Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Core Values

HR is often tasked with drafting Core Values. It can be a daunting task - especially when most folks yawn at the mere mention of the words. Like 'mission statements', core values are often perceived as a fruitless exercise. I agree in many cases! I'm against immature start-ups creating values that will just need changing in a month.

However, I think it's good to know that those core values already exist in your organization - they've just been buried in all the busyness. And, when the time is right there is real value in having and living your true core values. In Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras spent 6 years researching organizations that have endured recession and depressions. One of their key findings was that in every case, these companies defined their core values in the very early stages and built a culture of people around them.

The creation process is often one of the problems with core values - without meaning and accuracy they become worthless. And setting them is not an easy task. In his book Traction, Gino Wickman's gives step-by-step instructions to set up your core values.

Get the leadership team off-site for a couple hours.

Step 1: List 3 people (preferable in the organization) that they could clone if the could
Step 2: List the characteristics those people embody ('is never satisfied', 'personal integrity', 'extremely detail oriented')
Step 3: Narrow down the list (edit, circle, combine)
Step 4: Discuss and debate, narrowing down the list to 3-7 values

Let simmer for 30 days, regroup quickly to finalize, and share with the rest of your team. When relaying the values to your team, you need to use stories, anecdotes, and analogies to show your values in action. Once established, use your core values to help you through decision making, in the hiring process and insert it into the common language of the organization.

Do you have core values that are actually helpful? That communicate your mission and enforce the behaviors you need to be successful? Core values that help you stay focused and make decisions?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Everyone Hates Performance Reviews

The Wall Street Journal just posted a piece about how Performance Reviews suck.
This corporate sham is one of the most insidious, most damaging, and yet most ubiquitous of corporate activities.... Pretentious, bogus practice that produces absolutely nothing...

Ouch ... now that is some nasty name calling. But, we already know everyone hates HR, and especially performance reviews. This article just feels like a strip of flypaper - attracting those that share a displeasure in their under-performing managers and antiquated, broken systems. It's not too hard to do.

The author, Samuel A. Culbert, claims there is a better way - simply 'asking and listening'. He throws in some belittling to boot, "Imagine that. It's called a conversation, and it's a rarity in workplaces today." Well, well, well ... Good Day Sir!

Really, all of this is NOT about the performance review, it's about bad performance reviews. It's about poor managers and management. I agree a bad review (i.e. rigid, irrelevant paperwork) and bad management is harmful to the company, to relationships, and productivity. But I can't help think Culbert's gratuitous and cavalier flogging of the process solves nothing. Except, perhaps, it perpetuates the dogma that the review is the problem.

Culbert's suggestion of 'asking and listening' (or ideas of 'straight talk' and 'previews' he has previously suggested) can go just as wrong as a review! It can be ignored, it can be inconsistent, and it can subjective. It can be . At the end of the day, there's no greater contribution to operational effectiveness and success than honest and timely assessments of a worker's performance - an ongoing partnership and conversation. Don't blame the concept of a performance reviews to cover up for a poor process or a lazy manager.

Don't be such a hater. If you really care, let's focus on ways to give employees consistent and worthwhile feedback, rather than eliminating the only feedback some folks get. Can't we use our time to find real and positive ways to gather the ideas and challenges of employees and work together to solve problems and drive performance?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Traits of a Successful Business

I just started reading Traction by Gino Wickman. Wickman sees common problems with entrepreneurial organizations and sets out to give the tools to address them. I think his summary of successfully operating businesses can be a great reference for all of us.

Successful businesses:
  • operate with a crystal clear vision that is shared by everyone
  • have the right people in the right seats
  • watch and manage a handful of numbers on a weekly basis
  • identify and solve issues promptly in an open and honest environment
  • ensure everyone documents and follow processes
  • establish priorities for each employee and ensure that a high level of trust, communication, and accountability exists on each team
Sounds simple enough. How do you score on these bullet points? Wickman claims, and I agree, that most companies operate at less than 50% in these key components of operation. Do you focus on these things on a regular basis?