HCL Technologies

My response to the HBS article on HCL Technologies (A,B):

After reading the HBS article on HCL Technologies, I want to focus my response on the 360° feedback that Vineet implemented.  I’ve been having a lot of trouble with this one lately.  It reads like it’s been working well for HCL, but at what point are you too transparent?  It seems to me that a certain level of transparency is good.  It helps create a more personable atmosphere for the company.  CEO’s and vice president become ‘real’ people and it spawns a team structured environment with similar goals.  These are all good things, but political and personal goals are now going to be more tempting.  What I mean is that people are going to engage more in the social game to move up the corporate ladder instead focusing on ‘work’ work.  As senior management becomes ‘real’, now younger ambitious employees are going to be able to hone in on self positioning by means of the social game.  More information is on the table.  More knowledgeable employees can make more educated moves and more importantly, these employees will be spending their time doing this instead of the before mentioned ‘work’ work.  So, while I agree with the 360° feedback tactic, I’d like to know what kind of mid-level politicking resulted from it, if any.

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Strategies of Effective New Product Team Leaders

My response to the article titled above:

According to the article, during an interview, an effective leader is one that coaches and facilitates, which I agree with.  Then it goes on to say that a leader is a form of protector and that a leader should keep the team protected from corporate seagulls.    I definitely agree with isolating your team from political distractions.   On the other hand, towards the end of the article, table 2 shows effective leaders as ones that are likely to build transparency.  Transparency in the form of no hidden agendas and hunting and gathering for information both within and outside of the firm to help with informed decision making.  I believe that there is a fine line between goal transparency and political isolation.  Both are important and the article explains it well, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.  In the book, “The Smartest Guys in the Room”, the authors point towards the lack of transparency and hidden agendas for contributing to the scandals.  It’s very important to avoid this and to really develop a team oriented environment based on trust, human relations and openness, and at the same time, blocking out the political struggles within a company which can devastate a department’s production.  As the article shows, senior management must find the type of NPD leadership that possesses these key mentalities.  I haven’t been in this position yet, but it’s must be very difficult yet very important to select the right leaders.

Sins of Commission Article

My response to Sins of Commission: Be Careful What You Pay For, You May Get It:

If the study that the article references to, found that most employees seek to please their colleagues and leaders and do a good job, then vocal feedback seems like the best way to promote quality and efficiency out of your employees.  Let them know when they’re doing a good job.  Get out on the floor, or out in the field and talk.  Get engaged and give positive feedback when it’s deserved.  When you’re consistently giving someone positive feedback, then give them a raise because they deserve it.  Leadership needs to give their management empowerment to make those decisions, and if leadership is engaged then they’ll know if the manager’s feedback and raises given were appropriate.  Trying to quantify production in terms of employees is difficult in most jobs, and it’s even more difficult to fairly blanket across a large company.  This article is spot on when it states that you get what you pay for.  The executive reference to CEO incentives that are proportional to share prices encourages foul play.  I still believe that getting engaged and involved with your ‘team’ is the way to spawn teamwork and a team like atmosphere where everyone has an important role.

Arrow Electronics Article

HBS Atricle on Compensation and Performance Evaluation at Arrow Electronics:

The compensation and performance evaluations at Arrow Electronics sound like a complete mess.  Managers are pressured to average 3’s and the whole company knows it.  The manager tells their staff, “The reason I’m giving you all 3’s is because that’s all I’m allowed to do, even though personally I feel that you are going above and beyond.”  So the staff walks out upset and disappointed.  The system is set up to fail.  Who gets a 5?  How does that manager know that that employee fits in the 5% of top tier employees across the whole company?  What happens is that everyone sees the leadership as disengaged and disconnected.  As a manager, if you don’t already know who your best employees are, then you’re out of touch with them.  It is possible to have more than 5% of your staff working well above target.  I noticed that on table 1 in 1995 management obviously felt pressure to limit their ratings to anything except 3’s, then in the following years, low and behold, the numbers reflect the goals.  How accurate can that be?  This is a joke and you can sense the tension that Kaufman was feeling, knowing that the process wasn’t working.

Get Rid of the Performance Review!

My response to a Wall Street Journal Article on Performance Reviews by Samuel A. Culbert:

“This is not a performance review on you; it’s a performance review on us”.  A colleague and I discussed this type of performance review focus last January.  At my company, for the most part, supervision supervises union employees.  Who get paid according to the contract and get raises and bonuses according the contract.  So what good does a performance review do anyways?  It does absolutely no good at all when referring to pay or your relationship as a leader.  The idea is that it’s an opportunity to be one-on-one and fix current problems.  I’d start the process by stating, “I want you to think about the things I could do better, as a supervisor, to improve the quality and efficiencies at work”, then before the responses, I’d ask for insight.  What problems do you have?  What can we do better?  How can we improve the atmosphere at work?  Where could we save money?  Then once that session was over I’d ask for the response to the first question again. 

Samuel Culbert is right on with his article.  I agree that these standard performance reviews are a waste of time.  First of all, if you as a supervisor don’t already know your employees then you’re disconnected.  If you can’t represent an accurate opinion at any part of the year then you’re not engaged and probably not effective.  The job is to direct; that means to only steer capable, intelligent people in the right direction and give them the tools they need to succeed.  Besides that, talk about fishing and football, and get out of their way.   Goals are needed but performance is more a result of the system you’ve laid out than the review you give.  Great article.

SAS Institue (A)

My impression of SAS (from A Different Approach to Incentives and People Management Practices in the Software Industry):

I want to work for SAS. What an amazing place. I love the idea of creating your own health institute, gym, day care on campus. I love it when your place of work is called a ‘campus’. I love the common sense approach to the company and the levels of respect throughout. Bottoms-up is an entitling process and actually focuses on improvement. The company takes pride in ideas and employees, wow what a concept, and hence the results. The nature of the business, being idea oriented and requiring creativity and self drive, blends perfectly with the business approach. SAS has taken intelligent motivated people and said, here all the tools you’ll need to do something great, we’ll take care of you and work with you while you create. That’s just awesome. More companies should take notice. Actually, scratch that, more employees should take notice and leave the companies that don’t emulate the approach.

Nordstrom: Dissension in the Ranks? (A,B)

My response to the HBS article on Nordstrom:

The system was motivational.  The idea that the concepts were not spoken, but were learned by the new employees was self-perpetuating.   As an employee you’d feel like you discovered a way to increase you value.  Having printable, tabulated data on other sales persons was more gasoline for the fire.  Another cause for why it was working was that the rewards were real.  You could see others receiving them and you knew what it took to get there.  The ‘idea’ that you could bring in $60k if you just worked harder and were calculating on how you documented your hours was more motivation.  The problem I think the leaders should have seen coming was that it was competitive and could cause potential disasters.  I would have imagined that an effort would have been put forth to show the employees that the SPH system was not intended to be stressful but only for knowledge.  Plus, after the allegations came out it was a bad move for Nordstrom to deny wrong doing.  Even if there hadn’t been wrong doing you can ‘t deny it.  You have to accept that there must be something there and you need to find a way to fix it and show that to the public.   The leaders must have known that the system was on the edge of success and major problems.  Unions are good for the workers but once a Union has made the move to challenge a company publically there is going to be losses for the company in the short term.  As a company that was at the top of the game at the time maybe they had become a little too complacent.  Over all, my thoughts are that I’m impressed by the system but when you’re going to push that hard for revenues you’d better be in touch with your employees and their impressions.