ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

September 1998


Standing Your Ground In The Face Of Change

Turning Local Government Into A Business

Stop Trying To Be "Friendly" And "Courteous"

It's A Small World Afterall
Lucent's Performance


My Way Is The Highway
by Peter Block

What's So Super About Collaboration?
by Michael Finley


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review


It’s A Small World After All
Lucent’s Performance Management
Platform Benefits From a Global Team Approach

“Can we meet next Tuesday at 1 p.m. to review your performance for the year?” These words are almost always uttered and received with a noticeable sigh. Christina Sanes, district manager of performance systems at Lucent Technologies, knows that sigh well. But she may have found a way to turn the sigh into an energizing “yes.” The key — Lucent’s Global Performance Platform. This performance management system is a result of a two-year initiative which began in January of 1996, four short months after the September 1995 announcement of the break-up of AT&T and the start-up of a $26 billion company Lucent Technologies a year later.

Sanes’ task was to develop for Lucent’s 64,000 non-union employees a performance management architecture, processes and tools that would provide a common framework across Lucent and still be flexible enough to incorporate unique business unit nuances. No easy task when you are dealing with 11 businesses and not only in the United States but also in five continents. These continents presented a mix of cultural, economic and political differences to compound the challenge.

Forming a Global Team and Benchmarking
Despite initial pressure to develop a system and “get it right” in the United States before transporting it internationally, Sanes formed a core team consisting of representatives from every business unit and major international region.

The team listened to executives, supervisors and employees to discover what they needed in a performance management system. They heard that executives were interested in a system that would raise the performance bar. Supervisors wanted a set of easy tools to assess performance. Employees wanted tools that were easy for them to use as well as processes that were fair. And the human resources managers in the business units wanted information that was accessible and easily implemented in their business units.

Not content with just listening to Lucent’s current associates, Sanes’ team also benchmarked best-in-class companies and companies with strong human resources and performance management systems. “We found that all companies struggle with unified performance management systems,” Sanes says. “They are all in different stages of solving and responding to what the company needs most. For some companies, speed or customer focus is the most important aspect. For others it’s engaging employees and that gets played out in the performance management system.”

“Lucent’s performance management system involved setting objectives so that people knew where they fit into the strategic picture of the corporation. Every day they could come to work focused on their piece of that contribution. The system also included getting feedback and coaching and recognition that rewarded the performance we were seeking based on appraisals,” says Sanes. In this initial research the team found that the current tools in Lucent’s system needed to be streamlined. In other words, the tools asked too many questions or were too many pages long.

What To Do When Your Beta Test Fails
Once the team felt they had accomplished the tasks of streamlining and refining the existing tools, they beta tested them throughout the world. “We tested by putting employees in a classroom and introduced the tools through a simulation. For example, we would set up a situation where they were sitting next to someone and setting objectives or giving feedback or appraising performance or determining raises,” Sanes explains.

The beta tests results were less than satisfactory. The new tools worked fine in the United States but not in Asia. “We were disappointed because we had representation from the regions on the team. I think what happened is that those representatives had worked in the United States in the past and had been, in a sense, indoctrinated in the U.S. mindset. So, when we tested the tools with workers who had no interaction with the United States, they didn’t work,” says Sanes. “Culture is another interesting piece. For example, in Latin America the language didn’t work. The tools where fine, but the words didn’t work.”

With the failure of the beta test, the team was under increased pressure to just deploy the new system in the United States. “Managers were pushing to get these tools since they had annual raises to consider,” laments Sanes. “As a team, we held fast and decided to delay deployment until we had a set of tools that would work for Lucent globally.”

The team shortened the tools, changed language, handled translations and customized the tools for each respective culture. In fact, they established extended teams in each region to customize the tools. In addition some of these extended teams needed to deal with local regulations.

“Germany, for example, is one of the most complicated. All work regulations need to be approved by the German Works Council,” says Sanes. “If they don’t approve your system, it doesn’t get implemented.” The Lucent Germany’s human resource representative felt that the global performance management system spoke well to the way Lucent Germany operates. Since it was different than the process currently in place it needed to be approved by the German Works Council. The German human resources team formed a partnership with the German Works Council and Lucent line and corporate members to gain approval of the new system.

Last Minute Changes Prior to Rollout
With all the tools reworked, Lucent began deploying them globally. But even that rollout had its challenges. Lucent recently incorporated GROWS behaviors as part of its strategic position and corporate culture. GROWS stands for Global growth mindset, Results focused, Obsessed with customers and about competitors, Workplace that is open, supportive and diverse and Speed. Lucent recognizes the importance of language in developing cultures of high accountability and performance. In fact, they recently removed the word supervisor and replaced it with coach. “These behaviors were identified just before our rollout; so we pulled the tools back and changed the language,” says Sanes.

Sanes believes that her teams’ approach serves as an excellent model of how to develop, deploy and enhance corporate policy. “There is a richness of information that comes from having a complete team with line people, corporate people and people from various countries represented. Many times the best information came from the line people but the corporate people would see linkages to other processes that the line people might not see,” says Sanes. “In fact one major finding was the need to have courses in our Learning and Performance Center that would support the language and performance management system. And also the need for courseware to teach supervisors or coaches how to use these tools.”

Compensation: The Tricky Part
The most challenging piece to the team was the area of compensation. “We often hear that performance management is one thing and compensation is another,” says Sanes. And it was clear from their initial research and benchmarking that everyone wanted these to be linked. The team developed a talent assessment matrix that lends itself to an overlay tool that the compensation staff can create to help supervisors determine percent of pay increase.

Over the past year Lucent’s Performance Management System has been phased in throughout the world. And while the bargaining agreement with the 43,000 unionized employees does not allow for compensation based on appraisal, some of the business units are using these tools to help set objectives and to enhance coaching and feedback mechanisms for the unionized workforce.

And while Lucent employees might still sigh at the sound of a performance appraisal, they know that the current performance management system was designed with input from a variety of constituencies and supervisors, coaches and leaders. They now have a system that is dynamic, flexible and works thanks to the team approach, part of the Lucent culture, that Sanes used to develop a global performance management system.

September '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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