Hiring Smart

This passed me by on my LinkedIn feed. They quote Steve Jobs as saying something allegedly wise against micro-management.

I wonder when he said it because I remember saying something similar in the 1990’s (while Jobs was at Next). It’s just as well that I wasn’t blogging or asserting copyright, although I might be richer than I am if I had. (It is however, merely a corollary of the “Theory X, Theory Y” model which was first stated in the “Human Side of Enterprise” by Douglas McGregor, published in 1960, which I commented on here …. , I also comment here … and also here … ) So even I was a bit late.

I was hugely amused by the comment suggesting that Jobs didn’t actually pursue this strategy! …

Abolish Performance Reviews

I recieved in my inbox an article on Adobe’s experience on abolishing their annual appraisal process. One reason was cost, they calculated it took the equivalent of 40 FTEs to run the process which illustrates the distraction of management time. The article quotes quality guru W. Edwards Deming who says,

It nourishes short-term performance, annihilates long-term planning, builds fear, demolishes teamwork, nourishes rivalry and politics.”

They replaced their previous stack ranking system with a more flexible and empowered system, divorcing formal performance from salary/bonus decisions.

It proved to be more popular with managers and staff, with one employee reporting

… that a feeling of relief has spread throughout the company because the old annual review system was “a soul-less and soul crushing exercise.”

One side effect was that involuntary terminations increased but voluntary terminations reduced, It ought to be a happier place to work. …

What management values

This is a pointer to an article on my sun/oracle blog, originally called Geeks & Suits. A you can see, I have changed the title. I made a video with the Sun’s EMEA head of pre-sales together with a Chris Gerhard. I used my and Chris’s dress code as an excuse to segue onto the dichotomy of style, knowledge and power in modern business. The original article is not well written. I was able to quote a recent poll in Management Today and reviews of Nick Carr’s “IT doesn’t matter”, both suggesting that the tradition that management values …. itself has and will continue. This means that in a modern knowledge based business they will under value the geeks, those with the knowledge. …

Make it something interesting for a change

Is the Cluetrain Manifesto, “a spectre haunting the Internet?”  Some of it is very funny, some of it bloody obvious. Its only the retards that thought the ’80s would last forever and that Gordon Gecko was a philosopher that will find some of this hard or revolutionary – the fact it’s all in one place is very good though, and its clearly written in a language that “entrepreneurs” can get! …

Recruit & Retain

The Register posts an article today “Nicer bosses retain more (female) staff”. Here…. Lucy Sheriff writes, “The astonishing news that women don’t like to work with horrible managers, … will undoubtedly send shock waves throughout the HR sector industry.”. I’m sure it will, HR are usually the last to catch up. Interesting that people are looking for this now; also I’m sure that not wanting to work with horrible managers isn’t restricted to women. …

Maximising Creativity

For various reasons, I decided to see if one of the early people motivation theories was still currently in use. This is the “Theory X, Theory Y” model. It was first stated in the “Human Side of Enterprise” by Douglas McGregor, published in 1960. This is listed on Amazon as out of print, but they do quote a price and shipment date, and has been reviewed in the last year by Sheila Ale. The top “Google, search site” offers http://www.businessballs.com, which holds an article about the Theory XY model here….

The model poses two forms of management behaviour, one is hard arse (X), the other enabling (Y). Theory X can be characterised as a directorial approach based upon a deep cynicism about staff (or people), which is described in the businessballs article, as based upon the view that people don’t want to work and have to be “forced” to do so. Theory Y was first described to me as “if you look after your people, they’ll look after you”. Again quoting the businessballs article “The capacity to use a high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity in solving organisational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population”.

I find it interesting in that once one reduces Theory X to its minimal components, it comes as no surprise that only underachieving enterprises permit Theory X to be the dominant management culture. Belief in your staff leads to competitive performance, it is this which is the essential part of the theory. For top performance, believe in, enable and liberate your people; we no longer live in a production line economy.


In simplistic terms, I suspect that Theory Y only works when people are enjoying what they do. If they’re not, then Theory X might be the only way to get any productivity. When someone’s in the wrong job, Theory Y gives leeway for taking advantage of the organisation’s culture.

Posted by Sylvia on December 13, 2004 at 01:17 AM PST