ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

May 1999


Kid's Stuff

Quality On Trial: Achieving Success At A Law Firm

Baskin Robbins' Best Flavor

Kung Fu Theatre


Let's Go To The Oasis
by Peter Block


Sorry We're Closed: Diary Of A Shutdown

Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review

The Quality Tool I Never Use

Sites Unseen

Views For A Change

Dave Farrell responds:
“Outstanding” performance is performance that makes an extraordinary contribution to the business and its customers. Notice that I use the word performance, not just accomplishments. Frequently that level of performance is marked by an “accomplishment,” but not always. “Just doing what is required” if done all day, every day, may truly be performance that meets that test. Also, we tend to recognize those who have come up with a brilliant solution to a problem much more easily than those who consistently prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Fire fighting is much more glamorous than fire prevention.

For yet another perspective, I am reminded of the response by Thomas Watson to an engineer who, having taken a risk that resulted in an expensive failure, volunteered his resignation. Watson replied, “You can’t be serious. We’ve just spent $10 million educating you.” If intelligent risk-taking is a behavior you wish to encourage, you have to recognize the effort, not just the result.

Setting clear objectives, desired outcomes and standards of performance will facilitate the identification of behavior above and beyond. Without them, efforts to identify the really extraordinary are doomed to failure.

Customers have no trouble in identifying truly outstanding performance when they receive it. It was a product or service that went beyond satisfying them; it surprised them, delighted them. In evaluating individual or team performance, set up a process for getting feedback from customers, internal or external.Yes, we believe there is still a very definite and significant place for individual recognition. We have long been proponents of a greater focus on team building and team performance than most organizations provide. However, we believe that the emphasis on the importance of teams should not be at the expense of understanding and recognizing the value of individual contributions. It is not a question of which, but of both! Consider for a moment:
-The percentage of a person’s work time spent on individual activity versus team activity.
- The extraordinary value of the “superstar” in any field of endeavor, both in raising the level of performance of any team and in setting an example, a standard of performance to be striven for by others.
- Motivation is a very personal thing—different people are motivated by different types of rewards or recognition.

One effective approach for reinforcing both individual and team values is to identify extraordinary individual performance, but to always ask that person what others (individuals or teams) made significant contributions to the achievement. Who provided critical help? Then be sure to include them in the recognition.

Technical and engineering organizations that lead the pack in “fresh new ideas” on recognizing professional staffs are experiencing excellent results with:
-Providing increased opportunities for further developing and using professional skills, such as:
--Sponsorship of additional professional education
--Opportunity to pick the next project
--Assistance with peer reviews and publishing of papers in technical or society journals.
- Semi-annual or annual improvement conferences, in which individuals and teams report on completed projects to an audience of the organization’s executive staff. Events of this kind rapidly become “must attend” experiences for the executives and motivating for the presenters.
- Publication of the accomplishments in local newspapers, either as articles or as paid advertisements.
- Trips to technical conferences and or society meetings.
- Develop the habit of reporting on extraordinary performance and accomplishments as a regular feature of staff meetings at all levels. This builds recognition into the culture of the organization and the word spreads!
- Get internal and external customers involved
--Establish a process, which stimulates customers to provide direct feedback and recognition
--Personal visits with customers for recipients—at the customer’s place, or yours.
- Involve the family—events that otherwise may seem artificial take on a different value when the family is present.

Many of the formal approaches to recognition that are often seen as “fluff” as you describe it, stem from their artificial nature. The most effective recognition of all—on a sustained basis—continues to be the simple but sincere “thank you” from the boss or from the customer. Virtually every manager needs help in doing this better. Whether at the “water cooler,” over lunch or in a letter to home, the heartfelt spontaneous expression of appreciation for a job well done can do more than all the planned events to put a smile on the face and a spring in the step.

Myron Kellner Roger Responds

May '99 News for a Change | Email Editor
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