Friday, 15 September 2017

Doing Your Best Is Environmental

When did it become unacceptable to “do your absolute best”?

When did it become necessary to put a number, a percentage, a factor or a time on everything?

As toddlers, our parents encourage us to do our best, however when we start being assessed at school, doing our best is passed over for actual results.

What if the results our parents think are great, do not represent us doing our best?

In our working life, chances are there are measurement parameters to be met.

Is it possible such parameters are driving results that are less than they would be if the culture was “do your absolute best”.

If you operate in a highly metricated environment, you will have almost certainly come in to contact with people who meet the target almost precisely, in each and every reporting period.

So, why this tendency to count and to measure, and then to reward accordingly?

Put simply, it is easy.

In a way, it also delegates performance responsibility to the “operatives”.

If the requirement was to “do your absolute best”, there is a responsibility for Leaders to provide a high-performance environment. This includes support, IT, people, product and processes.

This is hard, very hard, so it doesn’t happen.

However, I pose the question, how is performance being adversely affected by metricated KPI’s?

This subject has come to front of mind as a result of a question I have been asked more than a hundred times these last weeks.

I am running the Berlin Marathon in 8 days and everyone, absolutely everyone wants to know my target time.

My objective in Berlin is to run the absolute best marathon I can do, given all the circumstances leading up to, and then on the day.

Will it be hot, cold, wet or dry? Will I get a great night’s sleep or will there be a fire alarm at midnight?

My objective is to do my absolute best marathon given the environment I am presented with on the day. I have no control over the environment, and in most cases, no one else has control either.

When I outline this, I am further pushed for a “time specific” answer.

We are so programmed to access everything numerically and then make an assessment as to the result being good, bad or indifferent.

As I said, I have little or no control over the environment I will face in 8 days’ time.

In business, a Leader is able to create an environment where team members can do their absolute best.

It takes courage to implement such an environment. It is far easier to default to numerical targets.

It takes courage to trust rather than question operatives.

It takes courage to implement a culture of “doing your absolute best”.

It takes courage to argue that targets detract, rather than enhance results.

Back to my marathon on 24 September, if I was to nominate a target time of say 4 hours 30 minutes and the circumstances of the day meant I was well ahead of target, I may back off my effort and finish in 4 hours and 30 minutes.

My supporters and fellow team members would applaud my “time”, but I would know I had not run to my absolute best on the day.

I would have under-performed, but only I would know.  

All Leaders have the ability to drive a better culture, but few exercise it, defaulting instead to numbers that ultimately can restrict performance

Enjoy your weekend.

For regular readers, I will be back on Monday 18 September.

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