Archive for the ‘measurement’ Category
Daniel Kahneman coined the acronym WYSIATI which is an abbreviation for “What you see is all there is”. It is one of the human biases that he explores when he describes how human decision-making is not entirely based on rational thought. Traditionally, economists believed in the human being as a rational thinker, that decisions and judgments would be carefully weighed before being taken. And much of traditional economic theory is based on that notion. Dr. Kahneman’s life’s work (along with his co-author Dr. Amos Tversky) explodes that notion and describes many of the short-comings of human decision-making. He found that many human decisions rely on automatic or knee-jerk reactions, rather than deliberative thought. And that these automatic reactions (he calls them System 1 thinking) are based on heuristics or rules of thumb that we develop or have hard-wired into our brains. System 1 thinking is very useful in that it can help the individual deal with the onslaught of information that impinges on us each and every day, but the risk is when a decision that one is faced with should be thought through rather than based on a knee-jerk reaction.
System 1 decisions are easy, they are comfortable, and unfortunately they can also be wrong. But wrong in the sense that if one learned how to take a step back and allow for more deliberative thought prior to the decision, some of these wrong decisions or judgments could be avoided. A simple example from Dr. Kahneman’s book “Thinking Fast and Slow” will illustrate the point.
“A bat and a ball together cost $1.10. The bat cost $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” Fifty percent of the students who were posed this simple question, students attending either Harvard or Yale got this wrong. Eighty percent of the students who were asked this question from other universities got it wrong. This is System 1 thinking at its finest and most error prone. It is fast, easy, comfortable, lets you come up with a quick answer or decision, but one that is likely wrong. Knowing who reads this blog I’ll let you figure out the answer yourself.
WYSIATI is the notion that we form impressions and judgments based on the information that is available to us. For instance we form impressions about people within a few seconds of meeting them. In fact, it has been documented that without careful training interviewers who are screening job applicants will come to a conclusion about the applicant within about 30 seconds of beginning the interview. And when tested these initial notions are often wrong. Interviewers who are trained to withhold judgment about someone do a better job at applicant screening, and the longer that judgment is delayed the better the decision.
This notion of course flies in the face of Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller “Blink” in which he talks about the wonders of human’s ability to come to decisions instantly and a whole generation of manager’s have eagerly embraced his beliefs - including a few CEO’s I know. Why? It is easy, it is intuitive, it is comfortable and it plays to the notion that I am competent and confident in my work. The only problem is that when put to serious scientific scrutiny, it is often wrong.
A few months ago I introduced this concept to an HR group I was talking to. I explained how untrained HR people in a rush to judgment will jump to conclusions about someone, perhaps too rapidly. One 30-year HR veteran insisted that this may be all well and good but of course did not apply to her. After all, with her 30 years of experience her rush to judgment was of course going to be accurate. She “just knew” who were going to be good employees. I let it drop, and I think I was labeled a trouble-maker by the group. That is a label I can embrace.
We tend to develop stories based on the information at hand; piecing the information we do have into a narrative, often without asking the question, “what information am I missing”? In the area of survey research I have often seen researchers confidently presenting the “drivers” of one type of behavior or another. Say for instance, the drivers of employee engagement. But since the analysis is based on a “within” survey design, the only drivers that can possibly emerge are those that you asked about in the survey in the first place. So the researcher, in designing the 30-50 item survey, is limiting the drivers to those items that they decided to ask about in the first place. The researcher likely has in their head a model of what is important in driving engagement when designing the questionnaire, a model that was designed based on another 30-50 item or fewer questionnaire. It becomes a tautology, it becomes true because I tested it and it came out as true, but the only thing I tested is what I already believed.
There are techniques that can be applied that lead towards more deliberative and better decision-making processes. If you were walking briskly down a busy road and someone asked you “how much is 17 x 24?” you would do what every other human would do to figure that out, you would stop and think.
“But if you will it, it is not fantasy” – Theodor Herzl
Recently, virtually every organization that I speak with has put innovation front and center as a necessary, in fact imperative characteristic of their organizational cultures. The thinking is clear. In order to thrive in turbulent environments organizations must innovate, must examine the way they do business, update their products and services, and must differentiate themselves in order to outperform the competition. Competition, environmental stress and the need to survive as an organization spur on innovation.
Innovation is often described as coming in bursts, but much more common is the rolling-up-the-sleeves, hard work, incremental innovation, building on other’s breakthroughs, often in a collaborative fashion, that over the long run can radically change the way things work and the products that an organization offers.
It could easily be argued that innovation occurs naturally among all of the earth’s creatures. Species innovate constantly and naturally in the never ending battle to survive. One species of cuckoo finch has eggs that mimic the coloration of another species so that when the finch deposits their eggs into the other species’ nest, the hatched baby birds are raised by the tricked surrogate parents. As a defense the second species, the tawny-flanked prinias evolved more colorful eggs that looked different form the finch’s eggs but the finches responded by evolving and again mimicking the more colorful eggs. Evolution is innovative.
The mitochondria that inhabit our cells and produce the energy which powers cells originated externally from the cells they now inhabit. They have their own DNA and can reproduce only from their own DNA, indicating that they were a separate life form somewhat like bacteria. Prior to their role in our cells they existed independently. Mitochondria entered into a symbiotic relationship with cells and then that combined organism evolved into the variety of cells that make up human beings. Today we would not be able to survive without these creatures living within our cells and the mitochondria would not exist without us. Evolutionary innovation is often collaborative.
Beyond evolving on a biological front, humans evolve and innovate their behaviors constantly if not quickly, with our ancestors developing new forms of stone tools over millennia, fire being tamed, the taking up of living in shelters of one sort or another, and placing metal strips on the teeth of our children to improve function and appearance.
Many of the inventions that propelled our civilization and were described as deriving from “ah-ha” moments were nothing of the sort. Rather the innovative breakthrough came from groundwork that laid the foundation and was then built upon. Basic innovations often sit dormant until additional development work and insights are gained allowing the innovation to be applied in day-to-day life.
Take Edison’s light bulb for instance. It is often credited to Edison as a singular event. And in fact Edison played a very important role in the light bulb, but without the innovations of those who came both before and after him the light bulb would not have become as wide spread as it has. Here is a chronology of the major milestones.
• The first electric light was made in 1800 by Humphry Davy. When he connected wires to his newly invented battery and a piece of carbon, the carbon glowed, producing light.
• Much later, in 1860, physicist Sir Joseph Wilson Swan was determined to devise a practical, long-lasting electric light. He found that a carbon paper filament worked well, but burned up quickly. In 1878, he demonstrated his new electric lamps in Newcastle, England.
• In 1877, Charles Francis Brush manufactured some carbon arcs to light a public square in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. These arcs were used on a few streets, in a few large office buildings, and even some stores. Electric lights were only used by a few people.
• Thomas Alva Edison experimented with thousands of different filaments to find just the right materials to glow well and be long-lasting. In 1879, Edison discovered that a carbon filament in an oxygen-free bulb glowed but did not burn up for 40 hours. Edison eventually produced a bulb that could glow for over 1500 hours.
• Lewis Howard Latimer improved the bulb by inventing a carbon filament (patented in 1881); Latimer was a member of Edison’s research team, which was called “Edison’s Pioneers.” In 1882, Latimer developed and patented a method of manufacturing his carbon filaments.
• In 1903, Willis R. Whitney invented a treatment for the filament so that it wouldn’t darken the inside of the bulb as it glowed.
• In 1910, William David Coolidge (1873-1975) invented a tungsten filament which lasted even longer than the older filaments. The incandescent bulb revolutionized the world. (Enchanted Learning).
Rather than being the exception the “evolution” of the light bulb is very often how innovation occurs with multiple people contributing, often working collaboratively over a period of time.
There are multiple methods available for measuring the existence of innovation in organizations. You could count the number of patents issued to the organization, or the age of each of its product’s since design, the amount of time that employees spend on innovation, the R&D budget, the headcount assigned to “innovation”, or the perceptions of the customers towards the organization’s products and services as being innovative. One method for measuring the degree of innovation in organizations is through the perceptions of the employees.
Employee surveys will often ask about the “emphasis” on innovation within the organization, but I prefer asking about whether innovation is actually occurring. Critical when measuring innovation through employee surveys is to ask about:
• the generation of innovative ideas;
• the ability to test out those ideas from a funding and other resources standpoint;
• the ability to evaluate innovations to see which one’s should be implemented organization-wide and which ones rejected.
Examining or asking about the reward system is also often very informative as an organization may truly desire to be innovative, but is actually rewarding its employees for playing it safe and not trying new things rather than the innovative efforts desired.
Slack and redundancy are two concepts that are also critical to be in place for an organization to successfully innovate. If an organization is being run in such a tight fashion with no slack so that it can’t try new things, because all resources are dedicated to getting the work done the traditional way, the ability to be innovative does not exist. And likewise if the organization does not have the ability to experiment with new methods, while another redundant process is performing in a traditional fashion, the evaluation of innovative ideas and processes will be very difficult to objectively assess.
Organizational innovation is critical and creating organizational cultures that support innovation rather than suppress it is within reach for all organizations.
© 2012 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
The first of Newton’s laws of motion states “a body that is at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it.” His second law states “a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.” Those same laws seem to apply to the world of employee survey action taking.
Some of those who get survey results never seem to get around to taking action based on the survey results they have in hand. And just like a body at rest, they tend to stay at rest doing nothing with the findings.
- The survey results provided may not be definitive enough for them and they may request additional analysis after analysis until they get around to doing just about nothing.
- The survey results may point to action that is difficult or overwhelming and so the easiest path may again be to let things be just as they are and do nothing.
- They survey results may point to behaviors that go against closely held beliefs that the manager may have, so even though the data says one thing, he or she may simply know in their heart the “right thing to do” regardless of the data.
In one study which pointed out some of the obstacles to having action arise from the survey process, (Wiley & Brooks, 2010), the 3 top obstacles to taking action on a survey were identified as:
- Accountability (12%)
- Holding organizational members responsible for their role in the survey program; ownership and clarity of assignment
- Resources (12%)
- Especially time (given the other demands of manager’s job), but other resources as well: training, technical, financial
- Importance (12%)
- Management (especially executive management) attention to and support for survey
But looking on the positive side for a moment, what are the benefits of taking action, even if it may not be the perfect action based on the survey results? If you look at survey data longitudinally and track which employees saw results from a previous survey vs. those who did not (from within one organization), and which ones saw action arising from the survey vs. those who did not, the data strongly suggests that seeing the data and seeing action, drives a very positive shift in the next survey iteration on critical business performance metrics.
- In one organization for instance if 75% or more at the department level could recall actions arising from the survey their average employee engagement score rise by 5 percentage points.
- In that same organization, those departments where less than 50% could recall actions arising from the survey score their employee engagement scores went down by 13 percentage points.
The benefits of taking action, even if it is not the perfect action are very clear. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, and in our fast changing world, staying in motion; constantly improving organizations based on insightful data which is tied to the organizational strategy is a very impactful way to help performance.
© 2012 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) has become increasingly aware of important gaps in their evaluations of physicians. OrgVitality Vice President Dr. David W. Bracken has been invited by ABIM to help address those shortcomings and bring a unique perspective to the issue by participating in a Multi-Source Feedback Expert Panel Meeting as an authority in the field. In addition to participating in panel and roundtable discussions, Dr. Bracken has been asked to provide a presentation that summarizes best practices in multisource feedback outside of the medical field that may have implications for physician evaluations and certification. Dr. Bracken is the senior editor and author of the Handbook for Multi-Source Feedback (2001, Jossey-Bass).
The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) is an evaluation organization. Providing practicing physicians with effective performance-based assessment methods has the potential to strengthen certifying boards’ ability to meaningfully assess performance in practice. Multi-source feedback as a unique approach has the potential to assess key competencies such as interpersonal skills and communication, professionalism, teamwork, stewardship and care coordination.
With this in mind, ABIM’s research team has convened an international group of experts in assessment and multi-source feedback, representatives from ABMS Member Boards, and others from fields outside of medicine to better understand how and why multi-source feedback approaches and tools might be incorporated in a comprehensive, performance-based assessment program.
The ABIM Multi-Source Feedback Expert Panel Meeting will be held in February 2012, at ABIM headquarters in Philadelphia.
About OrgVitality, LLC:
OrgVitality is a management consulting firm focused on helping individuals and organizations thrive in today’s turbulent environment. We help organizations make sustainable improvements in their operations and offerings, increasing their Vitality and enabling them to excel in their unique organizational strategies. The firm consists of highly experienced and respected professionals with technical expertise, consulting and research backgrounds in Industrial Organizational Psychology and Human Resources with an average of 15+ years of experience in their respective fields. OrgVitality, headquartered in Westchester, NY, has operations in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Tel Aviv, Spokane, Raleigh Durham and Orlando.
OrgVitality’s services include Employee Opinion/Engagement Surveys, Leadership Competency Models, 360 Assessments, Exit Surveys, Coaching & Executive Assistance, Succession Planning, Performance Management, HR Metrics & Strategy, Customer Surveys (Internal & External), Employee Assessment & Selection, and Leadership Training & Development. For more information, please visit www.orgvitality.com, email contactus@orgvitality or call (914) 747-7736.
There is an old folktale that begins with two travelers, strangers walking down a long dusty road. As they walked, one of the strangers asked the other “What say you, shall I carry you or shall you carry me?” The second traveler ignored the statement for he was not about to carry the other. Later on the traveler asked a second question as they passed a field of barley, “Has this barley been eaten or not?” Once again the second traveler ignored the first for it was obvious for all to see that the barley was still growing in the field. Later on they passed a funeral procession and the one stranger said to the other “What do you think, is the person in the coffin alive or dead?” The second traveler could no longer contain himself and asked the first why he was asking such ridiculous questions. The first one said, “When I asked if I should carry you or if you should carry me, what I meant was shall I tell you a story or shall you tell me one to make this long journey easier for us. When I asked about the barley, what I meant was has the growing barley already been sold to a buyer, for if it was already sold, it is as though it has already been eaten for the farmer and his family cannot eat it themselves. And when I asked about the person in the coffin, being alive or dead, what I meant was, do you think they have descendents, for if they have descendents who will carry on their legacy it is as though they are alive, but if they passed away with no one to remember them and carry on their work they are truly dead.”
Sometimes there is meaning within meaning and vast misunderstanding.
One recent research study looked at whether one laboratory rat would be motivated to ease the suffering of another. The question was would rats feel any moral obligation to help another rat? Or in the rat world, is it every rat for themselves? In this experiment one rat was placed inside a clear cage that could be opened only from the outside. A second rat was allowed to freely roam around the caged one for one hour at a time. After about 7 sessions where a roaming rat encountered a trapped rat, 23 out of 30 roamer rats learned how to open the cage and set the second rat free. (Some rats are simply not that smart). Once learned, a roamer rat upon the start of the experiment would immediately proceed to the cage and set the trapped rat free. After setting the rat free there would be a “frenzy of excited running”. Inbal Ben-Ami Bartel, a psychologist at the University of Chicago who ran the experiment stated, “It’s very obvious that it is intentional. They walked right up to the door and open the door.” Only 5 of 40 rats learned to open the cage door when the cage was empty and similar findings were observed upon placing a stuffed animal in the cage instead of another rat. When 2 cages were set up, one containing five chocolate chips and the other a trapped rat, the rats were equally likely to free their trapped companion as to go after the chocolate first. Freeing a trapped companion was equally as motivating for the rat as obtaining the chocolate. But here is where it gets really interesting. Those rats who went after the chocolate first, slightly more than half the time, left one or two chips for the other rat to eat after freeing them. Sometimes the chips were taken out of the cage and left near where the other rat was going to be set free, so it was not as though the rat missed a chip or two. He ain’t heavy….
Clive Boddy a professor at the Nottingham Business School at Nottingham Trent University has been collecting data on the incidence of psychopaths in Wall Street firms related to the 2008 financial collapse. He posits that at least some of the individuals involved in the behaviors that led to close to total economic collapse were psychopaths.
Psychopaths, estimated at perhaps one percent of the general population, and five percent of business executives (Babiak & Hare 2006) are individuals who due to chemical imbalances or physical abnormalities in their brains lack a “conscience, have few emotions and display an inability to have any feelings, sympathy or empathy for other people.” When you think of what often gets rewarded by corporate boards and investors it is not the executive that holds onto people in the midst of a downturn, even though there is a lot of research that suggests that is the best long-term financial strategy (cf. Casio), but rather it is the executive that ruthlessly downsizes, restructures and streamlines operations. Who better to cold-heartedly cut and reshape an organization than someone who is without emotion, a task which many executives find themselves unable to undertake? I say that sarcastically as there are many drawbacks to having psychopaths in positions of power. Psychopaths cannot feel regret for their actions and are bewildered when asked about the human toll of their actions. No one for instance would want a psychopath anywhere near a nuclear trigger, or in charge of a powerful military force.
I want to describe how psychopathology is measured in an individual and scored to illustrate a point, so please bear with me. Whether or not someone is psychopathic is often measured using the Hare PCL-R.
“The Hare PCL-R contains two parts, a semi-structured interview and a review of the subject’s file records and history. During the evaluation, the clinician scores 20 items that measure central elements of the psychopathic character. The items cover the nature of the subject’s interpersonal relationships; his or her affective or emotional involvement; responses to other people and to situations; evidence of social deviance; and lifestyle. The material thus covers two key aspects that help define the psychopath: selfish and unfeeling victimization of other people, and an unstable and antisocial lifestyle.”
The twenty traits assessed by the PCL-R score are:
- glib and superficial charm
- grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
- need for stimulation
- pathological lying
- cunning and manipulativeness
- lack of remorse or guilt
- shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
- callousness and lack of empathy
- parasitic lifestyle
- poor behavioral controls
- sexual promiscuity
- early behavior problems
- lack of realistic long-term goals
- failure to accept responsibility for own actions
- many short-term marital relationships
- juvenile delinquency
- revocation of conditional release
- criminal versatility
“When properly completed each of the twenty items is given a score of 0, 1, or 2 based on how well it applies to the subject being tested. A prototypical psychopath would receive a maximum score of 40, while someone with absolutely no psychopathic traits or tendencies would receive a score of zero. A score of 30 or above qualifies a person for a diagnosis of psychopathy. People with no criminal backgrounds normally score around 5. Many non-psychopathic criminal offenders score around 22.”
The point of describing in detail the way psychopathology is measured and scored illustrates an important point, like many traits that humans exhibit, psychopathology is not an all or nothing condition. It is not binary. Even though the diagnosis is often stated as the person is psychopathic or not, the condition like many others exists along a continuum. At a certain point along a continuum of behavior we switch from calling someone mentally healthy to mentally ill or psychopathic, but the reality is there may not be all that much difference between a score of 28, 29, 30, and 31 other than a diagnosis.
Similarly, the rat behavior described above could be thought of as also existing along a continuum. Think of the rats that first freed the trapped rat before going for the chocolate as being at one end of a continuum of caring, feeling empathy, for their fellow rats. The next point on the continuum would be the rats that went for the chocolate first, but left some for the other rat to also enjoy. The next point on the continuum would be the rats that ate all the chocolate before freeing their brethren, next the point is the rat that ate all the chocolate and never bothered to free the other rat.
I would bet heavily that should rats that freed the trapped second rat before going for the chocolate, be rewarded for their behavior, perhaps by doubling the amount of chocolate they ultimately got, that you would see a dramatic rise in rats first taking care of their fellows before taking care of themselves (from the roughly 50/50 odds that were seen in the experiment). I would also argue that we have a decision to make about what we want to be as society, perhaps what we have been evolving to anyway (see Hope…). Do we want to reward people for taking care of themselves, perhaps to the exclusion of taking care of others, or do we want to reward people for taking care of others first and then themselves? What would our moral code suggest?
I don’t mind feeling that by taking care of others first I may be in good company, the company of a few good rats. I also believe that with the exception of those far away enough from the norm that we consider them mentally ill, that we all, by and large, want to live in similar worlds, where people feel safe, secure and respected, where they feel they can have a bright future for themselves and their children, but I also worry that as we humans walk down the long road that we are on together, as we talk we sometimes really don’t understand what we are saying to each other.
© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
I was leafing through an issue of an astronomy magazine I happened across. One story in the front of the magazine was about the most common elements around us. Hydrogen of course was number one and right behind it was helium. The author of the article branched off into some interesting facts, which he stated he uses to spur children’s interest in astronomy and a few of which surprised and delighted me (I am nothing more than a large child after all). For instance, the most common element you breathe when you take a breath is nitrogen, an inert gas which doesn’t do much for you and which most people with a high school education will get right. The second most common element you breathe in is oxygen, which again would be on most people’s list, but the third is argon which if I had known (at some point I likely did), I had forgotten. Some other factoids he let loose with included that half of our moon is made up of oxygen and it has very little hydrogen, the most common element in the universe elsewhere. H2O, water, is most dense at 40 degrees (the reason why ice floats), exists mostly in the areas of the universe we have studied as either a solid or gas and very rarely as a liquid due to the limited range of temperatures and pressures at which it will take the form of a liquid. Anyway you get the idea, interesting tidbits that you think you should know, likely did at some point, but have filed away and forgotten.
It did make me stop for a second and think if there was a similar list I could put together about people’s behavior in organizations. Facts that perhaps we knew, filed away and forgotten or interesting pieces of information about what people want from an organization or how organizations behave that are less well known. Anyway I thought I would see how hard it would be to put together a list and see how controversial it would be. Here are 10 of my favorites:
- Much of the differences that are talked about between people of various generations, genders, ethnicities etc. and what they want from the work environment is a myth. People, of any generation, age, ethnicity, nationality, gender, etc. fundamentally want the same things out of the work environment. There are larger differences to be found within any demographic category than across demographic categories (e.g. larger differences in the expression of an attribute (risk tolerance for instance) can be found within the male population than looking at the gap between the average male vs. the average female tolerance for risk.
- If you are not measuring it, you can’t manage it. While measurement is good in the right circumstances there are plenty of things we manage quite well without measurement. (Thank you very much!) When is the last time you took out a ruler and measured the length of your hair before getting it cut? (Excepting those who are growing their hair to a specific length for donation purposes). How often to you rate your hunger, plotting your findings on a chart before deciding to raid the refrigerator? How many people gather the opinions of professional sniffers, measuring their reactions, before deciding on whether to bathe?
- Everyone in an organization is biased. Bias is built into our humanness. It arose as a way to help us process information efficiently. We develop heuristics or rules-of-thumb to speed our decision-making. Some people are not very good at developing rules-of-thumb and then these people have a tendency to apply inaccurate rules inappropriately. People using inaccurate rules inappropriately may judge a person by superficial characteristics and not the essence of their character. This is one source of bigotry, but this tendency also helps to give rise to superstition. For example, let’s suppose one day a baseball player takes a piece of rope, ties a knot in the two ends of the rope and places it over his head as a necklace. Perhaps he used up the soap that was on the rope, but being a saver could not bring himself to discard the rope itself. That day as he is wearing his soap-on-a-rope, sans soap, he hits a home run and feels really good. The other players wanting to know his secret to success notice the rope and determine that this soap-on-a-rope, sans soap, enhanced his performance. The next day there is a run on soap-on-a-rope at the local drug store and all the players take long showers, using up the soap so they can wear the rope. A few of them have an outstanding performance that day and attribute it to the rope. Those who did not have a good day think that the rope simply has not had enough time to work yet and so wear it another day giving the rope another chance to work its magic. Word gets around. The next thing you know every player wants to wear a rope which is now selling for $125 or more instead of the $1.99 that soap-on-a-rope normally goes for. A tendency to categorize, in this case, what leads to good hitting performance, can lead to superstition.
- Perhaps due to an optimistic tendency, people tend to be poor judges of their own abilities. Ninety-five percent of us think we are in the top twenty-five percent in driving ability. Twenty-five percent of us think we are in the top one percent on leadership ability. This applies even in street gangs where on average forty percent of the members think that one day they will be running the gang. In general, there is a tendency to overestimate one’s ability. Evolutionarily, if you did not overestimate your ability, your chances of success, you might have given up on the next day’s hunt even before you started.
- The least informed among us are often the ones who are most sure of their positions. And when confronted with facts that clearly contradict their position, the tendency among these people is to dig in and proselytize others to join with them in their ill-informed point of view. After all, the thinking may go, if a lot of people believe in and have the same point of view that I have it can’t really be wrong can it? Or if we are all wrong together does that make us right?
- People tend to put intelligent intent behind what are somewhat random or spontaneous events. Again evolutionarily, if you are at the watering hole drinking your fill and the wind rustles the leaves next to you, you are better off assuming that it might be a tiger so that you can live to drink another day. If you assume it is the wind and it turns out to be a tiger, the situation has the potential to just ruin your morning. The same thing holds true in organizations with people assuming that someone higher up has a master plan and knows how everything will work out. They are just keeping it close to the vest. This is especially true during reorganizations, mergers and acquisitions and other organizational changes.
- Wishful or what is termed magical thinking is often seen in people and hence organizations. Again the perception is that some higher power or some magical bullet (e.g. the latest management fad) will take care of problems, will resolve issues. Recent research has been looking into the origins of superstitions and belief in magical powers. For a very long time we have known that people have superstitious beliefs, that certain illogical behaviors are thought to lead to desired outcomes. And other work clearly shows that these superstitious behaviors are not limited to human beings. It appears though that the brain may be hardwired for a tendency towards superstitious behavior. “The appetite for such beliefs appears to be rooted in the circuitry of the brain, and for good reason. The sense of having special powers buoys people in threatening situations, and helps soothe everyday fears and ward off mental distress. In excess it can lead to compulsive or delusional behavior.”
- Organizations don’t really exist. Maytag never came to your house to repair your washer; it was the Maytag repair person. Organizations are nothing more than an amalgamation of their people. Yet, people will hide behind the organization as a power or a decision-maker, using the “organization” to obfuscate whom within the organization actually made the decision to do what. And yet somehow the organization can do things that no one individual within the organization can bring themselves to do. The “organization” can lay off 25% of the workforce for instance, even if you were to interview every single manager and they insisted that they would not. Yes, people hide behind the “mysterious” organization as an all-knowing entity.
- Even the best of us, in certain circumstances, are capable of doing horrible things. The experiments that have been done on this prove it out beyond question.
- Even the worst of us, in certain circumstances, are capable of reforming their behavior.
This list can go on and on, was fun to generate, and I hope you feel free to add to the list, but please no superstitious beliefs or inappropriate heuristics.
© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
”Which is more important, the sun or the moon?” A citizen of a small town not noted for its intellectual prowess asked. “Why the moon of course,” was the reply. “It shines at night when it is needed. The sun shines only during the day, when there is no need of it at all!” (Ausbel, N., A Treasury of Jewish Folklore, 1948)
“What to measure, what to measure…..” the executive muttered to himself as he walked down the hallway. Do you simply measure the obvious things, or are there less obvious metrics that need to be measured that can help the organization’s performance? And how many ways should you measure similar outcomes in an effort to triangulate and instill confidence in the measure? If you don’t understand what is really going on as the quote above implies, your measures may be entirely off-base. They could be based upon superstition-like folk wisdom or they may overlook critical, but subtle aspects of performance. Metrics can be hard measures, such as sales volume, widgets produced, defects per million etc. They can be soft measures such as customer satisfaction and repurchase intentions or employee confidence in the future of the organization or their own personal future in the organization. Metrics can be at the individual level, department level, organizational level etc. When you think of all the possibilities of organizational performance that you can measure, it is no wonder that some organizations seem to spend an awful lot of effort and time measuring, eating up significant resources. Occasionally they must ask themselves, “can we get by with fewer and simpler measures?”
Think for a moment of a car. Say you just filled the car’s tank with gas prior to heading out on an extensive road trip. You are interested in knowing when you should stop and refill the tank so that you will not become stranded by the side of the road without fuel. On your dash you have 3 gages, a fuel gage, an odometer and a clock. If you were to drive your car at a fixed speed, on a never changing road, achieving a consistent miles per gallon you could determine when to put gas in the car using any one of those 3 gages, they would be redundant. You could look at the fuel gage and see when the needle was inching toward zero. You could look at how many miles you had driven on the odometer, knowing that when you hit a certain number of miles it was time to stop for gas. Or you could look at the clock, knowing that with a steady consumption of fuel per minute, after a certain period of time gas was needed. That situation though rarely describes how a car is driven. You may be going up and down hills, starting and stopping at traffic lights, or driving at inconsistent speeds resulting in changing miles per gallon performance. Therefore each of those gages on your dashboard, while potentially highly correlated with each other in their predictions of when to stop for gas, will not be perfectly related. And with their uniqueness they will provide additional insight into maintaining the car’s or the driver’s performance. For instance the odometer can tell you that it might be time to replace the tires or change the oil and the clock can tell you how much more time you have to drive in the daylight or if rush hour awaits you in the city ahead that you will be driving through. Each measure of performance if chosen carefully should not only help triangulate on an outcome (the car needs gas) but should also provide additional insight into performance.
Those of us at OrgVitality have determined that if an organization were to focus on 6 aspects of their performance that they would have a pretty good dashboard of how the organization was functioning in the areas of softer and the often harder to measure metrics. Those aspects of performance include:
- Work Processes
- Product Offerings
- Service Orientation
- Customer Loyalty.
Further, we believe that each of these metrics should have a current performance measure and a future performance measure. For instance, leadership from a current performance orientation is about execution and leadership from a future orientation is about the vision of where the organization is heading, the ability to communicate and bring that vision to life, it is about the succession planning pipeline and the development of leadership talent.
If you would like to learn more about these metrics, we have set up an OrgVitality Self-Assessment that you can sample at http://demo.orgvitality.com/vsa. If you complete the survey you can compare the performance of your own organization against the norms from other organizations. Enjoy.
© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Personnel Testing Council of Metropolitan Washington
Presents a One-Half Day Workshop
360-Degree Assessments: Make the Right Decisions and Create Sustainable Change
Date/Time: June 8, 2011, 8:30am-11:30am
Where: George Mason University Satellite Campus, 3401 Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA (view map), room TBD
Presenter: Dr. David W. Bracken, Vice President, OrgVitality
Cost: $50 (includes handout materials and breakfast)
Parking: Street parking (quarters only) available on Fairfax Dr., Kansas St., and others
Metro rail: exit from the Orange Line at the Virginia Square/George Mason University stop and walk about three blocks along Fairfax Drive to the meeting site.
360-degree feedback involves the collection of anonymous observations from coworkers to support leadership development and, in some organizations, to provide data that can improve decision making within human resource processes such as staffing, performance management, and succession planning. When used for decision-making, 360-degree rating processes come under more scrutiny regarding their design and implementation, and, ultimately, their validity. This workshop will review the myriad of design decisions that can determine the effectiveness of a 360-degree rating system to generate relevant, reliable information and to create sustainable behavior change throughout an organization.
Workshop topics will include:
- aligning purpose and 360 implementation,
- overcoming logistical challenges,
- legal considerations,
- best practices in 360,
- why 360’s are not “tests,”
- creating individual and organizational change.
Dr. David W. Bracken
Dr. Bracken, Vice President, OrgVitality, is a nationally renowned thought leader and practitioner in the field of multisource feedback with particular expertise on using 360 Feedback for decision making. David is well known for advancing the science of multisource (360 degree) feedback, particularly in its use to create large scale change and to improve talent management decisions He is senior editor and contributor to The Handbook of Multisource Feedback. His most recent publication is, “When Does 360-Degree Feedback Create Behavior Change? And How Would We Know It When It Does?” (in press, with Dale Rose). Dr. Bracken received his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Georgia Tech.
Workshop Sponsored by: Data Recognition Corporation & OrgVitality
© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com
There is an old story from Eastern Europe about a ruler who gathers his advisors around him. A discussion ensued about a dramatic rise in madness among those in the population who consumed grain from the recent harvest. In the manner of many politicians or those with vested interests, the advisors told the ruler that they must put aside enough grain from pervious harvest so that they could preserve their own sanity while those around them went mad. The ruler objected, and using logic possible only among those with the inbred genes of hereditary rulers, stated that since they could not put aside enough grain for everyone, that they too must eat the fungus infected grain, for if everyone else was mad, acting similarly, those others will think us mad if we are different. We must be as mad as everyone else, acting like everyone else, believing in what they believe in order to be considered normal and blend in, to consolidate and not lose our positions of power.
Normal. It is very relative and time specific. Tattoos were once what happened to drunken sailors, piercings were limited to the earlobes of women, listening to rock and roll was going to send you to hell, voyeurism was a mental illness and not promoted on prime-time TV, books were printed on paper and much earlier reading those newfangled books called novels was viewed as immersing oneself in dangerous fantasy worlds, and each and every younger generation has been an enigma to the previous. The only thing certain about what is normal is that it is a moving target and subject to change over time. Trying to hold back the floodgates of change is and should be an exercise in futility. Ideologues, those who support a specific ideology frozen in some past moment, yearning to go back to the way things were are not only tilting at windmills, but are often at the root of much violent, disruptive and nonproductive behavior. However, what one person views as a positive shift in the value set that describes normal, another will view as negative. What is certain is that humanity is not a monolithic entity in our values and beliefs, and whatever “system” is put into place that governs us must be one that allows for those differences to enhance the mosaic of what constitutes humanity.
Are organizations any different? Do myths of what is normal exist within companies? There is a technique I like to use when analyzing an organization’s data. For want of a better name we call it a 9-box. The 9-box takes two questions from an organizational assessment and lays out the all possible responses to each, one along the x-axis and one along the y forming a 3×3 matrix. The 9 cells that are then created contain those responses from people who responded one of 9 different ways to the 2 questions. They could have been favorable on both questions, in which case they would be in the upper left box, they could have been negative on both questions, in which case they would be in the lower right hand box. All the other possible combinations are filled in (Favorable:Neutral, Neutral:Neutral, Negative:Neutral, etc.). Once the matrix has been completed we examine the outcome measure of interest for each cell. How, for instance, do the Favorable:Favorable people fare on turnover or measures of quality, customer satisfaction etc. We contrast that positive cell against the other cells within the matrix. And then it gets interesting.
We examine the demographic characteristic of the employees within the Positive:Positive cell and compare it against those in the other cells. In every single case where I have done this analysis organizational beliefs are exploded and shown to be myths. For instance it may be thought that the most positive employees within the organization would be the managers and the least positive would be the production workers. But when you examine the demographic breakdowns you typically find very similar percentages of employee types in each of the cells. It is not simply that employees are of different types that accounts for perceptual differences and performance differences within organizations, rather it is how each employee as an individual views their treatment, and that is independent of position and most of the common demographics tracked within organizations.
You see there is a bit of a conundrum at work. While we are free to have different beliefs and values we are all still human and each of us have most of the same hopes and desires as any of our fellow humans. We may all have different fingerprints, but we all have fingerprints. Those issues that arise within organizations that create the new normal, the current conditions in which everyone must function, affect all within the organization and whether they view their own situation in a positive or negative light is driven by a myriad of factors that impinge on them in their organizational existence. Some of those factors are driven by the competence, tone and actions created at the top of the organization, others are more career and personally oriented, others depend on perceptions of how the organization is positioned competitively. In sum, the perceptions of both the organization’s future and one’s personal future matter in determining the attitude and performance of employees of all types.
One thing is certain. You can’t get maximal performance out of all of the employees of an organization by hanging onto myths and false beliefs that emphasize non-existent differences while at the same time ignoring those issues that actually matter.
© 2010 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com