Strathern’s Law states that “when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
Seth Godin put it in terms that E&C professionals can appreciate: “As soon as we try to manipulate behaviors to alter a measure, it’s no longer useful.”
Just think of Wells Fargo’s “Eight is Great!”. Need I say more?
If you use metrics at work (and you do), ask yourself why they are in place:
- Are you trying to identify pain points, and allocate resources to alleviate the pain? Or,
- Are you trying to change behavior?
If the sole (or primary) purpose of your metric is to encourage or discourage a particular behavior, you may be headed for trouble.
The man who saved over 1,000 people from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda is now facing life in prison for criticizing his country’s president.
Paul Rusesabagina’s heroism was captured in the movie Hotel Rwanda. His humanitarian actions are known and praised all over the world. With such notoriety, one would think that he’d be untouchable. Yet, while in exile, he was tricked into boarding a flight to Rwanda, and then cowardly accused of terrorism. After the charges were filed, his attorney was forced to leave the country. This his happening in plain sight, and no one seems able to right this wrong.
If such a man can suffer retaliation, imagine how one of your front-line employee feels when deciding to report wrongdoing they’ve observed. They are not famous. They do not have powerful allies. What can you possibly say to this employee to convince them that all will be well in the end?
Nothing, really. But you can show them how you try to prevent retaliation, and how you don’t tolerate retaliation when it happens.
Do this over and over again, and you just might give someone the courage to speak up.
Yesterday we saw yet another story of fake vaccination cards being sold.
In the early days, cards were sold in person for about $20. Now they are sold for as much as $200 on the internet.
With one vaccine now fully approved by the FDA, many employers are requiring employees to be vaccinated. It is safe to assume that some employees will attempt to circumvent this requirement by producing fake vaccination cards.
What should the discipline be in such cases? To find out, it helps to ask the question “Is this a breach of performance or a breach of trust?” A breach of performance is often easily remedied with training or a second chance. Not so for breaches of trust. In such cases, we need to ask ourselves “Can I trust this person again? Can I trust this person with the job I gave them? If they were willing to lie about this, what else could they be lying about? Am I allowing them to put others at risk?”
A breach of trust often leads to termination. Is your organization prepared to do so with fake vaccination card?
Zappos famously considers itself a service company that happens to sell shoes.
What if all companies sought to serve first?
What if all companies sought to serve ethically, with the product being secondary?
Imagine what your day would be like if your newspaper, your grocery store, your car mechanic, your lawyer, your mortgage broker and your clothe shop all sought to serve first.
What is better than sending your teenager to a driving class? Also telling her what to do when she gets into a fender bender and gets a ticket. What’s better than that? Role-playing the incident two or three times until she gets it right.
Similarly in the workplace, we should not only teach employees about rules and values, we should also teach them what to do when they observe wrongdoing. Better yet, we should role-play the actual reporting process. It’s easy to say “If you see something, say something.” It’s a lot harder to actually do it, especially if you’ve never done it before.
Most drivers will get into a minor accidents. Most employees will observe wrongdoing. Why not prepare them?
HT to Seth Godin and Mary Gentile.
What are you looking for after you discover wrongdoing in your organization?
Are you just looking for who did it and how they did it? Or perhaps you even try to find out why they did it? But what about looking for all the factors that contributed to the why?
At Flex, those responsible for the new ethics scorecard are doing just that. Part of each investigation is to identify contributing factors over which they have some control. Factors such as defective air conditioning at a site, or poor cafeteria services. Some of us might disregard such factors and consider them irrelevant. But are they, really?
When wrongdoing occurs, we can lay the blame entirely on the employee. Or we can make room for contributing factors created by the company itself. The second option is more plausible, more empowering, and more likely to change the culture in a positive way.
Some people never conduct a risk assessment. Others do, but they ignore the findings.
The tragedy of Surfside, Florida could have been avoided. The problems and the solutions were clearly identified. Yet, action was unduly delayed.
If you are not getting your annual physical, if you don’t get your brakes checked, if you don’t have an estate plan, book your appointment today. And, at work, if you don’t conduct a risk assessment for your business, plan one immediately.
Then, perhaps more importantly, act on the findings.
It could save your life.
If you had access to a time machine today, would you want to go back to the workplace of the ’60s?
What if you are a woman? Or Black? Or transgender?
In a recent interview, Neil deGrasse Tyson said (at 1:52:00) that if you are an oppressed minority and can time travel, there is no time in the past that was better for you than this moment, despite all the problems we are facing today. Go into the future, because the arc of history bends toward justice.
So our mandate is clear. We must work each day to create a world that is more just than yesterday. And by “we”, I mean everybody. Those in the majority just as much, if not more, than those in minorities. Let’s build a world where those born in the next ’60s have no desire to travel back to today.
You’ve been asked to work on a project that will impact another function in your company (or more than one function).
You could go at it alone but you know that those impacted will resent your lack of cooperation after you launch your project.
A better approach is to ask them for feedback before you launch. The problem with this approach is that it may be difficult and costly for you to make necessary changes at the tail end.
Better yet is to involve the other functions from the start. Announce your nascent project by email and invite all interested functions to nominate a representative to work with you. Set some gates along the way to ensure that everyone is aligned. Assign key tasks to the functions most impacted by those tasks. These additional steps might appear to slow you down but remember: slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. By involving the right people, you significantly reduce the risk of failure. More importantly, you make allies.
Nothing of significance is ever achieved by a single person.