When measuring effort, are you supporting competency and excellence?


How am I doing? That nagging question arises only in very limited situations where our performance means something personally.

Randall Munroe’s XKCD humor aside, when it comes to focus point of view matters.

People don’t always consciously choose, or control the quantity of effort and attention they willingly apply to a task. The results consequently vary in quality, elapsed clock-time and obviously cost.  If you’ve ever lost time and perspective and found yourself completely absorbed and intently focused on a task, use that as one reference point.

Did you work at it? Does measuring your performance on the task matter, or just the results and the experience?

Task managers may activate someone to work but few engage the individual’s energy and commitment to quality acheieved by successful game makers and psychologists who study motivation. Dan Pink in his book Drive, explains why differentiating the task is as important as differentiating the incentives. He goes on to explain that hgh performance connects to something other than rewards which proves difficult for organizations who need to harness individual’s efforts in service of its goals.

Thankfully it’s 2018, and the opportunities for businesses who spend the time and effort to reorganize and separate the meaningless from the meaningful tasks gain considerable advantage.

These organizations harness technology  to speed and standardize processes while being mindful of people’s desire to do well. In Manufacturing, Toyota Production Systems and Lean Methods  proven adaptability led many industries to embrace this management philosophy, and miss its strategic imperatives that require three to five years in order to produce the lifestyle change that deliver results.

It’s not enough to merely measure performance and seek improvement, both must also  represent tangible, meaningful values.

Feeding the desire of individuals to do well unfortunately competes with a firm’s desire to be efficient and effective.  It’s easy to confuse the meaning behind psychologist, and pioneer in organizational development Kurt Lewin’s suggestion.

“If you want people to do something, make it easy for them to achieve their goals….”

Management workflow designs that narrow the set of tasks, or reduce the steps do minimize errors and promote consistency.  Add in  “idiot proof” design of automation and interconnected technologies  will make tasks more convenient and tools easy to use–the digital tools include just in time support pop-ups.  The efficiency gains acheived by eliminating choices and inadvertently spare people’s attention to the task and thus rob people of finding meaning in their effort.

Meaningful Work

Pals sudden servicePal’s a fast food company founded in 1956 in northeastern Tennessee does this too but with the employee’s point of view and objectives in mind.  Unlike their quick service peers, Pal’s generates $1,800 in sales-per-square foot annually, versus McDonald’s which typically generates less than $650 of annual sales per square foot. These are the figures and full story that William Taylor tells in  Simply Brilliant (2016).

Taylor describes the Pal’s management choices through the lens of experience.  I sense that  Pal’s leadership team interpretation of Lewin’s message as harnessing the contagion power of experience. Walt Disney translated the message at another level that focused on the reason we repeat any experience.

Experiences range in quality and quantity, which is what makes Pal’s remarkable and its success a positive outlier.  Pal’s intrigues Taylor not because of its impressive bottom line results, but for “the level of intelligence and intensity with which it approaches everything it does—how it hires, how it trains, how it shares its ideas with other companies eager to learn from its success.”

There’s nothing unusual in that description. Special hiring, training processes, or sharing their approach with other companies sounds just like the other successful high experience focused firms– McDonald’s, Zappos, Disney.

The Pal’s difference is their high bar, the “Triple 100—100 percent execution 100 percent of the time, even when restaurants are operating at 100 percent of capacity.” The point of view built into their mindsight focuses on making employees successful, by holding the leaders and managers who trained them accountable. Pal’s teaches and coaches every day because growth isn’t just about market it’s about people and leadership development.

They hire and guarantee the success of people who want to learn, and employees stick around.  They don’t stick around for the high wages or a pension. They stick around for the shared learning, opportunities for personal growth and the pride in being consistently excellent.

Organizations, after all are made up of people. For the near future their success will depend on their ability tap the human need to do well,  and offer individuals personal room to grow, continuous support to learn and power to create.  Competency depends on circumstance as much as attitude.  Ask any high performer and you’ll dscover they still practice and find ways to improve.  So why don’t more organizations invest for that level of success?