Fast Tracking Solutions Blog

Are you afraid to get better???

As a consultant, I literally spend 30 hours a week on the phone with builder owners, CEO’s and senior level staff of Home builder’s, Real Estate Brokers and Land Developers. My approach on every call is to build a relationship and determine the pain points that keep these executives up at night.

The feedback I receive is both interesting and surprising. The surprising part of my phone call resolves around the discussion with the leader articulating a problem with people, process, sales, technology etc. The leader quickly identifies the issues in their business that are causing a lack of share, sales, profit, or productivity. The discussion usually trends towards potential solutions that if embraced, can have a good probability of really making a positive change in their business with a real ROI.  Now the really odd part of the discussion begins.

After agreeing that a proposed intervention can improve the circumstances described, the leader then begins to argue that any change today is more painful than a fix to the problem that was stated. Specifically, the leader talks about any solutions being distractions to the norm.

So we have leaders willingly agreeing that a problem in their business is holding them back from being more successful but refusing to do anything about it because of the fear of changing anything that may impact the daily quest of building and selling that next home. The problems that have now existed for several years for these business leaders are more comfortable to live with that the potential fix.

It’s when you are paralyzed with the fear of change that your destiny is pretty much spelled out for you. We as leaders need to do whatever we can daily to improve. Any increase in our success is going to require change. This competency to embrace change as a normal part of our daily work is critical for businesses to be able to survive and ultimately thrive in the future.

Don’t get comfortable with mediocrity, drive daily positive change into your organization. Be bold and look constantly for new methods to succeed. Recognize that any change done well will not in fact be problematic to your current operations. You just need to understand that the old model for creating change is no longer applicable in 2012.

I welcome your comments and inquiries.


Are Crowds Wise?

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, published in 2004, is a book written by James Surowiecki about the pooling of information in groups, resulting in decisions that, he maintains, are better than could have been made by even the smartest member of the group.
This may seem odd, especially at a time in our history when often unruly crowds (mobs) are taking over key sections of the big cities in our country and others. In fact, in today’s world, it seems crowds and wisdom are at polar opposites.

But wait…

Surowiecki doesn’t argue that all crowds are wise. In fact he highlights situations in which crowds produce very bad judgments. He argues that in these types of situations their wisdom turned irrational because (in one way or another) the members of the crowd were too conscious of the opinions of others and began to copy each other and conform rather than think differently (sound familiar).
So, when are crowds/groups wise?

The author suggests four conditions:
1. Diversity of opinion…Each person should have their own viewpoint, even if it’s a unique interpretation of the fact situation
2. Independence…People’s opinions aren’t buried by the opinions of those around them
3. Decentralization…People have a different viewpoint based on position and local knowledge
4. Aggregation…A methodology exists to turn private judgments into a group decision.
Interestingly we have found that the same conditions existing in our most effective FastTrack Conferences (a group of up to 80 people who work together to develop strategic plans for the system they share):

1. FTC Diversity… Clients are able to get a representation of the “whole system in the room”. This means having a broad cross-section of committed stakeholders because they represent diverse perceptions of the reality the group is addressing.
2. FTC  Independence… Client’s invite “stand-up” conference participants. These are people with big ideas, and though willing to listen are not shy to present their view (informal leaders).
3. FTC  Decentralization.., Conference attendees represent a “diagonal slice” of the organization, from the Owner/CEO to the people dealing directly with the customers. The more stakeholder viewpoints, the more complete the picture of reality being dealt with (top management generally sees how it should be; frontline employees see it the way it is).
4.FTC  Aggregation…FastTrack uses self-managed small groups, where everybody shares viewpoints, interprets it, and plans and commits to action steps. The most successful conference groups embrace the methodology and take ownership for outcomes.

Not all crowds are wise…And, not all group decision making formats generate the best outcomes. However, when the right “conditions for success” are set in place, there are many, far-reaching advantages in having a diverse group plan and work together on a common future.

Why Employees Don’t get Reviewed

Why don’t Mangers do Performance Appraisals?

Do you believe employee performance is important to your company’s success? Do you believe high performance should be rewarded and poor performance should be dealt with? Do you believe people ought to know where they stand (i.e. Are they about to get promoted or fired)?

If you’re like most employees the answers to all the above are, yes…

It would only seem natural then that most employees and especially managers would be big fans of some sort of formal performance evaluation. It doesn’t work that way…

If your company has a Human Resources (HR) department/person, one of the gripes you’ve heard is that managers never get their evaluations in on time. In fact, HR staffs spend a great deal of time hounding/encouraging managers to get their evaluations done… And, employees always complain about “never being reviewed” by their manager.

Performance Evaluations, it seems, fit into the same category as annual colorectal examinations… Everyone agrees they are important but you just never seem to get around to making the appointment.

Why the reluctance to sit down with people who report to you and tell them how they are doing and then putting it in writing? A couple reasons jump out at you. First, is “face-saving.” Our society has taught us that it is rude to criticize other people (to their face). And we know through experience how it feels when someone gives us a little “constructive criticism.”

Second we know that a lot of what we evaluate someone on is based on “our opinion.” It is more like a grade in a creative writing course than a math test. Which means that the employee could have the totally opposite viewpoint, and we would both be right (based on our respective perspectives).

Third, when we put something in writing, it is a lot tougher to “fudge.” Based on face-saving and subjectivity we like to give ourselves a lot of wiggle-room. When we are talking we can do that. That is why it is not surprising to hear a supervisor report to a third party that he put an employee “on notice” while from the same discussion that the employee reports he got a “good review.”

So, with all the reluctance to do performance appraisals, are they really necessary? We believe they are…

A Performance review system:

1. Identifies behaviors and work activities that align what an individual or team does with what the business unit needs in order to implement its strategy,
2. It measures individuals or teams on those behaviors/actives
3. It measures results
4. It provides important information about the people resources in the company related to where the company needs to go.

Is a performance appraisal system impossible to get implemented?

Not really. There are solutions to this “prisoner’s dilemma.” We have helped clients implement performance review systems so the evaluations actually get done and get done on time. Performance Appraisal doesn’t have to fit into the same category as proctology…