Thursday, September 15, 2011

Change. Change, Change. Change From Fools

A friend of mine changed jobs recently. You probably have a friend who has changed jobs recently as well, whether it be by choice, or by job elimination. In my case, I asked him about it. I wanted to understand the motivation. I learned that, at least in his situation, there were lots of motivating factors. Some are uncontrollable. For example, if your company is in an industry that is harder hit by the bad economy, well stuff happens. Others are controllable. In this post, I want to focus on them.

Can you imagine working for a firm where in your entire career there, you never receive a communication that is truly about your career development? Contrast that with a firm where after you accept an offer, but before you start, you are already getting career development e-mails. What is the marginal cost of doing this? I am going to guess that on a multi-billion dollar balance sheet, the cost doesn't even affect the rounding. What is the benefit of doing this? The improved morale that comes from this sort of corporate behavior will increase productivity to the point where the income statement is materially improved.

Can you imagine working for a firm where press releases are primarily about the organizations that you sponsor? Contrast that with a firm where press releases are about your clients' or customers' successes from the work that your firm does for them or the products that your firm produces for them. As an employee, which would make you feel more proud of the company you work for? Which would make you feel more proud of the work that you do?

Can you imagine working for a firm where during your entire career there, to your product line leader, you are nothing more than a name or a number, and they are not sure exactly who you are or what you do? Contrast that with a firm where your product line leader takes a personal interest in you during your first couple of weeks. And, at this firm, it's not because you are being treated differently, that's just the way she chooses to operate. Which firm will get more out of you?

So, at this point, I've discussed three issues. Between the three, I don't think there is enough there in hard costs to change the rounding in the balance sheet or the income statement. But, the benefits fo doing so, on the other hand, appear to be enormous.

The working world has changed. Management used to have far more intuition to it and perhaps fewer metrics. Before the computer age that we are in now, we just didn't have so many metrics at our fingertips. It was harder to measure the micro effect of each action that we took, to we didn't. We looked instead at macro effects of a pattern of behavior.

I remember, at my first real job (actually this happened in some of my consulting jobs, but my observation is that this behavior had stopped at lager firms by the mid-90s), each employee, on their first day on the job, got introduced around. It was part of a pattern of creating a team-oriented work environment. Sure, it took a little bit of productivity on that day away from both me and the person showing me around, but I think it was more than made up for. But, in today's world of micro metrics, there is a cost to an experienced person introducing a junior person around, so it just doesn't happen.

We used to celebrate successes together. But, the celebration, measured on a micro basis has a cost with no benefit. Now, at some firms, unless you are an executive, you don't even find out about the successes.

Perhaps I am the one who is wrong. I don't think so.

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