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The Keys to Forming Effective Teams

America loves teams and team players, even outside of sports. What’s not to love? Team players are selfless—they set aside their personal goals and focus their talents on coordinating efforts with their fellow team members to achieve a common goal. Teams personify cooperation and collaboration and synergistic effort. And, of course, we’ve all been taught that teams inevitably generate better outcomes than individuals do.

So it’s good to be on a team, and teams do good work, which means teams and teamwork are iconic realities of life in America—socially, educationally and professionally. It really doesn’t matter whether you are a toddler, a college student, a retail clerk or a corporate executive, today you regularly find yourself slotted onto teams (or onto committees or into small groups) where you are expected to behave like a good team player.

And how does a good team player behave? According to leadership coach Joel Garfinkle, “You just need to be an active participant and do more than your job title states. Put the team’s objectives above yours and take the initiative to get things done without waiting to be asked.” He identifies five characteristics that make a team player great:

  1. Always reliable
  2. Communicates with confidence
  3. Does more than asked
  4. Adapts quickly and easily
  5. Displays genuine commitment

Seems obvious, but think of your most recent team experiences. Were your team members behaving that way? Were you? Not likely, and J. Richard Hackman, a former professor of social and organizational psychology at Harvard University and a leading expert on teams, knows why. When interviewed by Diane Coutou for a 2009 Harvard Business Review article (Why Teams Don’t Work), he said:

Research consistently shows that teams underperform, despite all the extra resources they have. That’s because problems with coordination and motivation typically chip away at the benefits of collaboration.

Problems with coordination and motivation interfering with team collaboration and performance—doesn’t that sound like a rather modest challenge that could be resolved with more effective team management? Sure, to a certain extent. Teams are often too large; they are thoughtlessly staffed (proximity and position rather than proven talents and ability to produce results); and they are routinely launched with murky objectives, vague group member accountabilities and no formal support network for team process management. In other words, most teams don’t meet the five basic conditions Hackman, in his book Leading Teams, said teams require to perform effectively:

  1. Teams must be real. People have to know who is on the team and who is not. It’s the leader’s job to make that clear.
  2. Teams need a compelling direction. Members need to know, and agree on, what they’re supposed to be doing together. Unless a leader articulates a clear direction, there is a real risk that different members will pursue different agendas.
  3. Teams need enabling structures. Teams that have poorly designed tasks, the wrong number or mix of members or fuzzy and unenforced norms of conduct invariably get into trouble.
  4. Teams need a supportive organization. The organizational context—including the reward system, the human resource system and the information system—must facilitate teamwork.
  5. Teams need expert coaching. Most executive coaches focus on individual performance, which does not significantly improve teamwork. Teams need coaching as a group in team processes, especially at the beginning, midpoint and end of a team project.

But there’s another challenge, and it is presented by the people who don’t want to be team players. People who, when added to a team, immediately focus their attention and effort not on being a good team player but instead on dodging work, avoiding exposure and manipulating the conscientious team players into doing more than their share of the work. This is known as social loafing (or slacking), and it describes the tendency of some members of a work group to exert less effort than they would when working alone. Kent Faught, associate professor of management at the Frank D. Hickingbotham School of Business, argues in his paper about student work groups in the Journal of Business Administration Online that social loafers can’t be successful, however, unless the other team members permit the loafing and complete the project successfully: 

…the social loafer must find at least one group member that CAN and WILL achieve the group’s goals and ALLOW themselves to be social loafed on. “Social Loafer Bait” is the term used here to describe the profile of the ideal target for social loafers.

This problem isn’t new. Max Ringelmann, a French agricultural engineer, conducted one of the earliest social loafing experiments in 1913, asking participants to pull on a “tug of war” rope both individually and in groups. When people were part of a group, they exerted much less effort pulling the rope than they did when pulling alone. According to Joshua Kennon, Ringelmann’s social loafing results were replicated over the years in many other experiments (involving typing, shouting, clapping, pumping water, etc.), leading psychologists to believe that humans tend toward social loafing in virtually all group activities. Kennon shared two other conclusions:

  • The more people you put into a group, the less individual effort each person will contribute;
  • When confronted with proof they are contributing less, the individuals in the group deny it because they believe they are contributing just as much as they would have if they were working alone.

I recently asked a group of friends and colleagues who have been involved in group work at school or in their jobs to respond to a brief, unscientific survey on how they deal with social loafing. Their response pattern is shown in parentheses, and, although respondents varied in age from 20 to 50-plus, answer patterns didn’t seem to vary by age group:

You are working on an important, time-sensitive project with a group of people. One of the group members is slacking off, not contributing to project work. What do you do about it? (choose one)

  • Ask/Tell the slacker to commit to the project and start contributing (40%)
  • Report the slacker to the project sponsor (3%)
  • Complain about the slacker to other team members (10%)
  • Work harder to pick up the slack and ensure the project is successful (30%)
  • Follow the slacker’s lead and reduce your commitment and effort (0%)
  • Other (17%—Most respondents who chose this reported they would employ more than one of the listed strategies)

How effective is the response you identified above?

  • Solves the problem (27%)
  • Partially solves the problem (53%)
  • Fails to solve the problem (17%)
  • Causes other problems (3%)

Respondents who took some action (talking to the slacker, or reporting the slacker to the project sponsor) were much more likely to report that their actions solved all or part of the problem. Complaining to other team members failed to solve the problem—no surprise there. And even though 30% of respondents elected to address the slacking problem by working harder to pick up the slack (earning themselves a “social loafer bait” ID badge), the effect of doing so was mixed, spread fairly evenly among solving, partially solving, failing to solve and causing other problems.

What’s not clear is why we are so willing to tolerate social loafing in group projects and why we are so reluctant to call slackers out and hold them accountable. According to Kerry Patterson, co-author of the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High:

93% of employees report they have co-workers who don’t pull their weight, but only one in 10 confronts lackluster colleagues.

I suppose the reality is that unless work groups are tightly managed, they offer excellent cover for slackers—relative anonymity, little or no pressure from team members, great individual performance camouflage—with only a slight threat of exposure or penalty for not being a good team player. So the solution to the social loafer problem probably involves not only changes in how groups are formed, resourced and supported but also changes in the group work dynamic to eliminate the cover and camouflage and to illuminate how each individual contributes to the group work effort. (This is sometimes accomplished in university student work groups by using a formal peer review process to help group members hold each other accountable.)

As you might expect, Google is serious about teamwork (all Google employees work on at least one team), and Google wants teams to be successful. A recent study of team effectiveness at Google determined that five team dynamics (psychological safety; dependability; structure and clarity; meaning of work; and impact of work) are more important to successful teams than the talents of the individuals on the teams. To help teams manage these dynamics, Google developed a tool called the gTeams exercise, described by Julia Rozovsky of Google People Operations as:

…a 10-minute pulse-check on the five dynamics, a report that summarizes how the team is doing, a live in-person conversation to discuss the results and tailored developmental resources to help teams improve.

According to Rozovsky, Google teams reported that having a framework around team effectiveness and a forcing function (the gTeams exercise) to talk about these dynamics was the part of the experience that had the most impact. That’s not surprising, because any “forcing function” that puts a public spotlight on ineffective or unacceptable behavior makes it easier to identify and eliminate that behavior.

Given the concentration of talent at Google, I imagine the social loafers there probably boast a more refined slacker “craftiness” pedigree than most of us normally encounter. Still, I am betting the Google slackers aren’t very pleased with the light and heat generated by the gTeams exercise spotlight.

The 10 Top Trends From a Pivotal 2015

Many will pinpoint 2015 as a pivotal year – the turning point in the transformation of the business of insurance. External influencers and rapid technology advancements are resulting in major shifts in strategy, areas of focus and investment. Many insurers are thinking big – beyond the typical incremental change and toward bold moves that will establish them as leaders in the digital age.

Here are the top 10 trends that laid the foundation for this pivotal year and positioned the insurance industry for an amazing 2016 and the years beyond. The trends are dominated and enabled by technology developments, which continue to be interwoven into the fabric of insurance. The trends are:

  1. Digital transformation is taking hold, even in insurance.
  2. Innovation and innovative thinking have no boundaries.
  3. Huge $dollars$ being are being poured into start-ups.
  4. New ecosystems are emerging.
  5. Distribution channels are under strain, leading to shifts in investments.
  6. Core modernization is required and continues to consume insurers.
  7. Positive shifts are occurring in customer focus and priority.
  8. New tools, data and models are being embraced but are still a struggle to adopt.
  9. Many technologies are maturing and being adopted – cloud, analytics…
  10. Tech advancement is still outpacing the ability to consume.

Insurance executives can no longer ignore or play down these trends. Although the terms “disruption” and “transformation” are popping up everywhere, they are no longer buzz words but reality.

It would be a mistake to dismiss the magnitude of the shifts. As one senior industry executive put it, “Our industry will be substantially different five years from now. Companies that do not aggressively transform will be at risk of failing.”

This view is shared by many industry leaders, who sense that the tide is shifting in the new digital era. Unfortunately, many others are hoping to ride out the rest of their career without driving change, an approach that is risky.

The full research brief describing the trends is located here.

The One Thing to Do to Innovate on Claims

If you love football, then you know how frustrating it is to be a football fan. Every offseason, you get excited about the potential for the coming season. Before the season begins, you read all of the articles and watch the analysts.

They all say, “This is the year.” Your team added some of the top defensive players in the league. You’re convinced the team has solved its offensive woes, too. Your team added a star wide receiver, and the running back is looking great in training camp.

Then the season starts, and your team suffers loss after loss. You question how professionals can spend so much time and money on the sport yet fail to improve. As the season continues to sputter, more and more people call for the team to fire the coach. At the end of the season, they fire the coach and hire a new star coach from a great team.

“Next year,” you and the rest of the fan base tell each other.

The next season begins and your team still loses. Year after year, the cycle repeats itself.

When it comes to innovation, insurance company claims departments have a lot in common with your favorite underachieving football team. Top talent in every department. Great recruits from top companies. Lots of talk about the newest technology. But each year you get the same results.

How can you solve this problem?

The One Thing

In “The One Thing,” Gary Keller shares several lessons we should apply to the insurance claims industry. He does so by simplifying the decision-making process. Whether you’re the general manager of a football team or an insurance claims executive, you can apply Keller’s lessons to your situation.

The Six Lies Between You and Success:

  1. The idea that everything matters equally;
  2. Multitasking;
  3. Lack of discipline;
  4. The belief that willpower is always on will-call;
  5. A balanced life;
  6. The idea that big is bad.

These “Six Lies” insurance claims departments. Claims professionals will get what they put in each day. If that’s emailing about hundreds of claims, then claims professionals will get routine claim maintenance. They will not achieve innovation. By making routine claim maintenance the priority, claims departments are falling victim to the six lies standing between the claims department and innovation.

The Four Thieves of Productivity:

  1. Inability to say “No”;
  2. Fear of chaos;
  3. Poor health habits;
  4. An environment that doesn’t support your goals.

While I can’t make any assumptions about whether there are poor health habits in your claims departments (unless your claims professionals are gorging on the vendor-sponsored food!), I can assume that the four thieves should resonate with you.

Insurance claims professionals do what they do because that’s what everybody has always done. No one has ever been terminated for saying “yes” to a responsibility. People who follow the status quo feel safer than people who hinge their success on a business transformation. As a result, claims departments are productive at claims maintenance, but they often leave much to be desired when it comes to innovation.

The Focusing Question

Keller condenses the entire book into what he calls “The Focusing Question.”

What’s the one thing you can do now such that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary?

Good questions are the path to great answers. By combining a small focus with a big goal, the “Focusing Question” provides you with the ideal starting point to achieve something great.

Claims innovation requires starting with “The One Thing” today: giving your best claims manager responsibility for transforming the claims department. While this may sound drastic, it truly is “The One Thing” that will transform an insurance company. I’ve seen it. With a strong leader dedicated to this project, executives will breeze through the process of selecting vendors, identifying key requirements, troubleshooting workflows and handling anything that stands in the way of true innovation.

Once “The One Thing” is addressed, many tasks will follow: assigning a good leader from the IT department, engaging an outside consultant and supporting the department with future-focused software. But until executives dedicate their best claims manager to “The One Thing,” claims departments will suffer from unnecessary obstacles.

Claims departments and football teams will keep underachieving until they get their franchise quarterbacks. You can hire all the star free agents and coach your teams to change, but if your quarterback spends his time focusing on the same old plays, get ready for another year with the same results.

Who will be your company’s Tom Brady?

How to Remove Fear in Risk Management

Someone is looking over your shoulder, and you know who it is. If you’re the CEO, it’s your board and shareholders. On the factory floor or in the cubicles, it’s the foreman or the supervisor. But just as often these days, the sources of anxiety and caution confronting risk managers may not be corporate employees at all. Rapidly shifting technology that is often difficult to understand and measure, unfamiliar demographics, expanding globalization, and ever more stringent regulatory compliance requirements are now part of an anxiety- producing stew that organizations’ risk managers must understand and deal with. All these forces threaten a corporation’s revenue, margins, profitability, and overall competitiveness more quickly and unpredictably than ever.

Consequently, if you are an internal auditor – the person responsible for assessing and helping improve the risk management process – your chair these days may feel more like a hot seat. Which of the decisions daily barraging a modern corporation should be the higher priorities? And how, in a business world of frequent disruption, will you, your superiors, and those who report to you weigh and mitigate the waves of serious risks facing the company nonstop? What are the most important metrics to use for any given risk issue? Can the company rely solely on its in-house staff to analyze and resolve unforeseen and often unforeseeable problems?

Just as important, how will the enterprise as a whole handle these issues and make necessary decisions? How does company culture get in the way of using risk management effectively, to reach the decisions that will help the company grow and become more competitive, and how can sustainable risk management (SRM) assist?

Company managers often are not encouraged to exercise independent judgment, even when they are the acknowledged experts. Without transparency and effective multilevel communications in their company, managers are likely to be wary of crossing unseen boundaries, suspect that hidden agendas are controlling important decisions, or feel isolated and unsure of the enterprise objectives that should help guide their decisions. Moreover, anxiety about making important decisions is common in organizations that don’t give their decision-makers the tools and data required to make intelligent risk analyses. Without confidence that they understand the risks associated with a decision, and in a culture where the consequences of a bad outcome are punitive, managers understandably are likely to be cautious.

Behind employees’ hesitation to make and express independent judgments or to make decisions can be a corporate culture of mistrust, caution, and covering one’s backside. In other words, a culture of fear – fear of losing face, losing a contract, losing revenue, losing political advantage, losing a job.

A culture of isolation and timidity defeats collaboration, creativity, transparency, and the ability of a corporation to objectively analyze the broad range of risks it faces each day. It can render the internal audit function far less effective and useful than it should be and can be. In this environment, the internal audit function may mistakenly be seen solely as a means of uncovering errors, assigning blame, and enforcing penalties. Managers may be understandably reluctant to provide anything other than the most general and diluted information about their operations and decisions.

One need not wade through the scientific research about the impact fear has on decision- making to understand how destructive it can be. The brain has separate centers for processing fearful and rewarding experiences. As Dr. Gregory Berns, director of the Center for Neuropolicy at Emory University, has explained, “The most concrete thing neuroscience tells us is that when the fear system of the brain is active, exploratory activity and risk-taking are turned off.” Good decisions in this state are unlikely. “Fear prompts retreat. It is the antipode to progress,” said Berns. “Just when we need new ideas most, everyone is seized up in fear, trying to prevent losing what we have left.”

In this way, fear can nullify or dilute a company’s risk management processes. An effective SRM program, however, encourages and supports an environment that minimizes fear, reduces uncertainty, and increases transparency and confidence in decision-making throughout the enterprise.

Barriers to Solutions

It may seem that established tenets of good corporate governance already include rooting out the fear, indifference, lack of collaboration, and siloed decision-making that stand in the way of optimizing risk management. After all, most companies talk an excellent game when it comes to collaboration and open and honest risk analysis. Too few, however, have developed the internal mettle to tolerate it.

Starting with assessing corporate culture and change management practices, internal auditors can play an important role in transforming the boilerplate talk into sustainable programs. They can provide unbiased, to-the-point assessments, independent of internal politics. The problems they find and the solutions they recommend can be critical for a company seeking to develop the capacity for SRM. But whether from too much caution and resignation or just fear of change, many internal auditors say the structure of their jobs discourages them from alerting their companies to critical gaps in risk assessment and mitigation.

A recent global study by The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) Research Foundation spotlights some of the problem areas. Not even two-thirds of the surveyed chief audit executives (CAEs) said they consult with division or business heads when they develop audit plans. Only slightly more than half said they consult with audit committees. There may be many reasons for this audit-in-isolation phenomenon, but it commonly occurs in companies that do not value the risk management process and therefore do not prioritize it. The phenomenon occurs in companies where key players are not encouraged to speak up.

Just one-third of audit plans are updated three or more times a year, the study found. This means that CAEs may be overlooking important changes in the business environment. No wonder only 57 percent said that their internal audit departments were “fully aligned or almost fully aligned” with the enterprise strategic plan. This kind of exclusion signals that leadership does not embrace the people responsible for monitoring management of the company’s risk and that the audit function is not seen as a critical part of the management process.

Our experience with clients reflects these findings and shows that risk management professionals themselves may be at least partially responsible for the isolation and erosion of their programs. They could assume, for instance, that the value and relevance of SRM are obvious and not consistently sell a program that’s underway, neglecting to point out its continuing value, highlight its successes, and develop metrics that are easily understandable.

The program itself may not be as inclusive as it should be. Sometimes risk management processes are not designed to seek out and incorporate the views of front-line employees. Any effective SRM process, however, must reach into the depths of company operations. At the same time, employees at all levels often are not trained well in how to assess and evaluate risk. Employees may be able to calculate some risk in dollar terms without appreciating that they also should be looking at, for example, threats to customer satisfaction, employee safety, and regulatory and contract compliance.

Too often, as well, an unappreciated or ineffective risk management program does not account for the unique characteristics and business objectives of the corporation. Organizations sometimes employ a cookie-cutter approach to developing a risk management framework that’s not calibrated to address essential and distinctive company attributes.

Sometimes risk reporting to the board and top executive levels may be so extensive and detailed that no one reads the reports. Or risk reporting may be so superficial that its assessments and proposed solutions carry little weight. When risk management is not seen as a source of continuous improvement for the organization, risk management funding may be erratic or inadequate, its staffing just an afterthought, and its placement in the corporate hierarchy too isolated to be effective.

Working Toward a More Viable Program

An SRM program protects and advances the organization’s primary business objectives. To do their job effectively, risk management leaders must be included as members of the executive management team. Their inclusion helps to ensure that consideration of risks is incorporated into every significant strategic decision.

It is also possible that a company and its leadership simply are not prepared for the important cultural shift required to champion SRM. All too typically, executives are experts at shifting blame, pointing fingers, and covering their reputations when something goes wrong or hard decisions must be made.

SRM requires a no-blame environment, a collaborative process in which personnel work together to assess and solve problems without fear that their careers will suffer or they will lose the confidence of their peers. A frank and constructive assessment of an operational failure, for instance, is possible only when, instead of trying to find fault, the evaluation concentrates on solutions to keep the failure from happening again. This collaborative approach is not common enough in modern corporations.

Why SRM Is Worth It

The benefits of developing an open, fearless, and transparent SRM program ripple through every level of the enterprise. The program helps ensure that the company can perform with confidence and agility in the face of unpredictable events and shifting economic conditions. It supports the development of accurate, timely, and relevant metrics that reduce uncertainty in decision-making. It provides an effective process for dealing with emerging technologies, surprising moves by competitors, market uncertainties, natural disasters, and even internal scandals. When the program is working, the board, C-suite executives, and managers at all levels understand the kinds of risks the company must deal with and then use that awareness when making their decisions.

An active and embedded SRM program, visibly supported by leaders, regularly refreshes the managers’ awareness and stimulates their insights concerning the shifting market and business conditions that pose the greatest risks to the company’s operations. Employees work collaboratively with their supervisors and are asked to help solve missteps rather than being blamed or punished for them.

SRM offers continuing opportunities to save costs and improve productivity. It can reduce operational and material losses and waste and spotlight process improvements. SRM more closely aligns people, assets, processes, and technology with the organization’s business strategies. It also reassures the board and other stakeholders that compliance issues are being addressed and that company assets and reputation are being protected. The results – which we see time and again – include increased growth, improved profitability, and higher staff morale.

It’s Time to Toss ‘Rank and Yank’

When executives don’t perform well, sometimes they’re fired. But when the company’s merit rating system doesn’t improve employees, do you fire it, too?

If you’re Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme, you do. That’s right, he fired ‘rank and yank.’

There will be no more annual performance reviews at Accenture — a decision that employees wholeheartedly support, according to their responses on Facebook, and the Washington Post, whicho broke the story.

This wasn’t the first time in recent memory that rank and yank was given the boot.

Earlier this year, GE and Deloitte largely eliminated their annual review processes, too. They followed Adobe, which blazed the way in March 2012.

If the unintended consequences of annual performance reviews haven’t yet hurt your business, consider yourself fortunate. But if your organization is one of the millions of businesses that have not fundamentally improved people — effectively making employees worse off today than they were when they first came to work for you — you owe it to yourself and your employees to rethink how you reward and improve people.

The Unintended Consequences

Dr. W. Edwards Deming first suggested eliminating the annual performance review 50 years ago. Deming called it “a disease that annihilated long-term planning, demolished teamwork, left people crushed, bruised and despondent and unable to comprehend why they were inferior.”

Today, with fewer than 40% of employees feeling as though they matter at work, is there much data from which to disagree?

Probably not.

While Deming’s comments certainly weren’t popular with mainstream American leadership, they have resonated loudly with millions of employees.

One thing Deming frequently talked about is systems thinking and how it relates to rank and yank and improving people and their productivity.

Output Equals Input

A Formula One race car running at peak performance maximizes the engine and transmission to generate both horsepower and torque as it speeds along the track. But other components of the system also contribute greatly to the race car’s success or demise.

For example, the conditions of the track can vary based on the weather. Heat, cold, humidity, wind and other climatic conditions all affect racing, creating the need for differing types of tire compounds and race car setup. The speed at which a team can change tires also goes into the mix.

So which element is most likely to propel the car to victory?

All of them. None of them stands alone. This is precisely the point behind systems thinking. The sum of the parts is far more important than individual components.

A System of Profound Knowledge (SOPK)

In Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge, he promoted the idea that a system of production had four key elements that were necessary to improve and transform an organization.

  1. Appreciation of a system
  2. Knowledge of variation
  3. Theory of knowledge
  4. Psychology

All four elements needed to be thoroughly understood by leadership to materially improve production rates, create greater operating efficiencies and, most importantly, improve people on a continuum.

The Element Of Psychology: Destroying the Entire Herd

The original thinking behind the merit rating system was that ranking employees — one against another — would bring the cream to the top, and separate the butterfat from the buttermilk. But the system as we know it has not only spoiled the milk but destroyed the herd used to produce it.

In addition, the merit rating system does little to improve a system’s performance. While a handful of employees might “feel” able to produce more goods and services for a few days following favorable performance reviews, the fact is, over the long haul, this isn’t true.

The Element of Variation and a Bunch of Red Beads

In his famed red bead experiment, Deming destroyed the fallacy that different people, doing the same thing over and over again in a standardized production process, would yield markedly different results. And the variation in output was predictable to near certainty.

During Deming’s experiments, he first established a standardized process. Employees would use the exact same machinery, methods and materials to perform his experiment. The only difference was the person performing the process. Deming, in fact, often used company executives to be production workers for a day.

The goal was to make white beads, of the highest quality and at the fastest rate.

So, pay for performance, maximize output, separate the wheat from the chafe and men from the boys, right?

Wrong!

Mixed within the white beads would be problems, represented by red beads. Executives would reach down inside a container to pull out white beads, and red beads would be mixed in.

Deming compared the white-bead production of each executive, and they were astonished when they couldn’t outproduce one another on a meaningful basis, no matter how competitive they were or how much encouragement or punitive action they received from Deming or other team members.They were all impaired by the wasteful red beads that kept popping up.

Deming’s simple example of controlled variation showed thousands of executives that merit ratings were ineffective tools at improving human productivity, and improving humans themselves.

To increase production, what was needed was a different way of doing things. A systemically better way. One that used an entire team’s talents and knowledge to find the root causes behind production problems. Knowledge and talents that could be used to improve the system while getting to the bottom of the causes of the red beads.

Deming promoted a system of win-win. One that helped any man or woman working within a system get dramatically better psychologically, not intrinsically worse emotionally. A system that avoided using one man’s talents to destroy another man’s ego — or perhaps even “annihilate it,” as Deming suggested was happening throughout American culture more than 30 years ago.

The Importance of Knowledge

Harvard sociologist Chris Argyris defined learning as “the detection and correction of errors.” Deming suggested that man’s long-term need to learn — an intrinsic motivator — far outweighed the extrinsic rewards and short-term benefits from his financial success.

It was within this context that Deming talked at length about knowledge, psychology, variation and systems thinking and their respective impact on people, productivity and engagement. All aimed directly at improving the conditions in which employees work.

Individuals Vs. Team-Based Merit

Many employees will be happy to see you yank old rank and yank. Especially those who — according to your merit rating system — are indispensable performers one year but dispensable slugs the next.

It’s time to revisit the ideas behind systems thinking and how it can improve man on a continuum.

I rarely use the word “terminate.” But if firing, or simply “laying off” the merit rating system for a while will bring about the good change we need to improve people and profits simultaneously, let’s bring about its pink slip.