Way Is The Highway
So Super About Collaboration?
Its A Small World After All
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 Lucents 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 Lucents 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
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 Lucents 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 its engaging employees and that gets played out in the performance management system.
Lucents 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 Lucents 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
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 didnt work, says Sanes. Culture is another interesting piece. For example, in Latin America the language didnt work. The tools where fine, but the words didnt 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 dont approve your system, it doesnt get implemented. The Lucent Germanys 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
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
Over the past year Lucents 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.