Adhering to agreed standards
post # 447 — October 11, 2007 — a Strategy and the Fat Smoker post
Adhering to agreed standards
If sticking to diet and exercise programs is difficult for an individual, the challenge is exponentially more difficult for a group. Agreements on group strategy might be reached, but there is always the problem of ensuring that everyone (powerful people included) act in ways consistent with the strategy.
The most basic (and blunt) instruments for achieving this are pay schemes (reward the right behavior) and terminations (fire those who donâ€™t act in ways consistent with the strategy.) It is amazing how many firms still rely just on those two tools.
A third approach is to try and establish agreement on â€œvalues,â€ achieving performance consistency through â€œideological influence.â€
To make this approach work, it must be recognized that something is a value if and only if you are willing to enforce it. A value is NOT a high aspiration you plan to strive for (that’s a dream). A value is a non-negotiable minimum standard to which everyone has agreed to comply.
However, the agreement alone is clearly insufficient. To have values, there must be a system for responding to and eliminating non-compliance. Such a system would, preferably, begin gently with a closed-door office visit from a group leader (or manager) and a counseling session to provide help would result.
If this does not induce compliance within a finite time, then the group must be prepared to contemplate exit — asking people who do not live up to standards to leave.
However, I am continually surprised when firm and group leaders tell me they donâ€™t have the time to (a) spot non-compliance with standards and (b) devote the time to help people who are not meeting standards get back on track.
Without having this time available to manage, they are thrown back on using the pay scheme to deal with egregious departures from standards, and no system for dealing with minor departures.
The question then gets posed: what else can a group or firm do to ensure that its standards are, in fact executed? Beyond, pay, termination and managerial attention, what else is there?
Some groups try to argue that peer pressure can create a culture, even if no one person has the responsibility (and time) to monitor (and follow up on) the new behaviors.
Iâ€™m skeptical. Peer pressure can work to sustain a culture but is weak when introducing a new standard,
For example, in the face of the war for talent, many organizations want their senior people to live to higher standards in coaching, supervising and mentoring juniors. But if itâ€™s left to the group to police itself in this â€œnewâ€ behavior, I think it unlikely that higher standards of excellence will result. More likely would be a â€œyou forgive me and Iâ€™ll forgive youâ€ culture.
As we know, new (visible) scorecards can help. Even if there is not managerial time to spot and follow up on non-compliance, a new metric tracking the new behavior (if appropriately visible) can create the incentive to change.
But still I get asked â€œWhat else?â€ We know what we should do, my clients say, weâ€™ve agreed among ourselves to do it, but we donâ€™t have the managerial culture that allows group leaders to spend time monitoring the group.(!)
So, they ask, what else can we do?
What would YOU say?