The Indelible Bonobo Experience

Renaissance Monkey: in-depth expertise in Jack-of-all-trading. I mostly comment on news of interest to me and occasionally engage in debates or troll passive-aggressively. Ask or Submit 2 mah authoritah! ;) !

Gallup has found that one of the most important decisions companies make is simply whom they name manager. Yet our analysis suggests that they usually get it wrong. In fact, Gallup finds that companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time. Bad managers cost businesses billions of dollars each year, and having too many of them can bring down a company. The only defense against this massive problem is a good offense, because when companies get these decisions wrong, nothing fixes it. Businesses that get it right, however, and hire managers based on talent will thrive and gain a significant competitive advantage. (via Why Good Managers Are So Rare - Randall Beck , and James Harter - Harvard Business Review)
Managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units, Gallup estimates. This variation is in turn responsible for severely low worldwide employee engagement. Gallup reported in two large-scale studies in 2012 that only 30% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, and a staggeringly low 13% worldwide are engaged. Worse, over the past 12 years these low numbers have barely budged, meaning that the vast majority of employees worldwide are failing to develop and contribute at work.
Gallup has studied performance at hundreds of organizations and measured the engagement of 27 million employees and more than 2.5 million work units over the past two decades. No matter the industry, size, or location, we find executives struggling to unlock the mystery of why performance varies so immensely from one workgroup to the next. Performance metrics fluctuate widely and unnecessarily within most companies, in no small part from the lack of consistency in how people are managed. This “noise” frustrates leaders because unpredictability causes great inefficiencies in execution.
If great managers seem scarce, it’s because the talent required to be one is rare. Gallup finds that great managers have the following talents:
They motivate every singleemployee to take action and engage them with a compelling mission and vision.
They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
They create a culture of clear accountability.
They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.
Gallup’s research reveals that about one in ten people possess all these necessary traits. While many people are endowed with some of them, few have the unique combination of talent needed to help a team achieve excellence in a way that significantly improves a company’s performance. These 10%, when put in manager roles, naturally engage team members and customers, retain top performers, and sustain a culture of high productivity. Combined, they contribute about 48% higher profit to their companies than average managers.

Gallup has found that one of the most important decisions companies make is simply whom they name manager. Yet our analysis suggests that they usually get it wrong. In fact, Gallup finds that companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time. Bad managers cost businesses billions of dollars each year, and having too many of them can bring down a company. The only defense against this massive problem is a good offense, because when companies get these decisions wrong, nothing fixes it. Businesses that get it right, however, and hire managers based on talent will thrive and gain a significant competitive advantage. (via Why Good Managers Are So Rare - Randall Beck , and James Harter - Harvard Business Review)

Managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units, Gallup estimates. This variation is in turn responsible for severely low worldwide employee engagement. Gallup reported in two large-scale studies in 2012 that only 30% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, and a staggeringly low 13% worldwide are engaged. Worse, over the past 12 years these low numbers have barely budged, meaning that the vast majority of employees worldwide are failing to develop and contribute at work.

Gallup has studied performance at hundreds of organizations and measured the engagement of 27 million employees and more than 2.5 million work units over the past two decades. No matter the industry, size, or location, we find executives struggling to unlock the mystery of why performance varies so immensely from one workgroup to the next. Performance metrics fluctuate widely and unnecessarily within most companies, in no small part from the lack of consistency in how people are managed. This “noise” frustrates leaders because unpredictability causes great inefficiencies in execution.

If great managers seem scarce, it’s because the talent required to be one is rare. Gallup finds that great managers have the following talents:

  • They motivate every singleemployee to take action and engage them with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.

Gallup’s research reveals that about one in ten people possess all these necessary traits. While many people are endowed with some of them, few have the unique combination of talent needed to help a team achieve excellence in a way that significantly improves a company’s performance. These 10%, when put in manager roles, naturally engage team members and customers, retain top performers, and sustain a culture of high productivity. Combined, they contribute about 48% higher profit to their companies than average managers.

Artwork: Chad Hagen, Graphic Composition No. 1,2009, digital
Since the early days of Google, people throughout the company have questioned the value of managers. That skepticism stems from a highly technocratic culture. As one software engineer, Eric Flatt, puts it, “We are a company built by engineers for engineers.” And most engineers, not just those at Google, want to spend their time designing and debugging, not communicating with bosses or supervising other workers’ progress. In their hearts they’ve long believed that management is more destructive than beneficial, a distraction from “real work” and tangible, goal-directed tasks. (via How Google Sold Its Engineers on Management - Harvard Business Review)
A few years into the company’s life, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin actually wondered whether Google needed any managers at all. In 2002 they experimented with a completely flat organization, eliminating engineering managers in an effort to break down barriers to rapid idea development and to replicate the collegial environment they’d enjoyed in graduate school. That experiment lasted only a few months: They relented when too many people went directly to Page with questions about expense reports, interpersonal conflicts, and other nitty-gritty issues. And as the company grew, the founders soon realized that managers contributed in many other, important ways—for instance, by communicating strategy, helping employees prioritize projects, facilitating collaboration, supporting career development, and ensuring that processes and systems aligned with company goals.
Google now has some layers but not as many as you might expect in an organization with more than 37,000 employees: just 5,000 managers, 1,000 directors, and 100 vice presidents. It’s not uncommon to find engineering managers with 30 direct reports. Flatt says that’s by design, to prevent micromanaging. “There is only so much you can meddle when you have 30 people on your team, so you have to focus on creating the best environment for engineers to make things happen,” he notes. Google gives its rank and file room to make decisions and innovate. Along with that freedom comes a greater respect for technical expertise, skillful problem solving, and good ideas than for titles and formal authority.
To understand how Google set out to prove managers’ worth, let’s go back to 2006, when Page and Brin brought in Laszlo Bock to head up the human resources function—appropriately called people operations, or people ops. From the start, people ops managed performance reviews, which included annual 360-degree assessments. It also helped conduct and interpret the Googlegeist employee survey on career development goals, perks, benefits, and company culture. A year later, with that foundation in place, Bock hired Prasad Setty from Capital One to lead a people analytics group. He challenged Setty to approach HR with the same empirical discipline Google applied to its business operations.
Setty took him at his word, recruiting several PhDs with serious research chops. This new team was committed to leading organizational change. “I didn’t want our group to be simply a reporting house,” Setty recalls. “Organizations can get bogged down in all that data. Instead, I wanted us to be hypothesis-driven and help solve company problems and questions with data.”

People analytics then pulled together a small team to tackle issues relating to employee well-being and productivity. In early 2009 it presented its initial set of research questions to Setty. One question stood out, because it had come up again and again since the company’s founding: Do managers matter?

Artwork: Chad Hagen, Graphic Composition No. 1,2009, digital

Since the early days of Google, people throughout the company have questioned the value of managers. That skepticism stems from a highly technocratic culture. As one software engineer, Eric Flatt, puts it, “We are a company built by engineers for engineers.” And most engineers, not just those at Google, want to spend their time designing and debugging, not communicating with bosses or supervising other workers’ progress. In their hearts they’ve long believed that management is more destructive than beneficial, a distraction from “real work” and tangible, goal-directed tasks. (via How Google Sold Its Engineers on Management - Harvard Business Review)

  • A few years into the company’s life, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin actually wondered whether Google needed any managers at all. In 2002 they experimented with a completely flat organization, eliminating engineering managers in an effort to break down barriers to rapid idea development and to replicate the collegial environment they’d enjoyed in graduate school. That experiment lasted only a few months: They relented when too many people went directly to Page with questions about expense reports, interpersonal conflicts, and other nitty-gritty issues. And as the company grew, the founders soon realized that managers contributed in many other, important ways—for instance, by communicating strategy, helping employees prioritize projects, facilitating collaboration, supporting career development, and ensuring that processes and systems aligned with company goals.
  • Google now has some layers but not as many as you might expect in an organization with more than 37,000 employees: just 5,000 managers, 1,000 directors, and 100 vice presidents. It’s not uncommon to find engineering managers with 30 direct reports. Flatt says that’s by design, to prevent micromanaging. “There is only so much you can meddle when you have 30 people on your team, so you have to focus on creating the best environment for engineers to make things happen,” he notes. Google gives its rank and file room to make decisions and innovate. Along with that freedom comes a greater respect for technical expertise, skillful problem solving, and good ideas than for titles and formal authority.
  • To understand how Google set out to prove managers’ worth, let’s go back to 2006, when Page and Brin brought in Laszlo Bock to head up the human resources function—appropriately called people operations, or people ops. From the start, people ops managed performance reviews, which included annual 360-degree assessments. It also helped conduct and interpret the Googlegeist employee survey on career development goals, perks, benefits, and company culture. A year later, with that foundation in place, Bock hired Prasad Setty from Capital One to lead a people analytics group. He challenged Setty to approach HR with the same empirical discipline Google applied to its business operations.
  • Setty took him at his word, recruiting several PhDs with serious research chops. This new team was committed to leading organizational change. “I didn’t want our group to be simply a reporting house,” Setty recalls. “Organizations can get bogged down in all that data. Instead, I wanted us to be hypothesis-driven and help solve company problems and questions with data.”

People analytics then pulled together a small team to tackle issues relating to employee well-being and productivity. In early 2009 it presented its initial set of research questions to Setty. One question stood out, because it had come up again and again since the company’s founding: Do managers matter?

In 1980, Gates and a few fellow programmers had a small company in Seattle. IBM approached them about developing an operating system for personal computers that it was about to launch. Gates had never built an OS, however, so he referred them to Gary Kildall, a much better known programmer at Digital Research. Luckily for Gates, though, those talks went poorly. Digital Research hesitated about signing a non-disclosure agreement. They later relented, but then wouldn’t budge in their demand for royalties instead of the $250,000 lump sum that IBM offered. It was only because of that deadlock that IBM came back to Gates. There was a second twist after that. Both IBM and Gates knew of another operating system that had been developed by Seattle Computer Products. With IBM’s secret backing, Gates cheaply acquired the software — then called QDOS, an acronym for quick-and-dirty-operating system. Again luck came into play: SCP didn’t discover who was really behind the deal; otherwise the price could have been far higher. Microsoft then tweaked the program and rechristened it DOS: Disc Operating System. Then Gates was lucky a third time in negotiating the licensing agreement with IBM. On the surface Big Blue got great terms, par for the course when a corporate behemoth is dealing with a start-up. IBM agreed to pay a modest royalty on each copy that would be sold with its new machines. (It’s just a guess, but IBM might have become more amenable to a royalty arrangement after their lump sum offer killed the deal with Kildall.) But the critical point was that IBM’s rights were non-exclusive: Gates and his friends kept ownership of the DOS program. (via The Luck Factor in Great Decisions - Michael Wheeler - Harvard Business Review)

In 1980, Gates and a few fellow programmers had a small company in Seattle. IBM approached them about developing an operating system for personal computers that it was about to launch. Gates had never built an OS, however, so he referred them to Gary Kildall, a much better known programmer at Digital Research. Luckily for Gates, though, those talks went poorly. Digital Research hesitated about signing a non-disclosure agreement. They later relented, but then wouldn’t budge in their demand for royalties instead of the $250,000 lump sum that IBM offered. It was only because of that deadlock that IBM came back to Gates. There was a second twist after that. Both IBM and Gates knew of another operating system that had been developed by Seattle Computer Products. With IBM’s secret backing, Gates cheaply acquired the software — then called QDOS, an acronym for quick-and-dirty-operating system. Again luck came into play: SCP didn’t discover who was really behind the deal; otherwise the price could have been far higher. Microsoft then tweaked the program and rechristened it DOS: Disc Operating System. Then Gates was lucky a third time in negotiating the licensing agreement with IBM. On the surface Big Blue got great terms, par for the course when a corporate behemoth is dealing with a start-up. IBM agreed to pay a modest royalty on each copy that would be sold with its new machines. (It’s just a guess, but IBM might have become more amenable to a royalty arrangement after their lump sum offer killed the deal with Kildall.) But the critical point was that IBM’s rights were non-exclusive: Gates and his friends kept ownership of the DOS program. (via The Luck Factor in Great Decisions - Michael Wheeler - Harvard Business Review)