Metrics Equal Accountability?

I’ve always been suspicious of directly correlating metrics with compensation or performance reviews. This flies in the face of the cliché “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” and perhaps a little of the six sigma that goes along with it. It isn’t the idea of metrics that I am bothered by, more so, the complication of it. If my job was routine enough to just count widgets then I know I wouldn’t enjoy the job and wouldn’t stick around long enough to actually see the widgets counted. I know I’m oversimplifying this, but bear with me, to express my point, I need to. I’m a believer in thought. I feel like if someone just watched me at work, they would think I’m not a busy person. I don’t file papers or constantly attend meetings. I often get information in, review it, consider it, put it aside, and leave it for a day or two. I then come back to it after absorbing it and think of ways to apply it. Maybe I am just a slow analyzer? But if the decision was easy to begin with, then I might be wrong for the job. The other element I am infusing is some sort of creativity to the information. I think at times that this is over doing it, but at other times, I think I come up with something truly unique and novel. I have coworkers and friends that are baffled by the angles I take at times. It usually get a laugh, but it is different.

So how do I create a metric for this?

David Weinberger is one the featured writers for the Harvard Business Review Breakthrough Ideas of 2007. His topic? The Folly of Accountabilism. I really identified with it because he points out many of the assumptions that I agree with. For instance, Mr. Weinberger talks about how there is some sort of mistaken belief that the system for which we work is controllable, when in fact there are many dependencies.

  • We have little control over our environment.
  • So we go to the next level of detail and more and more process gets infused in creating a complicated situation when it was already complex, slowing flexibility
  • It also doesn’t account for culture and individuals getting detailed to a level of being unable to see the big picture and preventing system illness.
  • Finally, it doesn’t understand motivation.
    • Extrinsic motivation seems short term
    • Intrinsic motivation creates far greater return

Maybe it is a reality that I need to come to grips with – many people prefer to have a routine expectation and meeting an identified goal is pleasing to them.

Adjustment: I would emphasize team goals. Everyone on the team would get performance rewards based on the achievements of the team. Each person on the team would contribute depending on what is happening. One person might be a leader for some situation and someone else might be for another. As the team reaches it’s goals then the entire group benefits. This will frustrate some people that constant perform highly, but they must understand the concept before coming on board. If someone isn’t holding up their end of the bargain then the team can coach him. If the person just doesn’t have anything unique to offer the group then the group can expel the person. But the idea is for each person to provide something beneficial to the team.


Type of Genius

I live in Charlotte, NC. We haven’t had much rain in a long time and the area is in a drought. Because of this, I haven’t mowed my lawn in several weeks. For some of that time, the grass was just dead. But recently we got a little rain and it greened back up some and required a trim. When I mow the lawn I like to listen to audio books. I feel like it passes the time better. So last night I went to and looked for some cheap and interesting audible books to listen to. I found one by Daniel Pink. It is a live recording of a speaking engagement. It is about an hour long. So today while I mowed the lawn I listened to Daniel Pink speak.

I really enjoyed it. Daniel Pink certainly knows how to speak to an audience.

So when I finished I decided to learn more about him. I went to his website and saw that he authored Free Agent Nation. I’ve known about this book for some time and have debated reading it. His more recent book is called A Whole New Mind and is about the coming prominence of using the right brain.

I also looked up some of the articles Daniel Pink has written. One that caught my attention is from Wired Magazine titled What Kind of Genius Are You? It is about David Galenson‘s assertion that there are two type of genius – quick and dramatic, and careful and quiet. I agree with his theory. There are leaps where completely new ideas are launched into the world and there are incremental adjustments that lead to something brilliant.

What I like most about the article is the acceptance of how to deal with the two types. Galenson acknowledges that some ideas come about because of youth. Being brash and unrelenting are byproducts of quick and dramatic genius. But often in today’s corporate workplace, being brash is considered immature. You might have a lower Emotional Intelligence. The attributes of careful and quiet genius are much more accepted. But the realization of that genius is further out on the horizon. Also, people that you rely on to further the ideas might run out of support before the payback is reached. It seems that these geniuses, both the former and the latter, work best as individuals. Next time you mow your lawn, think about how long it took for the grass to grow.

Reaching People Creatively

The music industry is changing. That statement is probably unnecessary.

Affordable technology has enabled much of the world to connect to each other and share information over the internet. During 9-5 much of the communication is business related, but art dominates at other times. The music industry has established business plans and those plans are just now adjusting to newer technology. I can remember the ’80s. At that time everyone made mixed tapes. The ones that people were most proud of got traded. I don’t remember the music industry making a fuss about this. But along came CDs. CDs were originally hard to copy, ensuring that many more sales of the original product sold. The music industry got fat and happy on this and forgot about the joy of the mixed tape. But what was so joyful about it? It was the artistic representation through music of what the individual enjoyed. It was word of mouth taken to the next level.

Now the music industry is trying to get an understanding of the word of mouth machine. Rick Rubin in a recent NY Times piece talks about how he has a group completely dedicated to fostering word of mouth generation. Malcolm Gladwell did a great job in his book The Tipping Point in establishing how something very simple can quickly spread into something mainstream. Mr. Rubin, and others in the music industry, would love to apply Gladwell’s observations.

So how does this relate to work, the topic of this blog? Who you know is the leading means for getting a job. Creating a good network is based on word of mouth connections. Now, of course technology isn’t only affecting the music industry – it is changing the placement world as well. But even though it is easier to email a resume and do a phone interview from anywhere in the world, nothing beats an endorsement from a respected source. The mixed tape of hiring. Sites like are working to try to put a technological catalyst on this process. But so far I would say the results are mixed. Getting word of mouth buzz is still a nontechnological process – there is an art to it.

Business 2.0 Loses to Business 1.0

I read in the NY Times today that Business 2.0, a magazine I subscribe to, is publishing its last edition next month (October, 2007). I really enjoy their writing and the arrangement of their information. But what I really like is the attitude. The magazine comes off young, or at least optimistic. I found it to be a little more business oriented than Wired but still have many of the same angles.

One of their articles, The Coming Job Boom, by Paul Kaihla is part of the inspiration to write this blog. Much of the information in it is now up to debate since several years has passed, but the concepts are still relevant – the baby boomers will retire. The article can probably be rewritten but focused on a Leadership gap instead of purely on employment numbers.

To the writers of Business 2.0, thank you for putting together a splendid magazine and I hope you well in the future. I will keep an eye out for your work.

Productivity Pays – The CEO

Two separate articles came out on in the last few days. Those articles are:

GDP Growth Not Reaching Paychecks
CEO Pay: 364 times more than workers

What I conclude from even these two headlines is that the productivity gains seen over the last 7 years are resulting in higher earnings for large companies. The higher earnings give way to rewarding the CEO. But the CEO is not trickling down to his employees.

I’m curious as to what will, if anything, change this course? I suspect it will be the baby boomers. This group is content at the moment, but I can see a future where they are not interested in working at much as they are now. Higher wages might persuade them for some time, but it will only be temporary.
Is it that even though productivity is going up, the productivity is incremental and concentrated on low risk offerings? What I mean is that I don’t see any innovative products coming out. Nothing new is making me change my life. The iPod is 6 years old. The Prius is even older.
Is it the off shoring or the influx of cheaper skilled labor from foreign countries that is keeping the labor market balanced?
Is it the cost of benefits and the theory that they are truly more important than wage?

We should be in a sellers market, but we aren’t. Why?

All Kinds of Advice

The other day I was clearing out my working space. I changed
jobs and the group I used to work for needs the space I was in. Fair enough. So
I sat in that cubicle for about 4 years. I tend to be a pack rat. I keep
everything. What caught my eye were all my different pieces of paper I had up
with push pins. Each one had a slightly different viewpoint, but all were
related to effective management.

As I looked around my cube going from left to right, I had a NCAA Tournament
bracket with Syracuse winning, a Zachman Institute pamphlet, a few recognition
posters, and etc. Here is etc:

A Dilbert Comic about meetings –

Why: Because it goes along with motivation. The two guys are forced to have a meeting even though they don’t know why they are having it. So they meet the expectations since nothing is prompting them not to.

A Jim Collins Harvard Business Review called “Turning
Goals into Results: The Power of Catalytic Mechanisms

Why: Because this HBR boils down his work fairly well.

The Five Components of Emotional Intelligence at Work

  • Self-Awareness

  • Self – Regulation

  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social Skill

Why: It goes into Definitions and Hallmarks so you can see what type of behavior someone with high Emotional Intelligence demonstrates.

Culture of Participation
by Erick Schonfeld – Future Boy

Why: Because this article is a great example of how people are using technology to coordinate their ideas and express themselves. This is particularly important for governance.

A sheet that illustrates that two instances of reuse is the breakeven
point in terms of cost, everything after that is created value.

Why: It is a great visual. It shows how if you build in reuse for others, your costs up front will be about 60% of the original costs, but that recouping that cost will happen after only two instances of use. After that you start seeing the original cost get absorbed out.

An Accenture article by Ajit Kambil called “Leading
with an Invisible Hand

Why: I love the idea of having a market inside a huge corporation. Corporations tend to be heirarchical, but having a market determine decisions would completely twist the power structure. Again, this is a huge idea for governance.

Jeffrey Pfeffer’s February 6th, 2006 article in called “Why
Employees Should Lead Themselves

Why: I like the idea of people leading themselves when it involves something they love. This article talks about an orchestra. The band members have to develop their own ideas since no one else is assigned that responsibility.

A playbook by Bridget Finn from April 2005 titled “Brainstorming
for Better Brainstorming

Why: It mentions a few novel ideas for sparking creativity in the work environment.

Another Erick Shonfeld article called “Why
Gambling at the Office Pays Off

Why: This is another example of markets inside a corporation. This talks more about the reward system used to make the market work, but it nonetheless is a great idea for putting current leadership on a slant.

Mysteries of Mass
” from by Gordon Kane

Why: Because sometimes you have to reexamine ideas that you take for granted – ask why things are the way they are.

Bill Swanson’s lifted “25
Unwritten Rules of Management

Why: The rules are brilliant in their simplicity. Even though it was later found out that Mr. Swanson stole the ideas from an engineering book, they are still worth learning.

Malcolm Gladwell’s entry in the New Yorker for January of
2007 titled “Open

Why: I will discuss this more in an upcoming entry, but it talks about the difference in today’s problem solving approach versus successful workings in the past – it’s the methodology.

Fortune Cookies :

  • Keep your plans secret
  • You will be happy socially and in your work
  • You are almost there
  • Wake up. You are under the lucky star now
  • Manny possibilities are open to you – work a
    little harder

Why: No reason, other than that each was perfectly timed for what I was doing at that moment. Sometimes a little fortune cookie can make all the difference.

Checklist for Change

  • Walk the Talk
  • Interactions
  • Contacts between Advocates and Apathetics
  • Mass Exposure
  • Hire Advocates
  • Remove Resisters
  • Reward and Recognition
  • Infrastructure

Why: The print-outs I have detail much more information about the list above. I like to see other opinions on change. I cited Kotter in earlier blog entries.

And finally, Benedict Carey’s “This
is Your Life (and How You Tell It)”

Why: I find it interesting that people use stories for comprehension rather than lists or simple facts. Although the brain has associations, the harnessing of those associations comes about through linear naratives. For a business, to get what you need, you must play to both the associations and develop some sort of tale.

-> So these are the things I had around my work area. Take a moment and look at what you have. You might surprise yourself.