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Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

by Mark Deavall

I was visiting with a client today when he told me a sad but familiar story. We had been having a problem connecting for the last few weeks due to some quite serious labour unrest that he was taking care of at his place of employment. I asked him what this unrest was all about, so over a cup of tea, he told me the story. Keep reading, it gets really interesting.

This particular business is in the manufacturing industry, and employs around 500 workers. Their factory staff fall under an agreement that states that they work 40 hours per week and anything over that is classed as overtime. The rest of the employees, warehouse, admin, transport etc, fall under a separate agreement that states that they work 45 hours per week. Now the merits of this arrangement are not the point, so read on.

These agreements have been in place for many years. Suddenly, the “other” (non-factory) staff decided that they did not want to work a 45 hour week anymore, and wanted to work a 40 hour week instead. After initial negotiations were held, they declared a dispute, and summarily started to work a 40 hour week. In summary, those are the facts.

I now ask myself this question – what happened, that after all these years of these agreements being in place and working fine - to make these workers dissatisfied with the hours that they were working? Was it the working conditions? Was it the benefits that they were receiving? What was it? The answer is very simple and lies with the culture that exists amongst our workforce, and that we as business started a long time ago, and still propagate today. We have fostered a culture of “minimum standards is the goal”.

In 2007, in the world competitiveness report, out of 55 so called industrialized nations, we ranked number 50. Not an auspicious achievement at all. Especially when you look at who our running mates were that came after us – Croatia, Venezuela etc. What is even more shocking is that in 2006, we were ranked number 38! In one year we slipped 12 places. And all because we pay for a person’s presence at work and their adherence to minimum standards. I haven’t seen the world competitiveness figures for 2009 yet, but I shudder to think where we place now!

So now it stands to reason that all that this “culture” does, is to make people think of ways of doing less work and lowering the minimum standards, and all this for more money! All that wonderful creativity, motivation and initiative that our workforce has, is being used to figure out how to do less for more! We need to harness these qualities of creativity, motivation and initiative to get our workforce to make minimum standards the starting line!” Most companies depend on a Performance Management system to try and achieve this.

So here is the truth. Performance Management systems don’t manage performance. Managers manage performance. What a Performance Management system does is to raise an awareness of performance for around two weeks prior to the worker’s performance appraisal, and for about a week after that. What a Performance Management system really is, is a Performance Measurement system. It collates the results of the Performance Management done by the managers.

It’s the manager’s job to get their staff to see minimum standards as the starting line! It’s the manager’s job to get the worker’s creative attention off “how can I work less for more money”, and on to “how can I earn more by producing more?” This is the minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day job of the manager. In other words, a manager’s job goes “beyond performance management”.

So to get back to the client I visited today. The problem has come about because they have people working at that company that are “job description” focused instead of “responsibility” focused. People will always work down to a job description, but always up to a responsibility. Toyota never had the goal of being the biggest car manufacturer in the world, but they got there anyway through fostering a culture of “continuous improvement” in every single one of their employees. In fact this was one of each employee’s performance criteria!

Let’s work on getting our staff “responsibility” focused where minimum standards is the starting line and continuous improvement the goal. Let’s get their creativity, imagination and initiative working on ways to earn more through being more productive.

I trust that you have found benefit in this article. If you would like to contact me or have me talk to the people in your company, please call me on 27 11 609-1264, or e-mail me.

This article is protected by international copyright law. If you would like to copy this article for any reason, please be sure to copy the entire article including this line.

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