Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > the missing piece of the jigsaw

the missing piece of the jigsaw

Last week I had a bit of a go at the appraisal system and suggested that we all scrapped it; have you done that yet? You really should consider it, regardless of what your HR colleagues may say.

If you employ just one person then you only do that because you need them to do something towards the success of your enterprise and you tell them what you need them to do. At that level things are quite easy because you are one on one so showing them what is important and explaining why is a natural part of the working relationship.

Things get a little more complex when you have a hundred people or a hundred thousand, but that is why you have some form of organisational hierarchy; the leader still inspires and sets the tone, but they have others to relay the message into the far corners.

For an organisation to succeed its people need to know what they need to do to make that happen. Whilst the majority of the effort is spend on customer facing people everyone else needs to know what they do plays a part in the success story. One of the symptoms of this not working is where there are inconsistencies in the way people doing similar jobs work; nothing to do with the level of their performance, but rather in the effectiveness of what they do.

No appraisal system on earth will resolve that, but the type of system I suggested that you replace it with will because the alternative is about accountability and responsibility. It is about empowering people to contribute not about managing them. It deals with the things that need to be dealt with in real time and makes that a genuine two way process so that your people can affect things about their job and how they do it to make it better. It ensures that people can be made to feel valued when they do things well and underachievement can be dealt with when they are important to the employee, to you and to the organisation.

Many of those bold statements that are made about values will include some reference to empowerment, but rarely do you see it in action and the classic job description and appraisal systems act as an impediment. Everyone has their part to play and I draw the parallel with a jigsaw. Some of the pieces will be plain, but if any single piece is taken from the completed puzzle the absence is obvious. No matter how plain that piece might be it is as important to the whole picture as any piece that has complex detail and the same applies to everyone than works in an organisation.

Making your people understand how they fit in with the people that surround them and the importance of fitting into the big picture will not happen from job descriptions and appraisals. Such constraints stifle those who could do better and allow poor performers the luxury of something to hide behind (we’ve all met a jobsworth somewhere along the line).

We talk about being innovative when we are trying to promote our organisations and what we do and most of the time we apply that to the products or services that we provide, but how often are we really different? Most of the time all we have done is to re-brand or re-package something; the quick respray and change the plates approach of the dodgy second-hand car salesman.

If we truly want to innovate then we have to change the way we work; change the way we lead people and the first step is to shred all of those job descriptions and appraisals so that we can start afresh. Do it now!

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