Microsoft jettisoned its version of “rank and yank” last week; a practice of forced rankings that resulted in internal power struggles and unhealthy competition. Leave it to us humans to take a good idea and turn it into its opposite. A good example is “management by objectives,” Peter Drucker’s idea to improve individual communications, but which has become a stick to assign tasks and get compliance. That was not at all its original intent. Which brings us back to “rank and yank” which was based on a leadership approach promulgated by Jack Welch to communicate a very clear picture of where an organization is going (its mission) and the behaviors critical to getting there (its values,) followed by clear and candid feedback about how well each person is helping the organization. Nice, except the forced ranking of people got all the attention instead of the original intent. The same is true for performance reviews in many organizations which do nothing to improve performance because the real purpose is to dole out the merit increase budget.
In each of these examples, the real value and original intent were lost. When you launch a new practice in your organization, be vigilant to make sure it’s purpose isn’t hijacked.
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