Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.
Appraisals are one of the least enjoyed aspects of organisational life: few people enjoy conducting them and still fewer like attending them. Often they are done badly and many times this is largely due to a poor internal process, supported by weak (or absent) training and confounded by other pressing business priorities.
So an important part of career development, skills acquisition, organisational growth and good governance, gets squeezed into 25 minutes of of a rushed conversation, ticking of boxes and a superficial assessment followed by formulaic goal setting, stipulating weak goals.
I have only one message for this module:
‘Performance Appraisal is Important’
So give it the preparation and the time it deserves, do it well – by asking good questions, and listening hard. Whether your internal process is good, bad or absent, make it your priority to sit down with your team members at least quarterly and discuss openly:
what they have done
how each of you assesses their performance
what you each want from the next period and for the next one to three years
what goals will help them achieve these
what their realistic and stretch prospects are
It is not neuroscience, rocket science nor even high school chemistry. Doing a good appraisal requires only two things:
That you care
That you deploy a dose of common sense
Polemic Over: Onto Process
Your organisation will have its own specific process. Frank Scott-Lennon gives us a good generic one in the Appraisals Pocketbook.
We have already covered the tools you need, earlier in the Pocket Correspondence course, so work your way back through…
It is a cliché to assert that technology is ubiquitous in the workplace. Yesterday’s innovations will eventually become today’s commonplace tools. So, we all live with and easily manage technology our great grandparents would have found strange and maybe alarming. But some of us are comfortable with the very latest creations – those that will only be deeply familiar to the coming generations. And we might describe these people as having a high TQ: a high Technology Quotient.
The Big Idea, ‘Technology Quotient’ takes its inspiration from IQ, Intelligence Quotient. But what does it measure and is it a useful concept?
Organisational life revolves around performance monitoring and measuring. Often it’s a single person who will assess your performance. But what if they had access to the observations of all sorts of people who work with you in different ways? That’s the big idea that 360 Degree Feedback represents.
The idea and practice of 360 degree feedback has been through rises and falls since it first appeared in the 1950s. And it really took off in the 1990s. But it is as important today as it’s ever been. So, let’s examine 360 degree feedback from a number of angles.
ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning is nothing more than a big piece of software. It sits at the centre of big organisations, handling lots of important tasks.
More recently, smaller scale ERP applications have come onto the market. These allow new and small businesses to get the benefits of linked back office functions. This is due, in large part, to the availability of managed, cloud-based software.
Psychologists and, before them, philosophers have spent centuries trying to divide us into types. Whilst their attempts have had somewhat less of the hocus-pocus and downright prejudice to them than the racial typographies of some early ethnographers, many systems have advanced little beyond Hippocrates’ theory of four temperaments based on the bodily humours.
Rigour in Personality Testing
It wasn’t until the twentieth century that scientists had the statistical tools to analyse and understand personality with any rigour. Even so, the strongest, most widely used personality classification system – the so-called ‘Big Five’ Personality Factors – is still a matter of much research and debate as we reach approach the third decade of the twenty first century.
So perhaps the biggest change that the twentieth century wrought was not in reliability, but in accessibility and application. Personality assessment tools became widely popular and, through the second half of that century, widely used in workplaces to support selection, group development, team-building, personal development, marital counselling, and a range of other uses. Not all of the uses have been endorsed by the developers of these tools. And not all tools are widely supported by the more rigorously trained academic community of psychology.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
And so we come to Katherine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs-Myers. Their tool, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, is very widely used. Every day, trainers and development professionals introduce it to new cohorts of staff and managers. These employees often take full self-evaluation questionnaire and are then told what this means about them and their colleagues.
The moments of insight are a joy to watch. The MBTI certainly seems to capture something of our personality, and explain something of our behaviours. But does it? This remarkably resilient and successful tool started through nothing less than a mother’s desire to understand her daughter’s choice of husband. What mother can’t empathise with that?
Katherine Cook Briggs
Katherine Cook was born in Michigan, in 1875 and was home schooled. Her father was an academic. She went to college to study agriculture and stayed on as a teacher and academic. She married prominent physicist and administrator, Lyman Briggs.
As her daughter grew up, Briggs became interested in children’s educational and social development. This led her to create a vocation test for children, which she thought could guide a child’s future well-being. This thinking focused on four personality types: meditative, spontaneous, executive, and sociable. These are still present among the wider set of 16 MBTI types.
Her quest was to find one unifying theory, and she considered ideas from many philosophers, scientists, and psychologists. Her own big breakthrough was when she discovered the work of Carl Jung. He advocated for four principal psychological functions by which we experience the world: sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking. This, along with our orientations to extroversion or introversion, give us the Jungian Personality Types, which Briggs and her daughter developed into their own type indicator model.
Isabel Briggs was born in 1897, and was home schooled by her mother. Following her mother’s discovery of Jung’s work, Briggs-Myers (now married) became interested in the work too, focusing on how character and personality influence the type of work we might thrive in. Together, they developed their framework and the questionnaire that goes with it. They began a long program of observation and discussion, refining their interpretation of Jung’s work.
During World War II, Briggs Myers wanted to help reduce conflict among people, but more pragmatically also to understand why some people hated their jobs in the military and others thrived.
It wasn’t until 1945 that they did some solid empirical research. With the help of Lyman Briggs, they ran their first MBTI assessment on around 5,500 George Washington Medical School students. Briggs Myers studied the results for years, searching for patterns among dropouts and successful students.
The Outcome of the Work
Briggs was the primary driving force and inspiration behind the creation of the MBTI from Jung’s original work. Briggs-Myers created the physical test itself, and did the work on validation and interpretation.
The result was one of the best-known and widely used personality tools, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Wikipedia reports that an estimated 50 million people have taken the MBTI. Whilst it is not widely endorsed by the academic community, and is based on largely desk-research and theorisation, rather than empirical trials, the MBTI remans popular. This is doubtless due to the ease of superficial understanding.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – MBTI
The MBTI classifies personality types along four pairs of categories. Briggs-Myers and Briggs claimed that we all fit into one of the 16 possible combinations of personality type, and that we have a dominant preference in each pair.
The Type Indicator is a test to assess which personality type offers the ‘best fit’ with the assertion that knowing your personality type that will help you succeed in life. The three original pairs of preferences from Jung’s typology (Extraversion and Introversion, Sensing and Intuition, Thinking and Feeling) are supplemented by a fourth pair (Judging and Perceiving), added by Briggs-Myers.
This is a phenomenally rich model and there are many excellent resources online. So here, we’ll only attempt a very superficial outline of the types.
Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
This axis refers to where where we get our energy from, and where we direct our attention. This can be on people and things in the outer world; extraversion. Or it can be on ourselves and our inner world; introversion.
Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
This axis refers to how we like to deal with information. People with a Sensing preference tend to focus on the basic information, whilst the Intuiting type prefers to interpret the information, and add meaning.
Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
This axis refers to how we like to make decisions. Thinkers like to make objective decisions, using logic and rationality. The feeling style is more subjective, considering special circumstances, and how people feel.
Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
This axis refers to how we like to dealt with experiences and circumstances. The judging style prefers to make a choice, and stick with it. The Perceiver likes to stay open to new information and options, and respond flexibly.
Assessment of the MBTI
The MBTI correlates poorly with more robustly researched psychological traits or types models, like the Big Five Personality factors. So why do so many people readily endorse their MBTI type? The answer, I think, lies in a combination of two factors.
Firstly, while not a strong correlation with rigorous typographies, it is derived from extensive observation and the factors that make up the MBTI undeniably exist – regardless of whether they are truly the ‘right’ fundamental elements of personality.
And secondly, we have our old friend, the Forer Effect. This is the tendency of people to rate sets of statements as highly accurate for them personally even though the statements are highly general and could apply to many people. If this sounds worrying, it is. The Forer Effect (sometimes known as the Barnum Effect (after showman and huckster PT Barnum) is also the basis of much mentalism and fraudulent cold reading.
The MBTI definitely has value as a personal and executive development tool. But if the trainers and specialists who deploy it do not make its limitations clear, they are doing your organisation a disservice.
What will work be like in the future, and how will we respond to it? These are big questions being asked by the influential and much respected Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School, Lynda Gratton. The answers she is uncovering are both obvious and important. We won’t know if her work is ‘right’ until the future arrives, but for now, we would be wise to understand the trends Gratton is uncovering, and respond to them.
Lynda Gratton was born in 1955 and, grew up, and was educated in the north west of England, in Liverpool. She gained her BSc in Psychology from Liverpool University in 1976 and started work there on her PhD. In 1979, she started work with British Airways as Chief Psychologist, while continuing her doctoral studies into Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. She was awarded her PhD in 1981 and, in the following year moved to management consulting firm PA Consulting.
She stayed at PA until 1989, becoming their youngest Director at age 32. But Gratton valued the autonomy to create time to read, think, and be with her family above the high salary. So she took a post as an Assistant Professor at the London Business School in 1989.
We need to start our summary of Gratton’s most important thinking with the forces she identifies as driving change in the world. I think each of us might add one or two of our own, but it is hard to dispute that each of these five will have a big impact. What gives her list credibility is the wide range of big name organisations that collaborated in her research.
Some of the big developments she points out that will affect us (and some of the other forces, below) are:
Cognitive assistants (advanced knowledge systems moving towards artificial intelligence)
Cloud and distributed computing – especially linked to mobile devices
Digitisation of knowledge
At some point she projects (as do many computer scientists) connected computers will start to become capable of creating knowledge without human help. (Note that this is not the same as the potential ‘singularity event’ of computers gaining consciousness, which is at another tier of speculation)
Here we can see trends like labour force mobility, especially in the direction of mega cities that are, increasingly, in the East. This is feeling and fuelled by the emergence of the new economies; the so called BRIC and MINT nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey – along with other less acronymed nations like South Korea and Egypt). Many of the new dominant player will bring new cultural and societal norms to the world of work.
Demographic Changes (and increasing longevity)
The biggest changes will be shifts in life expectancy and the struggles of Western nations in particular to meet expectations around retirement. But as populations age and birth rates decline in the presently less developed nations, the same effect could have far greater implications.
There are so many trends here – many linked intimately with technology, globalisation and demographics. Women’s social and economic power cannot (and should not) do anything but rise. Freelance work will increase to take advantage of technology and meet the caring needs of people with ageing relatives. Predictions of the demise of family life or the increase in attention given to families from home-based workers seem the most confused – but then the future may not yield neat categories.
The need to shift to a low Carbon economy to protect the world from rising atmospheric CO2 levels and the inevitable devastating consequences of the global climate changes it will drive will increasingly dominate our futures. This will have complex economic impacts – but nothing compared to what will happen if oceans rise substantially and crops fail around the world. I’d like to see Gratton give more attention to the consequences of water stress and the geopolitical impacts of large mismatches of water availability and need that we can readily predict.
The Three Shifts we can Expect to See in our Lives
These are big forces and Gratton envisages three big shifts in our lives.
There are too many generalists, so the law of supply and demand will crush their economic value. This will drive a shift to in-depth mastery and narrow specialisation of workers. We can easily see how she comes to this conclusion, as the five forces combine to drive and facilitate this shift.
Linked to this is the need and increasing ability for workers to connect with one another globally. She thinks our work lives will become less competitive and more collaborative. Gratton coins two interesting concepts:
Your narrow group of close collaborators, whom she calls ‘the Posse’
Your wider group of loosely connected working relationships, which she refers to as ‘the Big Ideas Crowd’
Quality of Experience
From my point of view, her third shift is the most parochial: a move from focusing on standard of living to the quality of our experiences. In Gratton’s timeframe of now to 2025, I doubt this will be a major trend outside the wealthiest parts of the world (and, even here, it may only apply to the wealthy middle and affluent classes). The displacement of work by machines has been heralded for over 100 years and the rise of hedonistic society for many hundreds. I’d like to buy into this one, but it feels most like a consumer business driven rehash of an old trope (Sorry Lynda).
The Five Impacts this will have on Organisations
What I do one hundred per cent buy into is Gratton’s assessment of the big impacts these shifts and forces will have on global-scale organisations. Small, local organisations will lag behind, but even they will need eventually to bow to some of these changes.
Connectivity will drive the need for more transparent leadership of our corporations (while many will fight it, fearing the impact of consumer reactions). This will need a more authentic style of leadership from individuals throughout those organisations.
Cross border, cross timezone working has grown up over the last 20 years, and will increase. From my perspective, real, empirical research in how to drive high performance from virtual teams is still lagging this trend. This is a hard question, because we evolved to co-operate in small, intimate, and geographically contained teams. We need to find ways to optimise our reactions to an alien environment.
Cross Business Networks
‘Social Capital’is not just something we acquire as individuals, Gratton suggests. Corporations need connectivity to drive innovation and profitability. I predict that these wider eco-systems may yet morph into the dystopian mega-corporations and global cartels of science fiction.
Partnering with consumers and entrepreneurs
As more workers become independent freelancers, and consumers become more savvy about what they want, corporations will increasingly need to extend their relationships to more fully engage with them.
You didn’t see this one coming, did you? (Joke) If social, demographic, and lifestyle preferences are shifting, then so too will work patterns. And this will require flexibility from employers.
Lynda Gratton at TEDx
Hear Lynda Gratton talking about how to be ready for the future now, at a TEDx event at the London business School in 2012.
Work-Life Balance has been a buzz-phrase that I have been aware of since the mid-1990s. And we no longer (in the West) think of work as somehow ‘walled-off’ from the rest of life. But this wasn’t always so. At the forefront of charting the shifts in the relationship of working life and home life through the twentieth and into the twenty first century, has been Lotte Bailyn.
Very Short Biography
Lotte Lazersfeld was born in Vienna, in 1930, into a Jewish family. In 1937, as a young child, she travelled to the US with her father, to flee Nazi persecution. Her mother, Marie Jahoda, went to England. Lotte studied Maths at Swarthmore College and then entered Harvard in 1951, where she studied Social Psychology, earning an MA and PhD. She married historian Bernard Bailyn.
She spent many years struggling to gain a full time academic post before being appointed, in 1972, to the faculty of the MIT Sloan School of Management. Between 1997 and 1999, she chaired the faculty T Wilson (1953) Professor of Management, Emerita.
Bailyn’s research interest is the intersection of work and home lives. This necessarily involves her in the issue of gender at work, because of the disproportionate role that women play in care-giving. She is therefore interested in the impact this has on women’s careers.
Her first book, however, focused on the way male engineers who put more time into their families and communities were under-valued by their companies, despite enhanced people and relationship skills. Living with Technology: Issues at Mid-career was published in 1980.
Bailyn’s research consistently shows that long hours actually hinder productivity and creativity. Employers can maximise their success by encouraging maximum flexibility of work scheduling, by creating motivated employees. She argues that senior leaders need to recognise that their path to the top will not be the right path in the future: the ideal worker is no longer one who will put in long hours, attend meetings at the drop of a hat, and put their family and community in a clear second place.
Instead, organisations need to shed what Joan Williams has called ‘flexibility stigma’ and embrace what Bailyn calls the ‘dual agenda’: that we thrive best when we are able to meet our personal and business needs at the same time. This is particularly important for low wage workers whose shift scheduling can be changed at short notice, creating havoc with care arrangements. Unsurprisingly, this results in low morale, reduced productivity, and absenteeism. Bailyn finds that predictability of working hours is highly valued. Unpredictability is a more significant factor than long hours.
Her conclusion is that the presence of flexible working policies is nowhere near enough. It is the extent to which organisations see them as a positive asset to be exploited, rather than a burden to be managed. We all need to recognise that our lives outside work are intimately intermingled with our working lives. They influence our attitudes, capabilities and, ultimately, our productivity.
This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.
Let me be frank: I hate the term ‘induction’. At best it sounds like something from my undergraduate electromagnetic field theory lectures: at worst, it sounds like an obstetric procedure. So why do we use it to refer to the process of welcoming a new staff member or volunteer to our organisation, and giving them the preparation they need, so they can fit in, feel at home, and contribute as soon as possible?
How you welcome people into your organisation and into their team can have a big impact on their performance. Use the process to set expectations, but do it gently. Far better to demonstrate the behaviours and attitudes you expect, and involve real role models, with top performance, in welcoming new staff, than to inflict a heavy handed set of cosy chats and dreary PowerPoint presentations.
Trickier still is the task of bringing in new joiners are new to the world of work, because they are school leavers, graduates, long-term unemployed, or returners. What can you do to smooth their transition to productive contribution and fitting in?
In preparing for their arrival and during their first months, here are three things you can do:
Shortly before arrival, write to them to welcome them and, when they arrive, have someone to welcome them and show them around. An “induction programme” sounds scary – a welcome programme is far more… welcoming.
Give them a buddy
Ask an established colleague to act as their buddy to show them the ropes and answer questions. Allow time for them to meet their buddy frequently in the first few weeks.
Ensure they have the skills they need
Sit down with them and identify what skills they need, to do their job well. Where their experience has left gaps, plan a response, combining on-the-job and off-line training, coaching and mentoring, regular feedback, and formal learning.
My preference for creating a really good welcome is to pair each new joiner with a recent joiner. To give them some time to go out for a good coffee, where they can discuss the most valuable programme of learning about the joiner’s new role. What they need to see, who they need to meet, and what they need to learn. Empower the transition buddy to arrange whatever is necessary, from enrolling the joiner on a training course, to letting them work-shadow people in other parts of the business, to meeting the CEO. This kind of tailored experience gives real responsibility to the new joiner to get started effectively, and will give the recent joiner a new set of insights into the organisation.
If you want to take less of a risk and make sure you cover all of the bases, try the terribly named but well-written Induction Pocketbook.
This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.
The Pocketblog has covered one part of the recruitment process in great detail: Interviewing. In our three-part series: ‘The New Manager’s Guide to Interviewing’, we covered:
Lets now look at the whole process, as a series of questions.
Question 1: Do you have a vacancy?
Not as obvious as it may seem. In current times, it will serve you well to look at alternatives to just ‘filling a perceived gap’. And if there is a genuine gap, is it a full-time vacancy or should it be either joined with another or be seen as a part-time role? If there is a vacancy to fill…
Question 2: What shape is the hole?
What sort of skills, experience, personal traits do you require to make the very best appointment? Consult widely on this and consider a range of perspectives, before drawing up a job description and person specification, against which to recruit. Review your documents with some further people to confirm that your expectations are reasonable. If your person spec requires Wonderwoman or Superman, then think again: they may not be available at the moment.
Question 3: Do we need to recruit?
Before considering a recruitment process, think about the pros and cons of appointing from among ‘nearby’ staff. This can be quicker, less expensive, and lower risk. But it can also entrench biases and unproductive habits. This is a difficult decision and needs to be made in the context of internal policies and external regulation. If you do choose to recruit…
Question 4: How will we find the best applicants?
Will you do a search for the right people, or will you advertise and hope they find you? Will you search or advertise internally, externally, or both? What media will you use to advertise and what will your advert contain? How will you portray your organisation in general and the role in particular? Then you need to create the advert, or the search brief.
Question 5: What process will you put your applicants through?
The quality of your process will determine the quality of your decision at the end of it – and therefore the result. The process needs to give applicants every opportunity to show all of the assets they could bring to the role, so you can identify who offers the most. It also needs to ensure that the best applicant will want the role at the end of the process. Recruitment is sales. The process will doubtless have stages:
a long list of good applications to be reviewed in depth
a shortlist of applicants to go through some form of interview or selection process
a small final list of excellent candidates to go through a last stage before decision-making
Question 6: How will you close the deal?
When you get the right candidate, you need to notify them, negotiate terms like salary and start date, and then notify other candidates. Do this well and unsuccessful applicants will still want to work for you. Get it wrong and they will be glad they failed and tell everyone they know.
Question 7: How will you welcome them on board?
This is where recruitment becomes employment – and we will look at the induction process next week.
In this Jubilee year, we let you into The Management Secrets of Queen Elizabeth II. Sadly, advance orders for the Modern Monarch’s Pocketbook have been disappointing (we just received our third, with the same address as the last) and we are holding back on publication until orders pick up.
Another big event for us was the launch of our Management Pocketblog 100 Day Challenge. We know (from orders) that some of you took it up. Please do tell us (on the blog page comments) about your experiences. If you have not yet, it is not too late to take up the challenge.
Our blogs about Bruce Tuckman’s model of Group Development (Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing) continue to be the most heavily read. In February, we provided a link to all four of them.
And finally… Pocketblog honoured two sad losses this year: Neil Armstrong, the astonishingly humble all-American/all-global hero; and Stephen Covey, who wrote one of the very best of the best personal effectiveness book: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Coming Next Year
Pocketblog is nearly 3 years old (we started on 23 February 2010) and has chalked up over 150 posts to date. It’s time for a little refresh. So 2013 will see a new style of Pocketblog. Not a radical departure: more of a shift in emphasis.
Next year, we’ll be presenting our Management Pocket-Correspondence Course. Over the course of the year, we’ll be blogging about the full range of management skills in a structured way. Why not Subscribe to the Blog by email (towards the top of the column to the right of this) to receive them all in your inbox.
From everyone at Management Pocketbooks…
Have a very merry Christmas,
and a happy and healthy New Year.