Man -v- Machine

Man -v- Machine

Old habits are hard to break. Even though there is plenty of science available to support the type of behavior that drives human performance higher, there are many common business practices that still ignore our humanity and embody the old machine mindset. Here are four quick examples:

The Human Spec Sheet

Job Descriptions provide a simple example of the machine mindset.

Job Descriptions are a business staple for most organizations. Regardless of the actual format that your organization uses, the data gathered is probably a lot like the form shown on the left.

While job descriptions are intended to be a communication aid, I believe they subliminally communicate some of the wrong messages, such as:

  • It reads like a human spec sheet and, in turn, job candidates are evaluated in much the same way a machine component is examined and selected (pass/fail/price).
  • Once hired, an employee that follows the long list of tasks on their job description is subliminally instructed that their job is to stay busy rather than strive to achieve results. Following standard operating procedure is perceived to be more important than focusing on what is important and continually looking for ways to improve your own performance.
  • The greatest fallacy of all in a job description is that it assumes that the person hired, like a mechanical part, is only capable of “meeting the specs” and has no other skills or abilities beyond the job description. What a huge waste of capabilities! It’s one of many organizational areas that is rich in intangible Hidden Assets.

Annual Recalibration

Calibration Checklist

Everybody knows that various equipment, technical instruments and the like should be recalibrated at least annually to ensure accurate performance.  But it’s absurd to think that people function that way…

Everyone in the process hates the dreaded annual performance review.  Articles and discussion boards have argued the value of annual performance reviews for years. Overall, the consensus is that we should get rid of them; but they persist because theoretically they provide a way to weed out the undesirables, keep the masses in check, and keep the highest performers on track.  There has to be a better way, don’t you think? I do; its informal feedback, in the moment, when learning can take place and given in a manner that the employee can hear it and respond with the desired behavior.

Upgrades and Maintenance

Equipment maintenance and periodic upgrades are standard operating procedure in any good shop.  You schedule down time so that you can take the equipment off-line.  Often the equipment is taken off-site to a specialized facility that efficiently makes the clearly defined modifications in the shortest amount of time possible.  Everything associated with the scheduled maintenance or periodic upgrade takes place in this session.  A checklist ensures that all tasks were completed and a quality control technician provides a certificate of completion/inspection.  The equipment is reinstalled and put online until the next scheduled maintenance.  No further support is provided unless problems ensue.

Compare the equipment upgrade and maintenance approach to the way most employee training takes place.  See any similarities?  Often employee training fails to provide lasting benefits to the individual or organization because the training is out of context, produces information overload, isn’t supported in the workplace, and participants typically receive a certificate of completion regardless of their demonstrated ability.

Case in point, billions of dollars have been spent on leadership training over the last two decades, yet the primary reason that employees quit their jobs is because of their boss; whether it’s lack of recognition, feeling unappreciated, stressful environment, and/or lack of support/coaching/mentoring from their boss.  Supervisors play a critical role in supporting the organization but training them to support their direct reports needs to occur in a manner that ensures mastery, not a certificate of completion.

Decommission & Dismantle

Personal Belongings Box

People aren’t “plug and play” like lots of today’s technology.  There is a huge organizational downside to unplugging people and throwing them out, also known as massive layoffs, the common knee-jerk reaction to real or anticipated short-term financial challenges.  Examples of the downside include:

  • Corporate Lobotomy – the loss of know-how and stakeholder relationship capital that walks out the door with their personal belongings in an old file box.
  • Fight, Flight, or Freeze – the automatic human response triggered in every level of the remaining workforce.
  • Survival Mode –v- Innovation – it’s an either or proposition, you can’t have both.  The mind doesn’t work that way and there’s science to prove it.  In the struggle for the survival of the fittest in the corporate world, where it’s an “evolve or die” situation and the organization just ensured a spot on the endangered species list…
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