I am the type of person who has little tolerance for injustice, inequity and poor design. Perhaps, that is why in the late 1960s I chose my university degree to be in industrial engineering and operations research. I enjoy making things work smoothly, effectively, economically and efficiently. People similar to me are occasionally perceived as pessimists because us efficiency types always look at a half glass of water as half full rather than half empty. That is, we see unfulfilled potential as an opportunity for improvement. My type of worker wants the maximum yield out of any machine, system or organization. Is it a curse or a virtue?
Im not sure how people similar to me should be judged. We can be critical of things we observe in daily life. Hopefully, most people similar to me who desire efficiency and effectiveness keep our mouths shut when we witness processes, systems or events that disappoint us. Others dont like people who complain.
What I Would Do with a Magic Wand
I have periodically had unpleasant experiences with something that is controllable by someone not me when I - wish I could magically and instantaneously summon the most responsible person with control and say, Will you please fix this?
Traffic road signs are a good example. Have you ever driven on a road where you are seeking an obvious road sign to confirm that you are going in the correct and there is no such sign? Or worse yet, ever been a victim of a misleading road sign? Those are the moments when I want to immediately phone highway commissioners or whoever has authority, perhaps rousing them at night from their beds, magically transport them to my location, put them in my shoes and ask them, Did you know this condition or situation exists? Do you feel you are doing your job well?
Another pet peeve I have is waiting in line or being placed on hold for an eternity. Have you ever waited late at night in the tremendously long line at the passport control of a South American airport? Hundreds of air passengers are sometimes waiting over an hour in line to be processed by only three or four passport agents. What a great way to immediately alienate tired foreigners visiting a country for the first time. Get out the magic wand. Lets call that government official responsible for passport control and get him or her out of bed and in line with us. I bet that would start them thinking of a speedier process or spending a little more to add staff capacity to improve the service level.
Applying the Magic Wand to Performance Management
How would you apply your magic wand to the managers of the organization you are employed at? I can imagine you are coming up with many opportunities. (More of you are efficiency types than you probably care to admit.) My opportunity list would be long. The A items I suspect you are coming up with are these:
- As the executive team formulates and adjusts its organizations strategy, dont keep employees in the dark share your strategy with us. Better yet, seek our suggestions for which improvement projects, innovations or core processes to upgrade that will achieve your strategic objectives.
- When it comes to how we spend our time, dont micromanage us. Be clear about what types of target outcomes and results you are seeking from us and not with distant, highly aggregate measures such as a 20 percent increase in earnings. This doesnt help us understand the cause-and-effect linkages that will make your desired results be realized. A 20 percent earnings increase is not a goal. It is a result. It would be nice if we as employees were involved in selecting the so-called performance indicators. Ideally, you would provide us not only the software technology to visually monitor the dials in our performance measurement dashboards, but also the analytical technology for us to move those dials.
- When you assign us goals and targets, how about motivating us with well-reasoned, fair rewards and recognition that is proportionate to the degree we are performing? Cash bonuses would be fine and not just bonuses based on aggregate enterprise financial measures. High-performing people want to be judged and rewarded based on metrics that they can influence and control. Profit sharing is fine, but a pay-for-performance system for employee teams and individuals is better.
- When it comes to serving customers, whether external or internal, lets tailor the level of service in an optimal way. We dont want to underspend on marginally loyal customers and risk their defection to our competitors. Conversely, we also dont want to unnecessarily overspend on already highly loyal customers with deals, offers and price breaks where the incrementally higher service level wont really change anything except waste spending to the detriment of our shareholders (or our bonuses).
I could go on and list more examples, but you get the idea. Your A list probably has more and different magic wand items for your managers. An interesting thing about the magic wand is it can provide insights to what kind of people we are.
Some types of employees magic wand applications may have a vindictive motive to them. For example, ones supervisor may be hypocritical when it comes to managing customer service levels by espousing high service or be stingy about providing the necessary resources or spending to attain that high level. The magic wand experience should hopefully fix him or her.
Another type of employees magic wand may be caring and benevolent. For example, a supervisor severely underestimates the increase in future customer demand volume that the employee anticipates because he or she sees several converging influential variables that when collectively factored in will cause much greater demand. The employee wants to be better prepared. His or her magic wand would have managers purchase first-class analytical software and train employees on the concepts and tools so that they could more easily present facts, not hunches a competency the organization will need going forward forever.
Regardless of what kind of person you are based on how you would apply your magic wand, as you now look at your organizations performance, is the glass half empty or half full? That is, are you content that your organization is just chugging along or are you concerned it is not living up to its full potential? The answer would indicate what type of person I think you are.
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