Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Why rating employees on a curve is a worst practice!

Many give credit to Jack Welsh of GE for the notion of rating people on a curve. What they didn't pay attention to was Jack's more important message of getting out of businesses where they couldn't be competitive...

Have you ever heard an executive wax poetic by saying "I guess a little healthy competition won't hurt". This is a sad example of a the self-destructive authoritarian who assumes that anything that happens must necessarily have been exactly what he/she intended to happen.

For the record, there is no such thing as "healthy" competition within a knowledge organization; all internal competition is destructive! The nature of work in IT is that it cannot be done by any single person in isolation. Knowledge work is by definition collaborative.

The necessary collaboration is not limited to the insides of lowest-level team; there has to be collaboration as well between teams and between and among the organizations the teams belong to.

Many executives have brainwashed themselves into thinking that competition won't inhibit cooperation. They reason that the obligations of "professionalism" will oblige their subordinate managers to help each other out when it is in the common good. When that doesn't happen, they grumble loudly about "unprofessional" behavior.

Think for a moment and you will find yourself laughing hysterically at this form of executive stupidity as this is beyond insane optimism. When managers are given direct and explicit incentives to compete with their peers, it makes zero sense to expect them to refrain from playing the game at all out of respect for a fuzzy abstraction like professionalism.

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