How to stop leaders from “gaming” your system

For two decades I designed compensation and performance management systems for large and medium companies. I always had this nagging thought that after two or three years the system had run its course. Those who wanted to do so had figured out the game and turned what was intended to be a fair system into their own playground.

Quantitative performance ratings drove me crazy. Leaders would figure out the overall rating they wanted, and then go back and tweak the individual ratings so that they could give the salary increase they wanted to give.

Today, the Wall Street Journal carried an article about how companies are learning to game Glassdoor. Companies like SpaceX, SAP, LinkedIn and Anthem “encouraged” people to leave excellent reviews, causing unusual spikes in their ratings. CEOs questioned about the practice said that the ratings on the site were not representative of their company, so they fixed it.

I see a pattern here – those systems that are intended to provide helpful and unbiased data can be “gamed.”

The other nagging thought I had back when I designed compensation plans was that plan sponsors wanted to substitute a system for daily leadership. How do we make sure the tellers are upselling? Put in an incentive plan. Are tellers balancing? Put it in the incentive plan. Are they being nice…? You’ve got the idea. The plan becomes so complicated that two staff analysts are engaged to “track and manage” it. The branch manager doesn’t understand it and spends more time explaining the plan than correcting behaviors.

I see another pattern here – there seems to be more value placed on systems to manage behavior than on leadership observation, coaching, and feedback.

Systems are critical in an organization. They lay boundaries, communicate values, encourage appropriate behavior while discouraging behavior that is contrary to the mission. They are not, however, a substitute for leadership. The timely and effective use of organizational systems should be a competency for which leaders are held accountable.

How can an organization build accountability into their systems so that the data and results are intentional and not “gamed?” Here are four ways to get started. (more…)

How quickly can the Nebraska team learn?

Shucks. Nebraska lost to Purdue, and now has a 0-4 record for 2018, and hopes of a bowl game are…well…probably gone. So much for the silver bullet, Scott Frost.  Oh wait, I already said there is no silver bullet.

I do, however, see more leadership lessons from Nebraska. Let’s explore “organizational learning,” shall we?  I went to look for a prior article I wrote on organizational learning, because I use the term all the time.  By golly, I haven’t written one, so let’s take a whack now.

My mantra: learning occurs at the individual, team and organizational level, and higher levels of learning are not the sum of the parts.  They are greater and they are shared.  Just because everyone on the team is exceptionally good at their individual role doesn’t mean the team is effective. They may be; they may not be.

If they are, and they haven’t built a collective set of experiences, practiced together, and dissected each and every move to understand why it worked or why it didn’t work, their win is pure luck. Luck may win the game. It doesn’t get you to the national championship.

Scott Frost has repeatedly said, “I know what direction we are going.” My guess is that he’s going to the national championship. And given his record of coaching success, I suspect his experience has told him from the beginning that it ain’t gonna be easy.

Oh, there are some that are ready to give up on Frost already. They just don’t get it. It isn’t about the short-term. It’s about the long-term.  It’s about organizational learning. How can Nebraska’s journey demonstrate the elements of organizational learning? There are several ways. (more…)

Leadership Lessons from Nebraska Football

Writer’s note: I have already seen numerous wonderful leadership lessons from the first four games, and I suspect that will continue.  This article will probably become a running commentary on what I learned during the season. Stay tuned.

My husband is a Nebraska football fan. That might just be a serious understatement.  For our 40+ years together, he anxiously awaits fall, and sits glued to the television for each and every game (unless they are losing so badly that he can’t bear to watch.) He devours every article on every move, and dissects the plays weekly with his son, another FANatic.

Back in the day, Nebraska was the pinnacle of successful college football. Over the last couple decades, not so much. They have brought in coaches, fired coaches, changed strategies, poached players, but have never revived their glory days. (more…)