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Pointless Management Practices to Nuke

Pointless Management Practices to Nuke

Photograph by Rob Atkins/Getty Images

CEOs and leadership teams have chopped hard costs to the bone. Now they’re looking at soft costs—the human time spent on management practices that have gone unexamined for years. If your people weren’t wasting time on pointless management exercises, what could they do for your customers and shareholders?

Here are our picks for management practices that have outlived their usefulness—if they ever had any. These programs don’t make your company faster, smarter, or more customer-focused. They’re fear-based, defensive practices that can only suck time and mojo from your team.

Forced Ranking Exercises
Forced ranking is the process whereby managers rank their people from best to worst—as though you could rank people along one dimension this way, or as though doing so could accomplish anything beyond shredding team spirit. The only thing these programs do is drive away the talented people you need.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
These garbage management practices cause smart people to leave corporate America the second their finances allow. KPIs reduce performance to numbers on a graph, calls answered, and other sterile, out-of-context measurements. Your managers can do better.

360-Degree Feedback Programs
These programs allow conflict-averse managers to avoid honest conversations with their employees. As heartily as we proclaim, “Open communication is key to our culture,” we let the employees comment anonymously to keep people guessing about who said what. This is a lousy back channel and a teamwork-and-trust repellent to boot.

Employee Engagement Surveys
If you want to know what employees think, don’t send them a multiple-choice, insulting annual survey. Ask them in person, every day, and at every staff meeting. Employee Engagement Surveys are CYA devices by which HR departments get to say, “See, employee engagement is fine!” while team members scour Craigslist for new jobs.

One-Size-Fits-All Performance Reviews
We drink tanker-loads of Kool-Aid in corporate America, and a lot of it centers on performance appraisal. We administer annual performance reviews, though we know many of our employees don’t want our feedback and won’t hear it, much less benefit from it. Kill your performance review system and ask employees what sort of feedback they want from you, if any.

Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive.

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