Top 10 (Bad) Incentive Assumptions

This post from @IncentIntel is timely as we head into silly season: performance and rewards time. I especially liked the two below; communications about incentives are too often treated as a “once and done” event:

3. If the award is valuable enough you don’t need to communicate and remind them of the award opportunity.

5. Top performers don’t need to be reminded of where they stand in the program.


Difference between hard and soft elite disciplines

In my last post I referred to Steve Hsu’s (on Twitter @hsu_steve) post on credentials and elite performance.   Hsu distinguishes between the “hard” and “soft” elite, where law, consultancy, and investment banking firms are…

“soft” elite firms, whereas I will refer to hedge/venture funds, startups and technology companies as “hard” elite firms.  …In the latter category performance is a bit easier to measure, and raw prestige plays less of a role in marketing to customers or clients — i.e., the customer can directly tell whether the gizmo works (“these search results suck!”) or the fund made money. Whether or not the advice received from a law/consulting/M&A firm is any good is much more nebulous and, well, soft.

I would clarify in one way: the inability to measure “softens” negative consequences, which IMO is the true driver for “softness”.   A “consequences of failure” scale would refine Hsu’s categories: e.g., litigation-oriented law firms are “harder” than lobbying-focused firms.  So, given the challenge of the many nebulous partnerships we must forge with “soft” firms,  do you all have any tips beyond the few I’ve added below?

  1. Stay aligned ahead of them:  Hsu identifies one core competence of soft elite firms: the ability “to appear elite and smart enough to snow their clients and sell the work.”  If you find yourself in conflict with the approach Continue reading

Hamel’s Stretch Goals for Management

I’m working through the pile of links I’ve accumulated.  Gary Hamel’s 25 Stretch Goals for Management caught my eye, if nothing else because I liked the challenge they attempt to address:

What is it about the way large organizations are currently managed that will most imperil their ability to thrive in the decades ahead; and given this, what fundamental changes will be needed in management principles, processes and practices?

Four goals caught my eye, the first three are pulled together by the last phrase “equip every employee to act in the interests of the entire enterprise”:

13. Develop holistic performance measures. Existing performance metrics must be recast, since they give inadequate attention to the critical human capabilities that drive success in the creative economy.
14. Stretch executive time frames and perspectives. Continue reading

Tout your winners

Look at me, look at me, look at me now!

PMOs too often get painted as the dour “project police”.  Our willingness to deliver results without demanding attention and praise is one of the more attractive character traits of project management culture.  But as noted in Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin’s post on The Million-Dollar Question: What’s the Value of a PMO?, delivering results quietly can be a trap:

[O]nce the systems for executing strategy through well-run projects are in place, it’s tempting to think you can rest on your laurels. But, no such luck. When project and program management is working well, it’s invisible: nothing bad happens. And the PMO becomes, apparently, a line item of overhead.

Jeannette notes that many PMO leaders shy away from marketing their PMO after it has been established.  During the PMO project itself, we all seem to understand the importance of stakeholder management and communications.  But when we become a function, we forget that lesson or think it unseemly, inappropriate, etc.

I’m not suggesting we crassly broadcast our successes.  Perhaps “narrowcasting” is the better idea — a discreet word with the CIO about identifying a poorly-priced deal ripe for re-negotiation, a walkthrough of high and low profit projects with a sales manager, etc.

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