Ends and means: Business is tough. Competition between firms for market share can be ruthless, but no less so than the competition among managers within firms for recognition and promotion. How do you encourage a competitive mind-set without signaling tolerance for cutting corners, or even inadvertently fostering a hostile environment? Or, perhaps even more insidiously, unwittingly encouraging your own employees to ignore your own corporate values?
There is a problem in such cases wherein some of your incentives conflict with others, causing the employee to mentally and emotionally “detach” from your outfit and become an “every man for himself” type of operator. This results in a loose cannon rolling and pitching unpredictably around within your firm.
David Anderson, at Agile Management, recently offered an illuminating discussion of this issue, presenting it by using the 4-segment quadrant system of rating managers according to whether they do or don’t “make the numbers” and whether they do or don’t share organizational values. He identifies, of the four possible positions where a manager can be found in this quadrant, which is the most problematic, why, and what the consequences are for the firm.
Managing purely by the numbers can be quite subtly destructive. If you aren’t watching what your managers and staff are doing, and how they’re making those numbers, you will soon enough find that all of you are beginning to miss them.
Robert Nardelli, a manager who is famous for his hard-nosed, no-nonsense focus on bottom-line metrics, lost his job running Home Depot largely due to the shortcomings inherent in this approach (his scandalously high compensation was the proximate, not the ultimate, cause). He is now taking the reins at Chrysler. Simultaneously, Chrysler is dropping from the DaimlerChrysler experiment into the hands of a private equity firm.
Perhaps Mr. Nardelli feels he will experience less disruptive oversight from the plethora of quarters that the typical public company undergoes. On the other hand, he may merely find himself in close-quarters combat with investors who are involved, informed, and proactive overseers. They’ll certainly be expecting him to make the numbers.
Indeed, he likely will be found in one of the “makes the numbers” boxes, but which one?
Random Fact #3: I have never been in a fight.
I’ve been in a few scuffles and confrontations, and I’ve never evaded conflict, but nothing much ever really happened. Every now and then I think about it, and it just seems a bit odd.
After all, I grew up in the Detroit area, and spent a lot of time in all sorts of the city’s neighborhoods. As a kid I studied martial arts at a place where two of the black belts used to cruise the strip and pick fights in order to practice.
Later, I worked in a truck stop, gas stations, non-union and union shops, and construction sites. I spent most of my adult life in the Marine Corps, travelling around the world and taking liberty in some of its less reputable quarters in the company of some of its most aggressive inhabitants.
And for all that: not a fist thrown. Remarkable.
Not, mind you, that I’m looking for a fight.
Today’s tag goes to Fred Roche, at the KnowHR Blog.
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