Kerry Buckley

What’s the simplest thing that could possibly go wrong?

On being beaten with carrots

6 comments

CarrotsTraditional approaches to motivation tend to fall into one of two camps: the carrot (“do this and you’ll be rewarded”) or the stick (“do this or you’ll suffer the consequences”).

I guess I’m fortunate to work for a company (and in a country) where by and large there isn’t a culture of firing people who don’t meet performance targets – instead we have a system where an ever-increasing proportion of people’s pay packet is made up of a performance-related bonus, rather than a fixed salary.

So, how do you go about getting your bonus each quarter? Simple: just meet your agreed targets.

Of course, nothing in a large corporation can ever be that simple, so in practice there’s a complex tiered system of company, business unit, programme, project, team and individual targets, which are combined in a magic spreadsheet to generate how much bonus everyone gets. Each of these targets, and the performance against them, has to be agreed, monitored, quantified, audited and levelled. At each stage politics comes into play. Those that enjoy playing systems try to set targets they know they can achieve. People concentrate on meeting the letter of the objectives, possibly to the detriment of other activities, like helping colleagues or making process improvements.

Now step away from this corporate dystopia for a moment, into the world of Agile Software Development. A world where we value Individuals and interactions over processes and tools, and Responding to change over following a plan. A world where we strive to build projects around motivated individuals, give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. Where working software is the primary measure of progress. Where at regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. Where the self-organising team, accountable directly to it customer or product owner, is responsible for its own delivery and processes.

Now, when agile teams in large organisations are forced to jump through the externally-imposed hoops of objectives, development action plans and post-implementation reviews (which add little visible benefit and take up time that could be spent delivering business value), is it any wonder that the carrot of performance-related pay feels like it’s more of a punishment than an incentive?

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Public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Written by Kerry

April 22nd, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Agile,Enterprise,Rants

6 Responses to 'On being beaten with carrots'

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  1. I think the problem here is that many purported modern frameworks for reward are quite simply outdated. Whilst they have a 21st Century veneer they are at best suited to factory environments. And the only reason they get any traction is that they appear better than that which was in place previously. In my opinion the crux of the matter is that in many quarters there exists a lack of objectivity and a woeful disconnect from the reality of the modern working environment, demands made on employees and the pace of change. I think the HR functions of companies are quite often just too far behind the curve and forever trying to play catch-up. Which is understandable as they work with policy and contracts, and such things are not fleet of foot. The environment they have to work in is far from agile!

    I plan to write a post on the matter myself but in short I believe that moving forward the HR function will become redundant. Companies that regard employees along with it’s inorganic assets as simply resources will not do well. And a facade built of token gestures that aim to convince employees to the contrary will not help.

    Instead we will have Personnel, whose primary purpose is to serve the needs of employees, assist them in their development, manage contracts and deal with grievances Etc. Hiring and reward will be dealt with by the market that exists both inside the organisation and externally. Just as JP envisions a new world for producers and consumers of music, where the “hit makers” have been removed from the picture, I see something similar with the employer/employee market, sans recruitment companies and old style HR. These intermediate layers quite often serve only to create an ‘impedance mismatch’ between the endpoints and I believe that more often than not value is lost in transfer and in not added. In software development open source will be a primary enabler for this new way of working, through facilitating direct links between creator and consumer.

    Andrew Back

    23 Apr 08 at 1:05 pm

  2. I’ve wittered about this in the past, here where I said
    Forced ranking/Vitality Curve?
    This is a very competitive model, which works against the idea of knowledge sharing – why should I, a B-ranked individual, help you a C-ranked individual. I *need* to look better than you. Rather than spending time sharing my knowledge, or increasing my skills, it might pay me better to game the system. Plenty of office politics, and subtle sledging of my peers.

    In a knowledge based organisation, perhaps a System of Profound Knowledge might work better. That, of course is a reference to W.Edwards Deming who highlighted “Seven Deadly Diseases”.

    Number 3 was “Evaluation by performance, merit rating, or annual review of performance“.

    If you’re in a professional services organisation set up in communities with forced ranking – ask how does this help the community work together?”

    JP Rangaswami’s recently posted the following:
    “* We stress the importance of human resources, human talent, human capital
    * We stress the importance of teamwork and collaboration
    * We stress the importance of openness and transparency
    * We stress the importance of trust

    And then, mysteriously, we somehow manage to create an environment where we jealously guard information; where we seek to create and extend power as a result of this jealous guarding; where we then exploit this power in all kinds of ways, some less abhorrent than others (but all abhorrent, at least to me.”

    So people at both ends of the company think there may be something rotten in the way we work.

    Still, let’s get some consultants in to choose another reward system, or another performance management system.

    Steve Ellwood

    23 Apr 08 at 1:50 pm

  3. I think the problem here is that many purported modern frameworks for reward are quite simply outdated. Whilst they have a 21st Century veneer they are at best suited to factory environments. And the only reason they get any traction is that they appear to be better than that which was in place previously. In my opinion the crux of the matter is that in many quarters there exists a lack of objectivity and a woeful disconnect from the reality of the modern working environment, demands made on employees and the pace of change. I think the HR functions of many organisations are quite often just too far behind the curve and forever trying to play catch-up. Which is understandable as they work with policy and contracts, and such things are not fleet of foot – the environment they have to work in is far from agile.

    I plan to write a post on the matter myself but in short I believe that moving forward the HR function will become redundant. Companies that regard employees along with it’s inorganic assets as simply resources to be managed will not do well. And a facade built of token gestures that aim to convince employees to the contrary will not help.

    Instead we will have Personnel, whose primary purpose is to serve the needs of employees, assist them in their development, manage contracts and deal with grievances Etc. Hiring and reward will be dealt with by the market that exists both inside the organisation and externally. Just as JP envisions a new world for producers and consumers of music, where the “hit makers” have been removed from the equation, I see something similar with the employer/employee market, sans recruitment companies and old style (current day) HR. These intermediate layers quite often serve only to create an ‘impedance mismatch’ between the endpoints and I believe that more often than not value is lost in transfer and not added.

    In software development open source will be a primary enabler for this new way of working through facilitating direct links between creator and consumer. And I’m sure that other enablers will surface. At an individual level we provide services to business and this constitutes a market. Cluetrain tells us markets are conversations and that as we become hyper-connected the creator and consumer will go round those that previously sat between them. New methods of discovery and new channels of communication will render the middlemen redundant. Brokers and perpetuators of false scarcities will become obsolete.

    Andrew Back

    23 Apr 08 at 4:49 pm

  4. I think the problem here is that many purported modern frameworks for reward are quite simply outdated. Whilst they have a 21st Century veneer they are at best suited to factory environments. And the only reason they get any traction is that they appear to be better than that which was in place previously. In my opinion the crux of the matter is that in many quarters there exists a lack of objectivity and a woeful disconnect from the reality of the modern working environment, demands made on employees and the pace of change. I think the HR functions of many organisations are quite often just too far behind the curve and forever trying to play catch-up. Which is understandable as they work with policy and contracts, and such things are not fleet of foot – the environment they have to work in is far from agile.

    I plan to write a post on the matter myself but in short I believe that moving forward the HR function will become redundant. Companies that regard employees along with it’s inorganic assets as simply resources to be managed will not do well. And a facade built of token gestures that aim to convince employees to the contrary will not help.

    Instead we will have Personnel, whose primary purpose is to serve the needs of employees, assist them in their development, manage contracts and deal with grievances Etc. Hiring and reward will be dealt with by the market that exists both inside the organisation and externally. Just as JP envisions a new world for producers and consumers of music, where the “hit makers” have been removed from the equation, I see something similar with the employer/employee market, sans recruitment companies and old style (current day) HR. These intermediate layers quite often serve only to create an ‘impedance mismatch’ between the endpoints and I believe that more often than not value is lost in transfer and not added.

    In software development open source will be a primary enabler for this new way of working through facilitating direct links between creator and consumer. And I’m sure that other enablers will surface. At an individual level we provide services to business and this constitutes a market. Cluetrain tells us markets are conversations and that as we become hyper-connected the creator and consumer will go round those that previously sat between them. New methods of discovery and new channels of communication will render the middlemen redundant – the brokers and perpetuators of false scarcities will no longer have a part to play.

    Andrew Back

    23 Apr 08 at 4:52 pm

  5. I think the problem here is that many purported modern frameworks for reward are quite simply outdated. Whilst they have a 21st Century veneer they are at best suited to factory environments. And the only reason they get any traction is that they appear to be better than that which was in place previously. In my opinion the crux of the matter is that in many quarters there exists a lack of objectivity and a woeful disconnect from the reality of the modern working environment, demands made on employees and the pace of change. I think the HR functions of many organisations are quite often just too far behind the curve and forever trying to play catch-up. Which is understandable as they work with policy and contracts, such things are not fleet of foot and the world they operate in is far from agile.

    I plan to write a blog post on the matter but in short I believe that moving forward the HR function will become redundant. Companies that regard employees along with it’s inorganic assets as simply resources to be managed will not do well. And a facade built of token gestures that aim to convince employees to the contrary will do little to help.

    Instead we will have Personnel, whose primary purpose is to serve the needs of employees, assist them in their development, manage contracts and deal with grievances Etc. Hiring and reward will be dealt with by the market that exists both inside the organisation and externally. Just as JP Rangaswami envisions a new world for producers and consumers of music, where the “hit makers” have been removed from the equation, I see something similar with the employer/employee market, sans recruitment companies and old style (current day) HR. These intermediate layers quite often serve only to create an ‘impedance mismatch’ between the endpoints and I believe that more often than not value is lost in transfer and not added.

    Cluetrain tells us markets are conversations and that as we become hyper-connected creator/provider and consumer will go round those that previously sat in between them. New methods of discovery and new channels of communication will render the middlemen redundant, and the brokers and perpetuators of false scarcities will become obsolete. At an individual level we provide services to business and this constitutes a market, so why should this relationship be any different?

    In software development open source is a primary enabler for this new way of working through facilitating direct links between creator and consumer. And I’m sure that other enablers will surface.

    Andrew Back

    1 May 08 at 4:58 pm

  6. prestashop

    On being beaten with carrots at Kerry Buckley

    Prestashop

    19 Jul 18 at 10:49 pm

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