Every once in awhile we need to step back from what we are doing and ask ourselves, “Is this the right thing to be doing?” I’m reminded of Chris Argyris’ and Donald Schon’s “double-loop” learning in which we are asked to challenge the underlying beliefs and assumptions of our actions; not simply improve what we are doing but learn from examining the values implicit in what we are doing. Dropping relief packages from helicopters into the middle of a throng of Haitian earthquake victims might be a fast, efficient way to get food, clothing, and medical supplies to masses of desperate people, but what does it say about the beliefs and assumptions of the people providing the aid?
In an article for BusinessWeek titled, “Ten Management Practices to Axe,” Liz Ryan identifies ten popular practices of organizations that they should stop doing. At the risk of putting many of my consultant friends out of work, I recommend that all managers read this list and re-evaluate the underlying beliefs and assumptions represented by each of these actions in their own organizations. Ryan's list has:
- Forced Ranking
- Front-Loaded Recruiting Systems
- Overdone Policy Manuals
- Social Media Thought Police
- Rules That Force Employees To Lie
- Theft of Miles
- Jack-Booted Layoffs
- 360-Degree Feedback Programs
- Mandatory Performance-Review Bell Curves
- Timekeeping Courtesy of Henry Ford
I want to highlight just two of these ten practices as examples. One is “Social Media Thought Police”. This is the futile practice of trying to control social media, such as Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter, that employees might use at work. Even worse, I still hear about no-email and no-Web policies. In this day and age, these policies are absurd. Companies trust their employees with millions of dollars of equipment, trade secrets, and each other’s safety, but don’t trust them to use social media responsibly. As Ryan says, if there is a problem with an individual who is abusing these communication tools, deal with that person, but don’t impose a policy on everyone because of the irresponsible behavior of a few.
The other practice I want to highlight is “360-Degree Feedback Programs”. While I believe there are times when a survey of a manager’s direct reports, co-workers, and supervisor might be useful, most of the time this performance-management tool is used as a poor substitute for honest, open supervisor-employee conversations about performance. Organizations should strive for a culture in which employees are receiving feedback regularly and frequently and are not dependent on an annual or semi-annual survey.
Which of the ten practices do you have in your organization and which do you think should be given the axe?