#GoodOrganisations


In the following blog, you will delve into a myriad of insights surrounding the topics of Trust, Ethics, HR, Leadership, Management and their intricate connections to the research I am currently engaged in. These are my personal reflections, which may occasionally challenge conventional views and stir debate.

Disclaimer: Please note that these are personal opinions and not necessarily reflective of the views of the Leadership Society. All third-party images remain intellectual property of their respective creators.


04-04-2024

LIMITS TO EXECUTIVE PAY NEEDED!

I am more than concerned that once more neither the compensation committee nor the executives of UBS themselves have understood the signs on the wall: though shalt not destroy the common good, though shalt restrain!

Well why would I feel comfortable to say this? First, even before I unpack the normative hammer - there is just no practical legitimacy for this. High powered incentives are usually argued on the premise that shareholders carry the residual (not hedgable) risks when investing and hence there need to be means to ensure that agents (here the management team) is responsive to the shareholders interest. For instance by making sure that compensation varies with long term financial success.

Now we could quibble whether the chosen incentive structure would be conducive to this claim - I would argue that this depends immensely on the clawbacks defined. BUT in this case it is irrelevant as the proper residual risk bearers in the case of a bank which is too big to fail are the taxpayers, and in their name the Swiss Government. It is for them to align the incentives, if we apply the same logic, and by nature very different metrics would have to apply. What Switzerland wanted is a reliable, risk-conservative bank - maybe a high reliability organisation as I asked for here https://lnkd.in/gHcj_rxM - but certainly not an overambitious master of the universe type of bank.

But ofc I do not want to leave it there. I would expect that even in the absence of a government intervention (as sadly our politicians are not really acting as guardians) that decent managers would not want such a high compensation. It is more than fair to ask for a good pay - but not for an excessive pay. They thereby destroy the reputation of the banking business further (and hence other banks might want to tell them off…but I have little hope here); but they also in the long term undermine our trust in government and in a society where we strive for justice. As a consequence we might land with more regulation - something we all would want to avoid (ideally).

So imho it is their individual responsibility to show more temperance, and it is the collective responsibility of the sector to avoid such exaggerations.


Find the article here: https://www.reuters.com/business/finance/ubs-reports-144-million-swiss-francs-ceo-ermotti-2023-2024-03-28/

29-02-2024

THE THREEFOLD MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

I recently delved into an enlightening piece by Lisa Herzog, whose insights we'll soon explore in an upcoming interview. She introduces a critical perspective in today's complex world—a world filled with temptations and boundless opportunities, yet where our moral compass is guided by our social interactions. For this she suggest that we need to see moral responsibility as a threefold.

👤 We have moral responsibility for what we do. This might be hampered by the context, but we can nonetheless not shed our responsibility.

👥 We have moral responsibility for what we become, how we cultivate our character; a character which allows us to decide and act well even in situations of pressure and a malfunctioning context. But for cultivating our character context matters - be it upbringing or as pertinent to do where and how we work.

👥👥 And we have moral responsibility for how we (co-)create the context which enables us better to act morally. This is another responsibility we share with others.

This triad of responsibilities underscores the social nature of morality, emphasizing the significant role of context, especially within organizations where we spend a considerable part of our lives. It challenges us to critically assess the simplicity of one-dimensional solutions in organizational settings and to always consider the dual impact of any new practice, tool, or policy on efficacy and moral responsibility.

In the context of organizations, let's ponder:

🎯 Forced Rankings and Mortality Curves: A moment of reflection for SAP 😉. How do these practices shape our moral responsibilities?

🎯 Excessive head count and work intensification. What are its implications for our moral fabric?

🎯Bonus Systems and Short-term Metrics: Often hard to get rid off, but what are the moral consequences? Those who followed my posts know it…🙈

🎯 Tech-Driven Performance Management: Alice Rickert, your work on responsible leadership is crucial here. How can we design, deploy and adapt smart technology without destroying the bases for responsibility?

This is just the beginning. What other organizational practices deserve scrutiny through this moral lens? Your thoughts and contributions are eagerly awaited.

24-02-2024

ACTIVE TRUST FOR FLOURISHING WORKPLACES

It was a huge pleasure to travel with Severin de Wit through 25 years of my trust research. Given the depressing numbers of humans at present wanting to escape their workplace, of identity wars even within companies and of dwindling (organisational) citizenship we need to muster all our insights on how to create trustful and flourishing workplaces.

Hence here we look at the necessary character of organizations such as enabling control systems and fair HR practices as well as debate how we are being stuck in wrong man models and instrumentalizing action logics and much more…but please listen yourself 👇.

 https://trusttalk.co/episode/creating-a-trusting-workplace/ 

24-02-2024

"Shaping the Future: Essential Skills for 2050"

As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of our world, it's clear that traditional projections of skills often fall short of capturing the magnitude of change around us. The World Economic Forum's forecasts, while valuable, sometimes lack the imagination needed to confront the profound shifts occurring in our societies and economies. What if we dared to reimagine not just capitalism but society as a whole?

Enter the Jacobs Foundation, working with scenario-based thinking that challenges us to envision radically different futures. Among these scenarios lies one of optimism: #netzero. This scenario beckons us to consider a world where mere technological innovation isn't sufficient to combat the existential threats of climate change, biodiversity loss, and global inequality. Instead, it urges us to collectively halt the relentless expansion of our ecological footprint and embrace a paradigm shift towards a well-being or a post-growth economy.

In this imagined future, our evolution as individuals and societies takes a different trajectory:

🧘🏽‍♀️ Cultivating inner growth becomes paramount, shifting our focus from mere pleasure-seeking (hedonism) to a deeper sense of purpose and fulfillment (eudaimonia).

🪢 Strengthening our social and civic muscles becomes imperative, fostering collaboration and deliberation to find ingenious ways to deal with scarce resources.

🤔 Acquiring critical thinking literacy emerges as a priority, equipping us with the understanding of ecosystems, economic systems, and transdisciplinary thinking necessary for navigating complex challenges.

👨🏼‍🌾 Embracing practical and experimental skills becomes central, emphasizing hands-on learning and adaptability in an ever-changing world.

Yet, it's evident that our current educational and professional systems aren't fully aligned with these future needs. That's why we're excited to announce our upcoming webcast, #businessforhumanity, debuting on March 12th. Join us as we delve into these and more critical conversations and explore pathways toward a future where human and planetary well-being thrive. Let us find out together how to re-invent capitalism. Learn more here: https://lnkd.in/dYwpsw36

15-02-2024

🔥 Reinventing Capitalism: Where Revolutionary Minds Collide! 🔥

Are you tired of the same old economic narratives? Ready to challenge the status quo and ignite change? Then buckle up, because we're about to embark on a journey unlike any other!

Welcome to Business for Humanity, the hub for radical thinkers, game-changers, and visionaries reshaping the economic landscape. A webcast showcasing alternative blueprints for markets and finance to policymakers advocating for systemic change and entrepreneurs pioneering sustainable business.💥

🌟 Join us as we dive deep into provocative discussions, exploring alternative economic models, dissecting policy implications, and igniting sparks of innovation.

🍽 What is on the menu? The menu is plentiful and sometimes even overwhelming. To avoid information overload we also need a better map to make sense of the territory! As usual we will thus also share insights for orientation. Today find this #deepdive 👇🏻 which sorts the conversations on circularity: from 1.0 dealing with waste, to 2.0 technofixes in the whole value chain, to 3.0 circular society (https://lnkd.in/gafUH-xU).

🗣 Identifying the following main discourses:

a) The Fortress Circular Economy. „These discourses thus seek to impose sufficiency, population controls and resource efficiency from the top down to rationally confront global scarcity and limits, yet they do not deal with questions of wealth distribution and social justice.“

b) The Technocentric Circular Economy. „Expect that circular innovations can lead to an absolute eco-economic decoupling to prevent ecological collapse“.

c) The Transformational Circular Society. „A renewed and harmonious connection with the Earth and their communities. A general economic downscaling and a philosophy of sufficiency leads to simpler, slower and more meaningful lives.“

d) The Reformist Circular Society. „propose a mix of behavioural and technological change, leading to an abundant, fair, and sustainable future where scarcity and environmental overshoot has been dealt with by impressive social, economic, industrial and environmental innovations. While they believe important socio-cultural change is necessary, and new forms of public participation and inclusion are needed, they do not see a fundamental contradiction between capitalism and sustainability.“

So clearly - a webcast on reinventing capitalism will also have to ask: what problems are we facing, what future do we want and how can we get there? And as evident in these discourses - in the end we will have to make a (good) choice.

So: this isn't your typical webcast— join the revolution! Tune in, turn up the volume, and let's rewrite the rules of capitalism together! 💡🌍

Coming 12th of March 16:00 CET. Changemakers Only!

10-02-2024

NARCISSISM, HR AND PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT

#Responsibleleadership and good organisations need to transpire and inspire integrity and inter-independence. In their many studies on narcissism Charles O'Reilly and Jennifer Chatman have convincingly shown that this - to put it mildly - is not exactly the strength of narcissists. Hence, if it is true that we have a narcissism epedemic we should ask how to counteract or deal with this.

"The results of the five studies establish a clear linkage between leader narcissism and organizational cultures characterized by lower collaboration and integrity. Not only engage them less in collaborative and ethical behavior than do those who are less narcissistic but they also create cultures which are less collaborative and of integrity. To explore the mechanisms linking leader narcissism and cultures of collaboration and integrity, one study reveals that more narcissistic respondents are less likely to support policies and practices that promote collaboration and integrity and are less willing to sanction actions that undermine a culture of collaboration and integrity. Finally, to understand how culture is maintained and cascaded through an organization, Study 5 shows that when respondents are dealing with a more narcissistic leader in a culture characterized by lower collaboration and integrity, they are also less likely to collaborate and to adhere to high standards of integrity."

So the question is: how to make sure that less narcissists come into leaders position and if they are how to immunize the system?

🗣 ATTRACTION: Narciss are attracted by high pay differentials and "winner takes it all culture" - another reason not to go back to forced ranking 😉 .

🗣 SELECTION: Narciss often excel in interviews - make sure that your selection process is consisting of several assessment tools; hire slow; use simulation-oriented and maybe even personality tests in addition.

🗣 DEVELOPMENT: Narciss are often impaired to accurately identify and describe their inner states hence a key to successful development is to enable their self-awareness - vertical development is one key, and their willingness to develop.

🗣 MIRRORING: Narciss have a need for positive mirroring and thus search team members who admire them and do not talk truth to power - while I am usually not a fan of 360 degree feedback it might be helpful in this case; more helpful ofc if the team becomes cognizant of the dynamic.

So read the paper 👇 #deepdive and by all means also read Kets de Vries on this topic (who offers a psychodynamic perspective). And to all the HR people out there: how are you taking notice and care of this topic?

https://journals.aom.org/doi/abs/10.5465/amd.2019.0163 

07-02-2024

COLLECTIVE „PAY-FOR-PERFORMANCE“

When we finally ditch individual pay-for-performance some companies want to stick to some amount of performance-related, variable pay. I would usually say:

🗣 Go with gain or profit sharing - it signals „we are in the same boat“ and does not create any of the side effects of individual PfP. Now this meta-analysis from Anthony Nyberg et al show that this is clearly the case. You have some effect on organisational performance because people find themselves recognized and also tend to stay longer in that company.

🗣 Team bonus systems are also - overall - effective but here the original studies caution. Positive effects are to be expected for interdependent work and if teams take care of potential „social loafing“ in a considerate manner. But ofc 30 studies are not a lot and some of the studies which found no or a negative effect (such as the one of my former phd Dr. Daniela Frau) have a much harder time to get published. Hence I would say: proceed with care and also only use it with „proper teams“ that have some autonomy in choosing their peers and have learned to challenge each other in a considerate fashion as there is always the risk to generate too much pressure.

🗣 An interesting variant is the Top Team Bonus System. Unfortunately but unsurprising there are only few studies looking at this and there is quite some noise in the data (there are some moderators not yet tested). But it seems to have a strong effect on operative outcomes such as CSR outcomes. But their effect on the financial outcomes of the company is unclear - but there again we have the same result if we look at the effect of CEO PfP and org performance. It might just be that TMT are not the only ones contributing to organisational performance ;-)😉 .

I highly recommend to read the paper - if only to scan it for the possible downsides of such systems. Our knowledge on the effects is in many cases are not yet rich enough but the biggest learnings are the red flags also found.

Find the study here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0149206318770732?casa_token=2jqHS1WE4G0AAAAA:LuOpHlpH9kPLdcA37JtvJatS9hkYrWyv6aKqb82KbMqq4WEJSLVRf20Gq-PHD_ppakQERKSiJXC4GLA

01-02-2024

𝐂𝐄𝐎 𝐏𝐚𝐲 𝐒𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 🦨

It is „official“ again as Herman Aguinis and colleagues showed: the link between CEO pay and performance remains shaky. Or to put it into their words: „In total, 86 percent of CEO performance and 91 percent of CEO pay distributions fit a power law better than a normal distribution, indicating that a minority of CEOs are producing top value for their firms (i.e. CEO performance) and a minority of CEOs are appropriating top value for themselves (i.e. CEO pay). But, the authors also found little overlap between CEOs who are the top performers and CEOs who are the top earners“.

What then is driving companies and boards to still go on with this - at least from a societal point of view - unhealthy overpay practice?

🦨 opportunity costs of having a particular CEO in command - such as poor hiring decisions, pay package defined before actual performance comes through and the Mathew effect

🦨 managerialism or fat cat theory - CEO (ab)use their power and information asymetry to procure rents

🦨 CEO hubris, greed, narcissism - making the CEO to ask for „too“ much

🦨CEO political behaviors - such as impression management, ties to dominant owners, non-optimal trust (too high)

🦨 political ideology - conservative CEOs and conservative boards opting for high pay differentials

🦨institutionalization of agency logic in business schools, among consultants and by business press shaping the training, socialization and attitudes of senior management.

And probably more…

But the big question remains: how to fix it? How can we get back a) to a more humble pay differential (whatever this means but it cannot be 344:1) and b) to incentives which encourage everybody to contribute (also) to the common good rather than to solely ones’ own good?


Source: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/MRJIAM-02-2017-0731/full/pdf?casa_token=F7yt-bmB3WMAAAAA:pE0ke4QFHLCh2rvjVib9bjZ01O1WVk6crUJWyh9HYgqKJ6hTjXaWPxJgUIcWpZrmTeCiqhgVweDdnt4tz7tp3mHPwLq9d82oy5P4EHw93O_UH5pj2qOuAQ 

21-01-2024

RESPONSIBLE LEADERSHIP AND AI

In 2024, the WEF, unsurprisingly given the current hype on generative AI in the last year, has dedicated a lot of airtime to new technologies. As usual, the techno-optimists prevailed as technological innovation has been traditionally seen as our best bet to solve the problems we are facing. Only this time, technology is hyped to solve the problems we have created ourselves, quite possibly with the help of technology as well.

In this spirit, it is good to know that the downsides of such technology were also discussed. In fact, you can find on the website the following statement: "As public and private leaders look to leverage the benefits while mitigating the risks of this emerging technology, Switzerland is in a strong position to play a vital global role in advancing the development and deployment of AI responsibly."

But are we? And how would we? I am glad, though, that nobody seems to be so naive as to think that technology itself is the (only) answer to responsibility. How we deploy AI, how leaders in politics and business will assume their call to be responsible, will matter a great deal.

In our research, we have looked at two areas where we believe a clear ethical stance is needed. First, and in the article shared here as well in a pop version published in https://lnkd.in/dKV5YwHG, AI was found to create and exacerbate employee vulnerabilities in the workplace. Drawing on Annette Baier and Hannah Arendt, we argue that this creates a call for (moral) trust. Organizations are summoned to invest in caring, in allowing employees to bring their voice into the development and deployment of technology and to bar some uses if needed.

In another article, yet to be completed, we also explain how AI can jeopardize good work. AI, like other technologies before, has the potential to dequalify and dehumanize employees. From the perspective of a virtue ethics approach, such a use is preventing the good life, of which work is a fundamental component. On the other hand, we can deploy AI (and other technologies) also in a way that allows for more good work. The choice lies in our hands, in those of responsible leaders in the private, plural, and public sector!

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/joms.12940

18-01-2024

UNSERE VERANTWORTUNG

85000 Stunden verbringen wir in unserem Leben am Arbeitsplatz. Arbeit dürfte damit die prägende Erfahrung in unserem Erwachsenenleben sein. Arbeit kann uns Selbstwirksamkeit, Anerkennung, geistiges und soziales Wachstum vermitteln - oder sie kann uns auch dequalifizieren, entmündigen, und voneinander isolieren.

Wenn wir in der heutigen Zeit über die wachsende Anzahl entfremdeter Bürger nachdenken, dann müssen wir nicht weiter suchen. Es ist unsere Verantwortung - die von Unternehmen und die von Business Schools - endlich wieder gute Arbeit, und damit auch aktiven Bürgersinn, in den Mittelpunkt zu rücken.

Honneth hat hierzu ein wunderbares Buch geschrieben. Gute Arbeit:

🗣Ermöglicht ein faires Auskommen (sonst fehlt mir die Zeit zu politischer Teilhabe und ich muss auch schlechte Arbeit annehmen).
🗣Laugt nicht aus (darf aber beflügeln).
🗣Vermittelt mir Wertschätzung - auf Augenhöhe.
🗣Sorgt dafür, dass ich mich auf die Zumutung der Anderen einlasse.
🗣Fordert mich mental.
🗣Und lässt mich Gestaltungskraft und Selbstwirksamkeit entwickeln.

Das ist der wirksamste Hebel gegen die Verwerfungen unserer Zeit!

Wer macht mit - welches Unternehmen setzt das um? Welche Business School lehrt das?

16-01-2024

𝐃𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐄𝐝𝐞𝐥𝐦𝐚𝐧: 𝐇𝐮𝐦𝐛𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐈𝐬 𝐚𝐧 𝐈𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐮𝐚𝐥 𝐕𝐢𝐫𝐭𝐮𝐞

Wow - well meant not so well done, or not even well meant? The new Edelman Barometer is pleasing Davos based on a handful of nothing. At the core is the claim that governments (mainly) are preventing needed innovations which business otherwise would do for the good of society. OK - 𝐈 𝐚𝐦 𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐥𝐲 𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐜𝐥𝐚𝐢𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠 - but whatever is the real intention here, it rests on thin grounds.

Let us take a step back and look at the data and its flaws:

🗣 As already mentioned by numerous trust researchers: the measurements itself are certainly not brilliant. Trust, the core, is measured rather one-dimensionally. Although truth to be told in the newest version they work with an „ethical score“ - still with problems but better.

🗣 The insights drawn from the data - at least written in capital letters (it looks slightly different if we venture to the technical appendix) - is clearly „overdrawn“. This is at best correlational data - hence what remains suspiciously unexamined is causality.

🗣 And what is also grossly neglected - and of particular importance: we are looking at complex social systems. Take for instance government and business and their entwinement. Edelman suggests in the subtext that government is mostly to blame and that business should „partner“ up with government. But ofc this „causality“ is neither shown through their study design, nor would we propose such a simplistic one-directional influence. Rather, if not discussed from a neoliberal ideology, the fact that some business leaders undermined and reduced government, might have created the problems in the first place. In any case it defies such a reductionist logic.

Most important though, even if their study was brilliant, „𝐢𝐬“ 𝐜𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐛𝐞 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 „𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭“. Whether we "need" more technology, and which one, how technology should be implemented and used and what for - these are all (also) normative questions. And hence, pertaining to whatever ethical theory we follow, need to be deliberated. Just delegating it to the market does not work (what they acknowledge).

I believe the best business can do in this situation is to enable a better democracy and more practical wisdom for all by providing good work (which gives their employees the civic virtues, the critical thinking skills and the time to participate in democracy) - and if they indeed „partner up with government“ - then this needs to be done together with NGOs, science and the public - open and transparent.

01-01-2024

𝐖𝐡𝐲 𝐢𝐭 𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐚𝐬𝐤: 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐝𝐨 𝐰𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭?

In a recent discussion, my counterpart enlightened me: What do you mean by defining performance? It’s always clear what performance I have to deliver!


A good point, we often take our understanding of performance for granted. And yet, this precisely highlights the #responsibility companies have when developing new #performance_management_systems. The recent renewal of stacked rankings (see the link in the comment 👇🏻) shows that we all too quickly fall into a simplistic definitions with severe consequences.

Psychologists usually distinguish three forms of (individual) performance in the workplace:

🎯 Task-related performance — everything it takes to do the defined tasks well.

🎯 Contextual stabilizing performance — everything it takes to contribute to the goals of the organization in the daily changing environment and collaboration with others.

🎯 Contextual renewing performance — everything it takes to renew the way of collaboration and the goals of the organization so that the organization can be successful in the long term.

Contextual performance always goes beyond the contractually defined components, relies more on collective mindfulness, and generally requires more development work — both on an individual and collective level.

It should become clear that even for instrumental reason, we should not create a system that only focuses on task-related performance. We can assume that in modern, knowledge-based work forms, we always want to utilize all forms of performance — context-sensitive, with the wisdom of the role holder. A ‘Winner Culture’ that relies on star performers falls short here (see the deep dive article 👇 ).

But we should also ask the question: What is desirable? What kind of performance is needed in good companies? Of course, that depends on the definition of ‘good.’ If we understand ‘good’ as #excellent in the sense of ‘supporting each other in getting better’ and ‘good work’ as creating value for society, then it’s clear: we absolutely need contextual performance as well. And then we can probably already state: a system that prevents ‘helping, supporting, speaking unpleasant truths’ cannot lead to excellence.

And I know many will agree — but the sad truth is that even more companies are far too willing to take a turn into the wrong direction.

Read:
https://www.fastcompany.com/90850190/stack-ranking-workers-hurt-morale-productivity-tech-companies

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09585192.2023.2225279?casa_token=Ncv8jzmwxpsAAAAA:05nNe9uyrnMLcT0Op-9RihkOCtccGSrrRxhu0dQ4qh5H5VozEPCNwFuoJ9mvbHE1Og0drWSFLtrRehk

01-01-2024

The Myth of Meritocracy in Organisations


KISS MERITOCRACY GOOD-BYE?

Last week a heated discussion about the new (very old) SAP forced ranking model ensued, this week UBS announced that for lay-offs they plan to use meritocratic rules. Surely, well all wish there was a meritocracy to some degree — we do not want to reproduce social inequalities based on from which socio-economical group we stem from. Selecting, promoting or even dismissing people because they do not contribute, engage and use their potential is clearly better than just do this on the basis of familiarity and nepotism. But as this excellent article compiles — meritocracy in a knowledge economy is hard to come by, even and especially in business.

The article looks at several, multi-level, and interacting effects which suggest that particularly in places where there is a so called meritocratic structure (eg. a super star model or winner takes it all) we can almost expect the smallest amount of merit in most people decisions.

On the individual level not-innate competencies (eg. which school I was able to visit) and motivation “kicks” (not being chosen because of my not-innate competencies) feed into a growing disadvantage. This is compounded by the stereotypes and status beliefs on the dyadic level which all feed and are strengthened by negative effect on peoples’ social (and cultural) capital. The meritocratic ideology on the system level then often leads to a false legitimation of (still very unfair) inequalities…

But please read it 👇🏻 before you start vicious cycles nobody really wants.

Read:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2041386620930063

01-01-2024

Performance is (also) socially constructed

Recent overviews on performance management are quite outspoken: despite 30 years of research and a lot of experimentation in practice, big questions about its effectiveness remain.

Answers as to why this is so depend, of course, on the worldview of the researcher. Those who firmly believe in the hashtag#measurability (and manipulability) of performance as „something out there“ seek better ways to capture the complexity of the construct (see a very recent attempt for this in the link 👇🏻). Those who embrace an hashtag#interpretive paradigm emphasize the socially constructed nature of performance and point out that even if there is something „of high performance“ out there, all actors can do is to view, enact, and change it from their context.

A very nice example of this latter view is the German book by Nina Verheyen „invention of performance“ (see it cited in the comment 👇🏻) where she explains the social construction aspects inherent in the term performance. “But there is no performance independent of human attributions and social contexts. Performance is always a matter of perspective. Should one assess the degree of effort or the resulting outcome? How can performances in economic, cultural, sporting, and scientific fields be compared? Who decides what counts as performance? Which perspective prevails?“ And she is questioning the underlying ontology, asking whether we can ever talk about individual performance as „the conventional understanding of performance consistently overlooks the supportive efforts of others. Ultimately, behind everything that people achieve, there are the efforts of many.”

Yet, maybe surprisingly, the question Verheyen raises also unites these two „silos“. We are aware of the measurement „difficulties“ (or the „dependent on human attributions and contexts“), and we also know that the question „what is performance“ is depending on the business model (or the perspective, power). And most will readily confirm that performance is most often a team effort.

So, a natural zone of dialogue would be to go more fundamentally into all these questions — before we measure or create a new performance management system. We would be more cognizant of our cognitive boundaries, more humble from the beginning, and would maybe keep more vigilant in the search for a better way to define and capture performance, and whom we include in our search for such a better way.

Read
https://www.hanser-literaturverlage.de/buch/die-erfindung-der-leistung/978-3-446-25687-3/

26-12-2023

What is performance?

Before we embark on ‘managing’ performance, a task often embraced in companies and central to HR, it is imperative to grasp the essence of what we mean by performance.

Standard Definitions
The standard definitions I’ve encountered primarily revolve around measurement theories — already, in my opinion, a step too far, as they often sidestep more fundamental questions. Take, for example, a definition by Taris and Schaufeli (2018: 21): ‘Process performance refers to the actions or behaviors employees engage in to achieve the goals of their job, i.e., what they do at work. Conversely, outcome performance refers to the products or services that are produced and whether these are consistent with the overall strategic goals of the organization.’

While I’ve come across more on types of performance, such as the differentiation between in-role and extra-role performance (which I will delve into later), I find myself yearning for a more comprehensive understanding. This is somewhat peculiar because performance is, after all, the most frequently used dependent variable in industrial and organizational psychology and in OB.

A Critical View
In a German book examining the ‘invention of performance,’ the author, Nina Verheyen, provides a more critical lens by elucidating the social construction aspects inherent in the term ‘performance.’ ‘But there is no performance independent of human attributions and social contexts. Performance is always a matter of perspective. Should one assess the degree of effort or the resulting outcome? How can performances in economic, cultural, sporting, and scientific fields be compared? Who decides what counts as performance? Which perspective prevails?’

She questions the underlying ontology, pondering whether we can ever discuss individual performance since ‘the conventional understanding of performance consistently overlooks the supportive efforts of others. Ultimately, behind everything that people achieve, there are the efforts of many.’

Open Questions
Now, I seek more insights. To all HR researchers and managers out there, where can I find critical views on performance? Have you ever taken a step back to reflect on ‘what is performance’? Is performance for achieving clearly defined goals, or is it also for enabling new goals and redirecting wrongly specified goals? Is your understanding of performance more closely linked to the ideals of the sporting or cultural field? In redefining performance management, whose voices are heard, and whose voices are implemented in the evaluation of performance? How much does your performance practice drive your understanding of performance, rather than the other way around?”

Concluding Thoughts
As we navigate the intricate landscape of performance, let us not merely measure and manage but pause to question the very essence of what constitutes performance. The definitions and perspectives we adopt shape not only our evaluation processes but also the way we perceive individual and collective achievements.

In the pursuit of a comprehensive understanding, the critical lens offered by thinkers like Nina Verheyen reminds us that performance is deeply embedded in social constructions, always subject to interpretation and dependent on human attributions.

For HR researchers and managers alike, the journey into the heart of performance raises essential inquiries. Have we, in our pursuit of measurable outcomes, overlooked the nuanced interplay between effort, outcomes, and the supportive efforts of others? Does our understanding of performance align more with rigidly defined goals or the fluidity of enabling and redirecting objectives?

Reflecting on the symbiotic relationship between our performance practices and our understanding of performance itself is not just an academic exercise but a vital step toward fostering a more nuanced, and effective approach to navigating the world of achievements and aspirations.

23-12-2023

SEARCHING FOR A BOOK RECOMMENDATION

I feel that this is a topic, senior management really needs to understand well, but my problem is that nobody will read a book like Bourdieus "Masculine Domination". Hence I want the wisdom of the crowd: what would you recommend? It needs to have some depth (not an airport management book), be inspiring (and I would believe also compassionate so that it does not provoke only reactance), eye-opening and actionable...

To explain it better read the HBR 👇🏻 or also just this snippet here:

"Why do companies get caught up in illegal behavior, harassment, and toxic leadership? Our research identifies an underlying cause: what we call a “masculinity contest culture.” This kind of culture endorses winner-take-all competition, where winners demonstrate stereotypically masculine traits such as emotional toughness, physical stamina, and ruthlessness. It produces organizational dysfunction, as employees become hyper competitive to win."

https://hbr.org/2018/11/how-masculinity-contests-undermine-organizations-and-what-to-do-about-it

21-12-2023

Problems with Meritocracy

In this #deepdive, @benjamin Sachs-Cobbe discusses the recently reemerging discussion on the problems with meritocracy, or rather with institutions claiming to be meritocratic.

And institution is said to be meritocratic if it rewards merit, while merit can mean a) possession of relevant qualification, b) potential for relevant contribution, and c) having put forth or being likely to put forth effort. Most conversations (and, in fact, also his treatise) when looking at societal institutions (the education system and markets) are preoccupied with the topic of merit = qualification.

What are the problems with merit=qualification?
From a social justice view a first problem is, that access to qualification, particularly in the US but also to lesser degrees in Europe, is biased — equality of opportunity is not instantiated. In this observation philosophers are joined by education and intelligence researchers who all plausibly show that socio-economic background is pulling the levers — not “innate capabilities” when it comes to access to high-quality education.

Second, the qualifications are rewarded by the market and hence are “taste-driven” — not re-evaluated by some political or ethical judgements. If we decide to pay more for investment banking services than for nursing, then this is a consumer decision (although it is more complicated than that). Hence, markets offer moral arbitrariness (at best) — but at worst are power-infested as much as our tastes can be manipulated by the powerful (not only via marketing but also via their command of the press, social media, etc.). So we might have applauded the garbage removers during COVID, but their work remains underpaid, under-appreciated, and some would even say “rightly so.”

If we look at practice, then we might say: meritocratic institutions are failing us in the sense that they cannot provide social justice nor factor different qualities of merit. What is seen as “especially worthy of merit” is more of an arbitrary rather than a considered claim.

So what to do?

1. Make our institutions less meritocratic: e.g., by broadening access to high-quality higher institutions and distributing non-market goods (e.g., social esteem) equally or based on different criteria.

2. Making it matter less that our institutions are “meritocratic”: e.g., improving the conditions of workers who do not have elite qualifications through a different tax system.

3. Detach the normative content (“merits are deserved”) from the descriptive content (merit is whatever our institutions define as merit): e.g., stop talking about “they deserve their rewards,” stop promoting the myth of social mobility, stop valorizing skilled over unskilled labor.

And yet what neither of these suggestions embraces is the lurking question in the background: do we need to change our breed of capitalism instead?

Sandel (2020:224) demands equality of condition (as a social justice criterion) and moral markets (drawing also on virtue ethics) and thereby is pleading for a system that allows everybody to

“develop and exercise their abilities in work that wins social esteem, sharing in a widely diffused culture of learning, and deliberating with their fellow citizens about public affairs.”

If I bring both of his insights together, I cannot help but wonder why we are not also talking about economic system alternatives — both within capitalism but maybe also beyond.

References

Sachs-Cobbe, B. (2023). Recent work on meritocracy. Analysis, 83(1), 171–185.

Sandel, Michael J. The tyranny of merit: What’s become of the common good?. Penguin UK, 2020.

14-11-2023

HR faces a pivotal moment in a world marked by complexity and suffering. To drive meaningful change, HR must confront its existential crisis, challenging the status quo and recognizing its complicity in perpetuating suffering within organizations. The path to a just future of work demands introspection, courage, and the commitment to prioritize ethics, humanism, and sustainability over efficiency, forging a coalition of the willing to shape systemic change within our economic system.

(Based on our opening keynote for the HR Horizons conference in Amsterdam, 14-15th November 2023)

Preamble

In a world where complexity reigns, where capitalism's grip on society threatens democracy, and where suffering pervades our organizations, we find ourselves at a crossroads. In order to reshape the future of work, HR must heed the call of transformation, daring to challenge the status quo and driving change for good.

For far too long, HR has grappled with an existential crisis, losing sight of its purpose and its potential to be a force for positive change. We've professionalized, we've gathered brilliant minds, but the truth is, people are no longer truly at the heart of what we do. We've wandered in the wilderness of indifference, too often lost in a labyrinth of bureaucracy and technology.

The path to real change is not lined with quick fixes or superficial solutions. It's a winding road that demands introspection, courage, and radical honesty. HR must confront its own role in creating the suffering it purports to alleviate. We must stop to purchase indulgences in the form of DEI programs, or distract ourselves with the latest technological marvels to atone for our shortcomings.

If we fail to transform, the #futureofwork will be the exact mirroring of our troubled present. HR must take the reins of leadership and commit to subordinate effectiveness to #ethics, #humanism and #sustainability. This calls not only for new ways to imagine our organisations, but for a profound, inward journey. HR must shed the chains of dependency on those in power. It must once again nurture a dual loyalty, towards both the business and the ideals of its profession. It must unify practitioners across organizations in a shared quest for what is right and good.

It takes bravery to confront our deepest fears, and stand up for what is just. The bedrock of any good organization is good people, and HR must be willing to lead the way, so that others might follow. Leadership itself has grown morally mute, and herein might lie an opportunity for HR to show its metal and step into the void. A new HR has the potential to be the vanguard of a coalition of the willing, fostering systemic change within an unjust economic system.

The clock is ticking and it's time to decide which road you are willing to travel. Will you perpetuate the unhappiness of the past, with more of the same but new fancy clothes? Or will you take the courageous leap toward a better world, one where work exudes dignity, the economy serves humanity, and our organizations shine as beacons of a good life for all?

Peter Senge once spoke of leadership as a community's ability to shape its future. Within the HR community, let the spark of unwavering determination to craft a better world of work grow! Let our actions be the testament to our commitment to brighter, more humane organisations. That famous future, the future of work, is already upon us. Friends, let us not squander it! 

Preamble

In a world where complexity reigns, where capitalism's grip on society threatens democracy, and where suffering pervades our organizations, we find ourselves at a crossroads. In order to reshape the future of work, HR must heed the call of transformation, daring to challenge the status quo and driving change for good.

For far too long, HR has grappled with an existential crisis, losing sight of its purpose and its potential to be a force for positive change. We've professionalized, we've gathered brilliant minds, but the truth is, people are no longer truly at the heart of what we do. We've wandered in the wilderness of indifference, too often lost in a labyrinth of bureaucracy and technology.

The path to real change is not lined with quick fixes or superficial solutions. It's a winding road that demands introspection, courage, and radical honesty. HR must confront its own role in creating the suffering it purports to alleviate. We must stop to purchase indulgences in the form of DEI programs, or distract ourselves with the latest technological marvels to atone for our shortcomings.

If we fail to transform, the #futureofwork will be the exact mirroring of our troubled present. HR must take the reins of leadership and commit to subordinate effectiveness to #ethics, #humanism and #sustainability. This calls not only for new ways to imagine our organisations, but for a profound, inward journey. HR must shed the chains of dependency on those in power. It must once again nurture a dual loyalty, towards both the business and the ideals of its profession. It must unify practitioners across organizations in a shared quest for what is right and good.

It takes bravery to confront our deepest fears, and stand up for what is just. The bedrock of any good organization is good people, and HR must be willing to lead the way, so that others might follow. Leadership itself has grown morally mute, and herein might lie an opportunity for HR to show its metal and step into the void. A new HR has the potential to be the vanguard of a coalition of the willing, fostering systemic change within an unjust economic system.

The clock is ticking and it's time to decide which road you are willing to travel. Will you perpetuate the unhappiness of the past, with more of the same but new fancy clothes? Or will you take the courageous leap toward a better world, one where work exudes dignity, the economy serves humanity, and our organizations shine as beacons of a good life for all?

Peter Senge once spoke of leadership as a community's ability to shape its future. Within the HR community, let the spark of unwavering determination to craft a better world of work grow! Let our actions be the testament to our commitment to brighter, more humane organisations. That famous future, the future of work, is already upon us. Friends, let us not squander it! 

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