“Total Performance Scorecard; Redefining Management to Achieve Performance with Integrity ” By Dr. Hubert Rampersad (Butterworth-Heinemann Business Books, Elsevier Science, Massachusetts, May 2003).
Ask any manager what the primary assets of her organization are and the answer is usually “people.” We are far removed from the days when an employee checked his brains at the door at the same time he removed his overcoat. We recognize that the tacit (unarticulated) dimensions of knowledge in a person’s head may be as vital to achieving the organization’s goals as are the explicit, codified forms of knowledge that have been built up over time.i In fact, who is not a “knowledge-worker” in the developed world? Farmers possess the most sophisticated knowledge of seeds and seasons. Steel workers run highly computerized machinery. Custodial staff can make fine distinctions in types of stains and cleaning materials. The know-how possessed by anyone who has been doing certain tasks for long enough to build up a repertoire of experiences can be extremely valuable to the organization for whom he works.
On the other hand, ask any manager how she spends most of her time, even in very technically oriented organizations, and the answer is usually “handling people problems.” This term covers everything from highly egotistical, self-centered behavior by “prima donnas” who can’t work in teams, to alcoholism or other personal problems that lower productivity, to ingenious modes of resistance to change and unwillingness to share knowledge. Managers have always faced the dual challenge of exploiting individual knowledge and skills for the benefit of the organization while demonstrating appreciation for those employee contributions so as to motivate continued productivity. However, in recent decades, the need both for employee generosity in sharing individual intelligence and for managerial sophistication in rewarding employee effort has intensified.
Today’s organizations are generally running very, very lean and in the throes of great environmental change. Therefore, they need innovation and employees who cannot only bend with change but thrive on it. In particular, perhaps more than ever before, organizations today desire two abilities in their employees: (1) rapid learning, and (2) creativity. Organizational leaders cannot expect to inspire those skills merely by demanding them. Rather, leaders need to develop considerable insight into how and why people learn and into what stimulates creativity. Let us consider each in turn. First, learning. Business organizations no longer represent lifelong commitments for most employees. Rather, today’s knowledge workers are free agents, typically carving out two or more careers in life and with the expectation that they will work in multiple organizations during their work life. Employees, therefore, are preoccupied with gaining skills from employment and increasing their own value in their chosen field, not just in their organization. Fortunately for organizational leaders, humans do have a strong need for community; we are social animals and in general like to learn with and from others. Therefore, managers can link individual identity to corporate brand, individual aspirations to business goals, and individual learning objectives to needed organizational capabilities. But such linkages have to be individually forged, and with the full understanding that when you hire someone today, you hire the whole person—personal aspirations included. This is the good news and the bad news. It is good because a person whose personal learning goals are aligned with those of the organization are likely to be fully engaged and highly productive.
It is bad because people are not always clear about their own objectives and even if they are, managers are not always able to align employees’ personal goals with organizational needs. Ambiguity leads to frustration. Moreover, managers often mistakenly equate learning with formal training sessions. But we do not gain know-how through reading manuals, observing PowerPoint slide presentations, or attending training lectures. From such sessions, we can certainly obtain useful mental frameworks and armatures (know-what) to which we attach knowledge. However, we learn deep skills from practice and experience—and gaining experience takes time. Job rotation helps, as does assignment to cross-functional project teams, but the best managers also regard themselves as coaches and teachers. Coaches use a variety of approaches, from one-way directives to joint problem solving, but the more that the learner is guided through experience, the more lasting is the knowledge.ii . Organizations whose leaders regard the provision of guided experience as essential, and development of people as one of the primary responsibilities of all managers—one for which they are held accountable in job evaluations—have a competitive advantage.
It is also in the power of leaders to inspire more creativity in the groups they lead.iii As noted earlier, an employee’s identity in today’s world is unlikely to be tied long term to an organization; therefore, managers have to create loyalty and commitment not through patronizing (the organization will take care of you) but through providing an interesting and exciting place to work. Creativity cannot be managed or controlled, but it can certainly be nurtured or killed. In the search for meaning to their lives, people find great satisfaction in having created something—a product, a service, an innovation that leads to improved conditions for someone. Too often we do not make the link between what an individual is doing on a daily basis and some larger purpose. Most people do not spring out of bed in the morning, eager to make 10% more for the stockholders of their company. That is too abstract a goal, directed toward unknown individuals (and financial gain for someone else is an unlikely aspiration)! Even personal financial gain may not be enough of a motive. Research shows that individuals are motivated best by a combination of intrinsic motives (I enjoy doing this for some personal reason) and extrinsic ones (doing this gains me more recognition or more financial security). Therefore, leaders who can provide both intrinsic and extrinsic motives for their employees are more likely to retain them and their valuable knowledge.
Unfortunately, there are serious barriers to both learning through experience and to creativity today. A primary one is time constraints. Information can be delivered at huge speed (the old analogy to drinking from the firehose) and people can be thrown into a situation to “sink or swim,” but know-how takes time to develop. Time pressures, recent research in multiple organizations shows, inhibit creativity.iv Another constraint is managerial lack of understanding of basic human behavior. We need leaders who have enough life experience to understand, for example, what motivates people, the best forms of interpersonal communication, and the human inclination to interpret intellectual or positional disagreements as interpersonal attacks. Managers who have a sophisticated understanding of human psychology and who know how to use it in the workplace are more likely to have an innovative employee base. In this book, Hubert Rampersad has amassed and synthesized a huge amount of material written on these and related topics. The book serves as a practical guide, in that there are numerous exercises and business illustrations. However, it is also an extensive reference guide to many other works on management if the reader wishes to delve more deeply into any of the singular bodies of knowledge that the author has brought together into the Total Performance Scorecard.
Professor Dorothy A. Leonard
The William J. Abernathy Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, Boston
i See Dorothy Leonard. Wellsprings of Knowledge: Building and Sustaining the Sources of Innovation. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1995, 1998.
ii See Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap. “The Value of ‘Been There, Done That.’”In F. Hesselbein, M. Goldsmith, I. Somerville (eds.), Leading for Innovation and Organizing for Results. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001, pp. 165–176.
iii See Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap. When Sparks Fly: Igniting Creativity in Groups. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1999.
iv See Theresa Amabile, Constance N. Hadley, and Steven J. Kramer. “Creativity Under the Gun.” Special Issue on The Innovative Enterprise: Turning Ideas into Profits. Harvard Business Review 80, no. 8 (August 2002):52–61.