybe 3 or 4 per year seemed about right. And he looked at me kinda funny and said, “there’s only one answer – zero – that’s the goal.” And I realized in that instant that he was right. Of course the goal should be zero! How many people are you going to set out to hurt in a year???

    That got me thinking about SMART goals and what that really means. SMART, as you probably know, stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. We rarely, if ever, had a year with no lost time accidents at our power stations. Was that goal of zero really attainable??

    Similarly, most NFL teams make one of their most important goals, each season, to make the playoffs, if not go all the way to the Super Bowl. Yet of the thirty-two or so teams in the NFL, only two will reach the Super Bowl. Is that goal attainable?

    I think, in both cases, the answer is yes. Attainable does not mean easy. Attainable does not mean you will reach your goal every year. Attainable means that if everyone does their absolute best and a few chips of good fortune come your way you might just reach that goal.

    But there’s a more important question here for you, as a manager, and your team. What do NFL teams do if they are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs three weeks before the end of the season? What should plant workers do if there’s a lost time accident? Give up? Stop doing their best to be safe just because they won’t make the goal of zero accidents??

    They say that NFL teams that are eliminated from playoff contention are “playing for pride.” Not all of them do, though. And you can pretty much tell which ones are and which ones aren’t, too.

    So when you set goals for your company, department or team, there are two questions you should ask yourself:

    • · Is each goal “lofty” enough to motivate your team to do their best every day?
    • · If you miss a goal, does your team really still play for pride??

    If your answer to both those questions is yes, you’re pretty smart…

    Gooooooooooaaaaaaallll !!!

    September 3, 2009

    I am an ugly American, in this instance defined as someone who, in spite all evidence and fan support to the contrary, will never really “get” soccer as the most popular sport on the planet.   Couple that with my lukewarm feelings about cycling as a spectator sport, throw in the cricket snooze factor and, well, you get the picture.

    But here’s one thing I definitely DO get.   Soccer goals are hard to come by.  And when one is scored, the fans go berserk.  Literally. And so does the announcer.  [thus, the title of this blog] 

    Here’s another thing I get.  Most of those fans had less to do with the scoring of that goal than most employees, even in a huge organization, have a direct hand in contributing to corporate goals.  But the soccer fans cheer and celebrate as if they kicked the ball in the net themselves!  And yet, when corporate (or even department) goals are achieved, assuming they were communicated in the first place, the reaction is typically and sadly far more muted.

    What gives???

    I heard today that US  worker productivity jumped 6.6 percent in the second quarter.  I imagine that increase was driven by a powerful desire for US workers to give it their all to achieve the organization’s well stated goals.  NOT…  It was driven by fear.  Fear of losing a job and not being able to find another one.  Fear that their families or others who depend on them and their income could suffer.  Yes, fear does motivate.  But it doesn’t celebrate.

    Give your department or company’s goals the soccer test:

    • Does everyone on your team and in the stands understand that your equivalent of kicking a ball past the opponent’s goalkeeper, and all the teamwork that leads up to that accomplish, is the real objective?
    • Like a soccer goal, when one of your goals is achieved, will everyone know?
    • Will they celebrate?
    • Even if they’re deluding themselves at some level, will they feel like they scored the goal themselves?

    If not, you might be just another ugly American…

    Opening the blinds

    February 20, 2009

    I was challenged by one of my devoted readers this week [and I am up to a whopping six of them…], let’s call him Blane Gordon, to come up with a name for serial nine-to-fivers. You know, people who go through the motions at work, spend way too much time looking at the clock and praying for lunch time or the “official” end of the work day or who just feel like every second above 40 hours (or apparently 22 if you live in France…) is somehow a gift they’re reluctantly giving to their ungrateful employers. Good challenge, Blane!

    So, as usual, I started with the obvious. Dolly Partons, clock watchers, whatever. But that doesn’t really get at the root of the behavior and the problem, plus it’s completely lame. The problem, first of all, is a lack of one of Peter Senge’s Five Disciplines – Shared Vision. And I could argue that it is the most precious commodity any company over 10 people in size could have. Shared vision means that everyone in an organization can both articulate what everyone is REALLY working for, and even better, they believe in it!

    It’s not extraordinarily difficult to have shared vision in a five person company. There’s a good chance there’s some ownership split and that all five had some part in crafting a vision in the first place. But as an organization grows, it’s very easy to have that original vision slowly watered down until you wake up one day and see a frighteningly large number of nine-to-fivers heading for the door at 4:57 PM.

    Think about the last time you worked really hard on something with no regard for effort or time consumed in the pursuit. I built a deck with my son and some good friends not long after we moved into our house a few years back, and I worked on it three or four weekends in a row from dawn til dusk and never really thought about anything other than making progress ( and of course, not screwing it up too bad in places people could see – if you’ve seen me use power tools, you’d know why that’s such a big concern…) But I know folks who could spend 16 straight hours sanding a boat getting it ready for sailing, training endless hours for the Boston Marathon, or building a new web site. They have vision. Which I define, in this instance, as a clear objective that they can imagine in their minds and the determination to get there. If you can instill that feeling in yourself or your team at work, you are a great leader indeed!

    The opposite of that, of course, is no vision. And so, Blane, I would recommend that when you’re looking for some other term for a nine-to-fiver, try Magoo…