Challenging Management Norms

It seems like researchers are continually challenging our conventional wisdom when it comes to our health and well-being. This has led to breakthroughs in research on drug efficacy, the cause of disease and even new insights into how our brain can shape our dispositions.

As an observer of organizational culture, I’ve found myself wondering lately what long-held beliefs in management practice are no longer appropriate in the 21st century. Here are a few that I came across recently that I’d welcome your reaction to.  In his book, Under New Management,  David Burkus discusses how some organizations are overturning traditional management practices by:

  • Rethinking annual performance appraisals
    According to Burkus, some organizations realize that the review of an individual’s contributions and accomplishments can be done in a less bureaucratic, more respectful and less time-consuming manner. The frustration appears compounded in those organizations who insist that ratings align with a “bell curve”.
  • Outlawing Email
    Email is not the most effective tool for communication. It interferes with work-life balance and can have a detrimental impact on job productivity. Time spent in our inbox may not be time spent wisely. Some companies are now setting time limits on employee access.
  • Putting Customers Second
    Employees must feel like they are number one…not customers, as often stated in company web sites. Profits are driven by customer loyalty; customer loyalty is driven by satisfied employees. The role of leadership is to support employee satisfaction.
  • Losing the Standard Vacation Policy
    Why do many companies track “days not worked” when they don’t track “hours worked’? Allowing employees unlimited vacation and “trusting” them to take the time they need to remain sharp and engaged, advocates for “vacation non-policies” claim, will be handsomely repaid. Sabbaticals and paid vacations are used by some companies with stipulations that employees fully disconnect with the company during that time period. These approaches help prevent “misguided hero syndrome” …the belief that the company could not function without them.
  • Paying People to Quit
    Employees who feel they don’t fit need an easy way to exit. While a program like this provides a “well lit, safe exit” it also serves as an engagement tool for employees who after evaluation decide to remain.
  • Making Salaries Transparent
    Opportunity: The salary system is viewed by many as a black mysterious hole. Advocates for transparency claim that by sharing this information, including the process to set salaries, a sense of fairness and equity can be set in the minds of employees. A word of caution… be very sure your salary system is fair before it is shared.
  • Hiring as a Team
    With research continuing to support that there is more to team performance than the individual performer why should team member selection be left in the hands of “leadership?” People who work with new hires should be the ones deciding whether or not they are hired. In this way they have a vested interested in the new employees’ success.
  • Closing Open Offices
    The idea that people will be more collaborative, productive and happier working in an open space close to colleagues appears to have come a cropper. Recent research suggests that the open office environment is damaging to employee productivity and satisfaction. It creates more interruptions, heightens stress and erodes concentration. Individuals in private offices take less days away from work. Establish options for employees to select what works best for them and their colleagues.

What is your experience with debunking traditional management practices? What changes have you seen work well and what ones have failed? Can you relate to these ideas cited by David Burkus? Thanks for sharing.

About Alex Pollock

Alex Pollock has been studying leadership effectiveness for more than 30 years. A former leader in environment, health and safety, and public affairs at The Dow Chemical Co., he learned that we all have leadership roles to play. He enjoys discussing new ideas and sharing practical ways we can all become better leaders.

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