“Our company has adopted something called Management by Objectives. MBO they call it,” Sara reported.
“And why did your company adopt that strategy?” I asked.
“There were some who said that our appraisal system was too subjective, that it needed to be measurable. So everyone had to sit down and make up some objectives.”
“And why do you think your company made that decision?”
“Some of the managers were uncomfortable making judgments about a team member’s performance. There were squabbles, disagreements and the whole thing turned into a big distraction.”
“And how is MBO working out for you?”
“Well, it has just as many downsides as the old system,” Sara replied. “Some people get so focused on their own objectives, they forget about the other people they work with. Cooperation gets stopped dead in its tracks. And sometimes the objectives are not really in the control of the team member. We seem to spend more time talking about how unfair the system is than we do about improving individual effectiveness.”
“When did it start?” I asked. Gerald stopped to think. A long time employee, recently promoted to Manager, had gone zombie, mentally absent in the role.
“The timing is a little tough. When we promoted him to Manager, we knew there would be a learning curve, so we gave him a little space and the benefit of the doubt. But after four months, my patience is wearing thin.”
“Why have you let it go so long?” I asked.
“Well, we figured it would take a quarter to get up to speed, so we set some benchmarks that he needed to hit by the end of six months. I don’t know if we can wait until then.”
“So, this is management by results?” I pondered.
“Yeah, that’s the way we normally do things. But he’s not even close, and when we do try to pin him down, there is always some excuse about something not being in his control, and that we should wait for the six months we agreed to measure the benchmark.”
“How are you liking your approach?”
Gerald was getting impatient, up and down from his chair, pacing the floor. “But that’s the way we work. Management by Objectives.”
“I can see that,” I responded, nodding. “You gave him six months to hit his objectives, but you can already see that his behavior, as a Manager, is not effective?”
“Well, yes. And even trying to pin him down on his objectives. He’s just slippery. We are trying to measure the benchmarks and we can’t get the information. He has a production report that is due every Friday, but I never get it on time. And then, when I do get it, there is something screwy with the numbers, like a formula is wrong, or the columns don’t foot with each other. So I ask him to fix it and it’s another week before I see him again. Meanwhile, another Friday report is due and late again.”
“So, he can’t succeed based on his effectiveness, but he can succeed based on his ability to manage the data that you don’t receive about his performance?”