Don't Let Someone Who Gave Up
Your employees, UK Doctors, Drunk Irishmen
The most misunderstood thing in the management of people is the level at which people work and how that intersects with the level that positions require. In every organization I’ve ever worked in or consulted with, the time horizon needed by the position and the abilities of the person in the position were a mismatch 75% of the time.
This is true in your organization, too. Fully three quarters of your people are improperly tasked for the job they currently have. Some may be too highly placed (very likely), and some may be in positions below their abilities (happens but not as often). It doesn’t matter which is the case, the problem itself is destroying your efficiencies and progress.
The grandfather of organizational psychology, Elliot Jacques, posited that each of us are born with a mental capacity that fits comfortably into a concept of how far out in the future we can work without direct supervision improving the results we produce. For example:
Some people are mentally most comfortable working on a daily timeframe … they like to punch a clock, do good work and go home at the end of the day with the problems of work left at work. When the days look very much alike, they can raise their timeframe focus to a weekly threshold, as well. These people are typically compensated on an hourly basis, and don’t participate in the planning or organizational side of the business. They simple do the work and we identify them as Level 1 workers.
Others function inside a slightly longer timeframe, working from weekly to monthly, and focusing largely on supervising the work done by Level 1 team members. They can step in to do the work, too, but their primary job function is manage the team of workers to produce the results needed for the month. Scheduling is a big piece of what they do, team leadership is another. They are often compensated on an hourly basis, but you do start to see some salary type positions here, too. We call them Level 2, or supervisors.
Still other team members orient naturally towards a timeframe expressed in months to quarters. This is the first layer of true management in an organization and the primary focus of people in this strata is articulating, building and policing work within defined processes. They work constantly on putting out fires, and incorporating those fixes into processes that prevent those fires in the future. No organization can grow without this type of timeframe oriented thinker laying down the rules of who does what and when. Level 3 people, or managers, are typically compensated on a salary and may have achievement bonuses paid out, as well, and this is usually when equity begins to appear in the compensation package.
Level 4 people, directors, come next and work in the realm of systems. A system is an integrated set of processes from separate functions and disciplines that feeds itself with prompts for action and provides feedback upon success and failure. That’s a mouthful but in practice its easy to spot. When someone orders a book on Amazon a host of processes kick off immediately. Credit cards are billed, accounts are updated, marketing databases are tagged, shipping tracking is engaged, shipping orders are given. These are all discrete processes that come together in a single system. Directors have oversight of these and work within a quarterly to annual timeframe to make sure that annual goals for growth and quality are met. Always salaried and bonused, with equity and other incentives, Directors are the operational thought leaders of most complex organizations.
For our purposes, executives, or those operating at a Level 5, annual to 3-5 year timeframe come next. To be honest, most small businesses often are not run by a Level 5 person. Where our directors fuse our processes into systems, our executives combine our systems with other systems to produce real scale.
This kind of matrix is exponentially more valuable than the expensive, fun but useless personality screening and culture assessments that are marketed to us as business owners every day. Those things tell us how people perceive themselves which is rarely correct. This work will show you wear people can be best placed relative to the demands of the position. Getting this right absolutely delights employees who feel like they are able to do good work without the fear of disappointing their superiors — the number one reason people leave jobs despite what you’ve heard.
Look at your company, knowing this has already suggested at least one name that you know is in the wrong place. You don’t have to fire that person, you can work with them to get into a place where they are most properly tasked.
“No time is no excuse.”
In the UK, universities have been told they must limit the number of medical school places this year or risk fines or defunding by the government. This kind of thing —which would only make sense to a bureaucrat — has been attacked as “extraordinary” when the NHS itself is struggling with unprecedented staff shortages.
The funniest thing about — if it were funny — is that med schools have been told to keep enrollment offers low to ensure that there is “no risk” of them accepting more would-be doctors than permitted by a government cap. Get that? The UK caps the number of students who can become doctors in their country so that it maintains a shortage of doctors. That number is 7,500 per year for a population of 68m, with a total of only about 240k doctors total.
Robert Halfon, the universities minister, wrote to vice-chancellors last week telling them to limit their offers to sixth-formers, causing frustration among universities, which face fines of £100,000 per student for persistent over-recruitment. Universities say that in the summer, they were forced to reject students for administrative reasons such as submitting vaccine certificates late to stay within permitted numbers.
OK, maybe this is esoteric, nerdy, uninteresting or whatever … but what if it were loved one on line at the NHS and you were told that there is an even-greater-than-normal delay in getting treatment because of crap like this. Central planning of the economy is always felt in human terms.
“It seems, in fact, as though the second half of a person’s life is made up of nothing but the habits they accumulated during the first half.”
In the Great Dublin Whiskey Fire of 1875 there were exactly zero fire-related deaths, but 13 deaths from people drinking all the free booze. Sometimes stereotypes are there for a reason.