Monday, September 1, 2014

The Question of Bozos

By Pascal Dennis

A tough one, which often confronts those of us in the transformation business.

I’ve found that transformation obstacles generally bubble up in the following sequence:

Technical – weak standards or adherence to standards for core activities

Organizational – team structure, org structure etc.

People – competence, motivation, mental models etc.

Systemic – governance obstacles, e.g. rewards & recognition structure, core beliefs & values, relationship between senior management & Board etc.

(Yes, they overlap somewhat)

The People category sometimes entails bozos (or as some people say, cement-heads).

Harsh terms perhaps, but a fact of life, and a potentially company-killing problem.

Here’s what I’ve learned. You have to cull the bozos.

Be fair, be humane. Provide fair and generous severance packages, help them find other jobs and so on, all in the spirit of decency.

But cull them. You’ll be stronger for it. In fact, team members will thank you and may ask, “What took you so long?”

Steve Jobs and Jim Collins have coined helpful mantras:

Jobs: ‘No bozos – ever.’

Collins: ‘Get the right people on the bus.’

(Check out Fireside Theatre’s classic comedy album, I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus.)

An important reflection point for senior leaders:

How come there are so many bozos around here?

To paraphrase Shakespeare, “Some are born bozos, some achieve it, and others have it thrust upon them.”

Did we hire them? If so, what’s wrong with our recruitment processes?

Did we create them? If so, what’s wrong with our development and appraisal processes, and our culture?

The latter is especially tough. It means we may have let people down.

Why did we promote so many bozos? What’s wrong with our succession planning?

Tough questions -- which point to the centrality of Human Resources. (More to come on that one.)

Here’s a tough reflection point. We have a responsibility to hire good people, develop, involve and motivate them to be ‘the best they can be’.

If our organization is full of bozos, we’ve failed on every count.



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