Sunday, August 12, 2007

** The (12) Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner

This is Gallup's follow up to the outstanding "First Break All the Rules". I would highly recommend the former, but you can skip this book. There is very little new ground to cover here.

The 12 elements of management that make a difference that emerged from the Gallup research of over 1 million employee interviews over decades were: p xii
1. I know what is expected of me at work
2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work well
3. I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day
4. In the past 7 days, I have received recognition for doing good work
5. My supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person
6. There is someone who encourages my development
7. My opinions seem to count
8. The company’s mission makes me feel that my job is important
9. My fellow employees are committed to doing quality work
10. I have a best friend at work
11. In the past 6 months, someone has talked to me about my progress
12. This past year I had opportunities at work to learn and growth

The hidden cost of poor management: businesses with a surplus of disengaged workers suffer 31% more turnover than those with a critical mass of engaged employees… Engaged employees average 27% less absenteeism. P xiv

Element 1: Of the 12 elements, the first, knowing what is expected plays the largest role in generating money saving strategies. P4

Test if you’re group knows what to do: go around the room and ask this question ‘After introducing yourself, tell us how doing your job increases the profits for the company?’ p5

Hospitals whose staff scored in the lowest quartile on the ‘what is expected of them’ question suffer 21% more avoidable deaths than hospitals that score in the top quartile. P10

Element 2: Of the 12 elements, whether a person has the materials needed to do his work well is the strongest indicator of job stress. P23

Element 3: Imagine a group that plans to meet for lunch at the top of a mountain. There are 3 routes to the top. The first is a slow, winding path, while not steep, but it requires many miles of walking. The second is steeper and goes through the woods; requiring compass skills as well as greater stamina. The third route is almost straight up, climbing the rock face; it requires technical climbing skills, but it is the shortest route by far. If each member is allowed to choose their own path, and if each makes it safely in time for lunch, none of the routes can be said to be better than the other two. P41

Element 3: Managers of the best workgroups were more likely to spend a disproportionate amount of time with their high producers, match talents to task and emphasize individual strengths over seniority. P41

4th Element: “In the past week, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.” At any given company, it’s not uncommon to find between 20 to 33% of the people disagreeing with item… Variation is this element are responsible for 10 to 20% differences in productivity and revenue… Because of its power, ridiculously low cost, and rarity, this element is one of the greatest lost opportunities. P52

While waiting for the professor before the lecture, the students organized the class to use the instructor as a guinea pig. The more the professor moved to the right of the classroom, the more the students feigned boredom, looking at their watches or notes. The more he moved to the left, the more they perked up, nodding in agreement, participating in the discussion and chuckling at his comments… Something strange happened over het course of the lecture. The longer he lectured the more he favored the left side. He wasn’t really conscious of this growing preference. But by the end of the class, the instructor was nearly pinned against the left wall, inexplicably unsettled by the idea of only spending time on one side of the room. P53

5th Element: In high turnover businesses, workgroups in the lower quartile of ‘someone at work cares about me’ average 22% higher turnover than the top quartile. In organizations where turnover is less, the difference rises to 37%... An employee managed by someone of a different race is more inclined to consider resigning than someone supervised by someone of his own race, a high degree of this element corrects this racial gap. P67

When Odysseus departed for Troy, he left behind his faithful wife - Penelope, his son – Telemachus, and all his property. Homer wrote that Odysseus’ matters were left to an old friend… and that among his duties, the trusted friend was to advise, counsel and nurture Odysseus’ young son. The friend was said to have ‘regulated the whole course of Telemachus’ life in order to raise him to the highest pitch of glory.’ The advisor became symbolic of a basic human need, an idea that reverberates through the halls of business today. His name was Mentor. P79

6th element: On average 40% who feel neither their manager nor anyone else is looking out for their development, a mere 1% of these folks are able to achieve real engagement with their employer through the strength of the other 11 elements. Conversely 66% who report having someone at work who encourages their development are classified as engaged, and only 1% are actively disengaged. These statistics indicate that regardless of what else a company does, having a mentor is a fundamental part of the unwritten contract workers anticipate when they are hired. P81

A few companies even try to dictate to a company’s workgroups which of the 12 elements to work on each month of the year – 1st Element is January, 2nd is February and so on… making July particularly ironic as the month when company higher ups command employees to work to make their opinions count. P99

7th Element: Improving the proportion of employees with high ‘My opinion at work counts’ scores from 1 in 5 to 1 in 3 has a substantial impact on customer experience, productivity, retention, and safety, all of which create on average at 6% gain in profitability. Incorporating employee ideas pays back twice. First, the idea is often a good one. Second, that the idea comes from the employees makes it much more likely that they will be committed to its execution. P101

8th Element: Business units in the top quartile for ‘The mission of my company makes me feel that my job is important’ average 5 to 15% higher profitability than the bottom quartile, suffer 30 to 50% fewer accidents, and have 15 to 30% lower turnover. P111

If a job were just a job, it really wouldn’t matter where someone worked… The job would serve its function of putting food on the table, and money in the kids’ college accounts. But a uniquely human twist occurs after the basic needs are fulfilled. The employee searches for meaning in her vocation… She looks for her contribution to a higher purpose. P112

Companies routinely adopt high ideals as part of their mission: Lowes aims to offer everything a customer needs to beautify and enjoy their home; Kodak doesn’t sell film, it expands the ways images touch people’s daily lives; Kellogg’s aspires to make the world a little happier by bringing the best [breakfast cereal] to you, etc. p113

How important to you is the belief that your life is meaningful and has purpose? 83% said very important, and 15% said fairly important – meaning that 98% feel that this is important! And such a belief is important to a person’s psychological and physical health. P114.

33% of hospital workers give a low score to this element (when they have the blatantly obvious meaning of helping and saving lives!). Less than ½ of workers in any industry feel strongly connected to their organization’s quest. Only ¼ of workers in retail, finance, and manufacturing strongly agree the purpose of their company makes them feel that their job is important. P115

During a career everyone encounters at least a few people who strive to do the least they can without getting reprimanded. Few factors are more corrosive to teamwork than the employee who skates through life taking advantage of harder work from others. P128

The IRS discovered that the rate of compliance had no correlation with whether tax rates were going up, but rather they were influenced by whether their neighbors, relatives, friends planned to comply to the tax code. P129

9th Element: 1 in 3 employees strongly agrees that her associates are committed to doing quality work… When a team perceives that one its members is dragging its feet, this drops to 1 in 5. If a team is free of deadwood, this rises to 1 in 2… At an Australian bank, variation in this element accounts for a 14% difference in profitability. In food manufacturing, it accounts for a 51% range in accident rates. P130

10th. Less that 1/3 strongly agree that they have a best friend at work… In service industries, customer ratings of groups with a high score on the 10th element are 5 to 10% higher than those of the lower scored groups… People look out for their friends. They remind someone to put on the hard hat, to spot a hazard and rush to steady the ladder… A team that has 2/3’s of its members strongly agreeing they have a best friend at work averages 20% fewer accidents than a team with only 1/3 agreeing. P142

Those who say that TV is their primary form of entertainment are less likely to attend church, to write letters, to attend clubs, or to volunteer. They are however more likely to give someone the ‘finger’ while on the road. One sociologist contends that TV actually tricks the viewer into thinking they have more friends than they do… Watching certain types of TV shows increases the viewers’ satisfaction with friendships in exactly the same way as real socializing. Watching TV is our form of participating in groups because we don’t really know that we are not participating in them. P143

Less than ½ of full time workers put even one coworker on their list of closest friends. P144

Commuting to work is consistently one of the least enjoyable common activities – unless one commutes with a friend. Then it becomes one of the most enjoyable. P145

One astute manager inquires into the interests of his new employees and tries to start them in a dept where another employee shares the new recruit’s hobbies. P147

Providing personnel feedback (reviews) is like gambling in the stock market: on average you gain, yet the variance is such that you have a 40% chance of a loss following such feedback. P156

360 degree reviews inject a juicy aspect of gamesmanship into the process, allowing underlings and peers to fire back. Such systems are more likely to grade style rather than substance, usually focusing on weaknesses rather than strengths. Asking employees to assess themselves poses its own dilemma… You really end up portraying yourself in 1 of 2 ways a) self flagellating lummox dumb enough to enumerate weaknesses that can be used against you at a later date b) self aggrandizing egomaniac who thinks ‘no’ means ‘yes’… More troubling self evaluations are terribly flawed… The worst performers estimate their performance 30% higher than it actually is… If an employee is not talented, knowledgeable or skilled enough to do a good job, there’s a good chance he’s not talented, knowledgeable or skilled enough to know he’s blowing it, and floats around naively thinking everything is fine… While those at the top can accurately estimate their own performance in absolute terms, they err in their estimates of other people – consistently over estimating how well others are doing relative to them… These results show that it is imperative that managers, coaches, mentors hold up a mirror to an employee. P158

Responsibilities can be divided into 2 categories: promotion jobs that require someone to think expansively, looking for new opportunities; prevention jobs that require the workers to ensure that something negative does not happen. P159

A manager who focuses on his employee’s strengths essentially inoculates them from being actively disengaged. Those who focus on weaknesses get more polarized results; the strategy rarely works as well as a strengths based approach, but the manager gets credit for focusing on the individual. The worst performing managers were those who ignore their team altogether. ¼ of all employees and 2/3s of folks actively disengaged say their boss is in this asleep at the wheel category. P160

Business in the top quartile of the 11th element realize 10 to 15% higher productivity and 20 to 40% fewer accidents than bottom quartile units. Yet only ½ of the employees say that someone talked with them about their progress in the past 6 months. P161

Employees perform better when they are working towards a specific difficult to attain target than when they are told simply to do your best. What are commonly called stretch goals are psychologically invigorating and good for business. P174

When employees feel they are learning and growing, they work harder and more efficiently. This element has as particular strong connection with customer engagement and profitability. Units in the top quartile surpass their bottom quartile counterparts by 9% on customer satisfaction, and 10% on profitability. P175

Higher pay doesn’t guarantee greater engagement. We all know that money can’t buy love or happiness. It doesn’t necessarily buy engagement either. ‘The belief that high income is associated with good mood is widespread but illusory. High income earners are relatively satisfied with the lives, but are barely happier than other in moment to moment experience, tend to be more tense (more to lose perhaps?), & don’t spend more time in particularly enjoyable activities.’ P187

Some incentives can backfire, decreasing employee motivation. Paying for a small act communicates to the worker ‘You wouldn’t normally want to do this, so we’re going to pay you to do it.’ While logically the reward should be a further inducement, it instead decreases motivation. What is meant to be a bonus the mind unconsciously takes as a bribe… When children are asked to collect money for a charity, those who receive a higher reward do in fact collect more than those offered a smaller incentive. But children who receive no inducement other than the knowledge that they are doing something good collect more than either group… If a small payment is given to induce more blood donations, the number of people who show up is less than if there is no payment. The stipend turned a noble act of charity into a painful way to make a few bucks (and placed a meager value on your noble act)… The joy of doing the work, separate from pay, is what makes the 3rd, 4th, 8th, and 12th elements powerful. P188

Executives must choose if they want a workforce that thinks “I have to fight for every extra dollar they begrudgingly pay me!” or one that feels “If I look out for company, they will look out for me.” Simple questions reveal where you stand. If a talented person does something extraordinary will it her manager or herself who initiates the discussion of a raise? Does the company spend more to attract outside talent than to cultivate internal ones? Does the company realize it underpays only after someone else woos them away? P195

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

**** China Road by Rob Gifford

An enthralling and illuminating tale as you ride shotgun with NPR correspondent Rob Gifford along his nearly 3000 mile journey across the heart of China. The people, the geography, the food, politics and history all come alive - with a bit of humor . This is a must read for 2007.

Most westerners need to pay more attention to China’s problems because there could be crunch coming. The less the Communist Party deals with its pressing social problem and political problems now, the bigger that crunch will be if it comes. pXVII

Are the skills of Chinese software engineers really as good as those of their American counterparts?... Can you really become a player in the knowledge economy if you restrict your teaching and flow of knowledge? P70

The word democracy leads us to attribute certain advantages to India that don’t necessarily exist. Similarly the word dictatorship leads us to attribute terrible things to China that don’t necessarily exist there. P72

You’re twice as likely to lose a child in India before age 5 than in China… There is only a 60% chance that you can read, while in China the chance is 93%. If you are an adult woman, that goes down to 45% in India, and 87% in China. Per capita income is double in China than India’s. And life expectancy is 9 years lower in India (63 vs. 72). P73.

China has the highest rate of female suicide in the world, and it is the number 1 cause of death for women aged 18 to 34. p74

I find it scary that 2000 years of history might have done nothing to change the political system of a country. Imagine a Europe where the Roman Empire had never fallen, that still covered an area from England to North Africa and the Middle East, and was run by 1 man in Rome backed by a strong army. There you have roughly, ancient and modern China. P102

One reason why there is still so much attention paid to education in China and in all Confucian based societies is because there is no aristocracy, just as there is in the similarily meritocratic society of the US. Europe, where the university was historically a preparation for the church or finishing school for the hereditary upper classes. When I told people in Europe that I was going to attend graduate school in the US, the response was generally ‘Why? Haven’t you been in school long enough?’ No Chinese or American would ever ask such a question. P106

China produces 35% of the world’s coal, but reports 80% of the world’s mining deaths (over 5000 annually). And those just the ones reported. This is over 100 times the rate in America. P134

There is a dept of the Police that enforces the family planning laws in China. They go to the woman’s house and if she will not come, she is taken to the clinic by force. They make no exceptions, even if a woman is 8 months pregnant when discovered to have violated the rule. She is forced into giving birth to a still born (murdered) baby from her womb. P180

Some Chinese characters are made of interesting combinations of radicals (picture symbols). A pig under a roof is the character for home. A woman with a son is the character for good. P236