Chapter 7: A real infrastructure of recognition.

Something has been on my mind in relation to rewarding individuals and teams… Do we really need performance reviews anymore? Why do we still have them? What’s their real point? What do they actually achieve? And finally, who do they really reward?

Objectives change during the year, inevitably. Bonuses are increasingly irrelevant in a collaborative and innovation centred culture! How can you reward ideas, accurately, fairly and in order to encourage more ideas? Does it matter whether they come from the top or not? An idea, especially a good idea, is still just an idea from any corner of your organisation.

The reputation of a maverick individual seems outdated to me. It’s a negatively perceived description of an original thinker, and original thinkers are what the world needs right now. We need people to innovate and those people may not always look like a traditional senior person. In fact according to Adam Grant, many original thinkers are seen as procrastinators, something dreaded in a business environment, where time is money. People who do not deliver within a timeframe, people who seem to be unfocused and perhaps look like a ‘jack of all trades’ due to their eclectic interests and scattered approach, do not fit into the historical structure of reward. Their project delivery does not always arrive on time, their contribution may not be consistent having peaks and troughs, but they are perpetually thinking. And this thinking will result in something original, unfortunately it may not be what others expect! So original thinkers often make others uncomfortable as they ask questions, challenge assumptions and produce results that look ‘off the wall’!

If we need individuals who do not fit well into corporate hierarchy or the SMART objective, how should leaders accommodate these exceptions? How do the original thinkers become leaders in the infrastructure of organisations? Using the principle that a goldfish grows to fit the space in the bowl, we could apply this principle to the growth of people. The conditions needed for the growth of an individual, and subsequently innovation in an organisation may be much more organic than an objective based system. The conditions for growth of an innovator could include:

• Access to research, a positive learning environment with a flexible approach to timeliness and the direction that learning takes.
• The ability and openness of an organisation to being consulted with a flexible agenda, and without output expectations or constraints.
• An environment that enables idea testing and validation, to ensure that multiple perspectives are considered.
• A flexible framework of assessing achievement that’s less about specifics and more about overall motion forwards in any area.
• A non-hierarchical view of the value of opinions to allow anyone to question the direction a strategy or specific idea is taking. Asking questions becomes the norm, acquiescence is not, to reduce the chance of the negatives being swept under the carpet.

Having the option to make it up as an idea progresses, given that not everything will be known at the beginning. Something like an Agile prototyping of ideas for strategy and products, with a failsafe of being able to suspend work and start again as necessary. The ‘fail fast’ approach to minimise sinking dead money into a project that’s not working. See Chapter 5: Enabling ego free discussion.

Measures of productivity would then be geared towards:

• A flexible approach to measures of productivity, including number of ideas generated as well as the foundation work for creating those ideas.
• Prediction of possible futures, with appropriate modelling.
• Facilitating new thought processes within teams and groups of stakeholders.
• Learning how others think, behave and thrive as a group to create an appropriate environment for innovation.

Once people have grown to fit their space, increase the space preferably prior to the limit and they will grow more. The potential direction each individual takes is not always linear and often similar skills can be applied in mul centres of an organisation. There is a place for performance review but I believe this lessens with experience (I have written my own performance reviews and objectives in the last ten years for my line manager to check and sign!). The Scholarly Kitchen chefs talk about how they have each adapted their own core skills to meet industry needs here. The article interviews revolve around career journeys and how each person adapted to new environments and shifting personal ambitions. Given the increasing flexibility in career paths, how can leaders facilitate transitions like this for their own people? How can leaders facilitate career growth for individuals, whether inside or outside their own organisation?

Positive organisational culture is no longer about simply training individuals, identifying potential leaders or how people are treated generally. The organisational cultures we develop are much more sophisticated than these concepts. The world is globally integrated, each organisation impacting on every other organisation, each vision of each leader is based in the business environment we operate in, and is influenced by that same environment.

The global environment is at risk from climate change. And there is no business if there is no world. In turn, there is no current leadership model that is based in the continuity of existence. Money, power, and position are only relevant in a sustainable earth. Nothing matters if the world ends in the next few generations.

This incredible truth is dawning on everyone.

Profit as the primary aim cannot be sustained. What matters now is a sustainable economy, not a capitalist economy. The interdependence and survival of our race becomes the foundation, not a luxury of business principles. Our generation has the chance to change the world, to sustain the world for the next generation. Will the next generation even have that opportunity or will it be too late? Will they be on a dying planet, where all hope is lost? Let’s hope not. Let’s work together to ensure this possibility does not become my daughter’s reality… please.

This is Chapter 7 of my book, Leadership Now. and the rest is here:

For tickets to the associated talks, please click here:

Love Ruth x

Image courtesy of our Guinea Pigs, who’s favourite reward is food 😂.

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