Exponential growth, I fear, makes exponential decay, unavoidable.
by Stan Faryna
If you live within 5 miles of a 7-11, you’re toast.
– Paul Milne
Apocalypse Now: Surfing and Napalm
The boss was upset about a failed factory – the losses were increasing with an alarming rate of exponential decay. The bottom line kept dropping out to deeper and deeper depths of red. So he decided to close the factory down.
Discussing the matter with Abe, a world class manager known for his emotional intelligence and servant heart, Abe was stubbornly against the shut down.
“There’s gotta be at least 50 good employees there. I know people. There’s more good than bad. You can’t close it down,” argues Abe.
“We can turn this around. It just needs a little love and some solid innovation and change. Going social at the organizational level is an untried option.”
“Can we turn it around if our best workers represent less than 1 percent of the workforce?” asked the boss.
“Those good workers still got to eat,” Abe appealed to the boss’ sense of compassion and empathy.
Abe knew that he needed 20 percent to attempt a turn around. Or so the Pareto principle (80-20 rule) suggested to him. But Abe believed he had an obligation to minimize the casualties. And zero was a perfect number.
“They got families, hopes and dreams. They’ve got mortgages. They’ve made investments in this factory and community– emotional and financial.”
The boss, a good guy, considered Abe’s argument with a charitable heart. The factory, he knew, was a lost cause. He knew it for some time. But he could afford to keep it on the books for a little longer – in service to those good few who have served the company with a spirit of excellence.
So the boss reviews the performance evaluations and HR files and he can’t find 50. But Abe was so sure that excellence could be found.
EVERYONE without exception clocked in late (30 minutes or more) at least once per week.
Sick and personal leaves were on the rise. Personal internet usage was up 10 percent across all departments and the total average user time for personal internet activity was hitting about two hours per day. Paper and printer ink costs had increased despite the paperless office push – some suggested that personal use of the company printers was the problem.
And sales and marketing were demanding iPhones and new laptops as mission-critical.
All this, of course, was just the tip of the iceberg.
For example, Abe didn’t mention the fact that the plant manager had a million hits on a recent YouTube video touting his raid exploits in World of Warcraft. Nor did Abe mention that, last week, the network administrator registered 10,000 requests for Psy’s latest video, Gentleman. What’s 1o,000 views out of 200 Million? Right?
“Those aren’t hard performance indicators,” Abe argued passionately.
“Is just showing up a signal of performance?” grumbled the boss.
“Is keeping busy doing your job? Is it advancing the mission and vision? And if this is a charity – why do people expect iPhones?!”
Abe, however, had access to overwhelming information and data that could suggest just about anything.
Maybe, the video sharing on Psy could be viewed as team-building – if not leadership training, Abe thought to himself. But Abe thought he’d keep such a suggestion to himself. Or tweet it on Twitter.
So the boss and Abe haggled about the measurement methodologies and tools, what constituted a fair number of good employees that made such charity worthwhile, and whether or not iPhones were relevant.
In the end, however, they couldn’t find excellence demonstrated consistently in a single week by 10 employees. Not by any measure.
The factory was closed and burned to the ground. And Abe, fortunately, he wasn’t fired for being obtuse. After all, Abe’s heart was in the right place. Love never fails!
And that’s something that can warm our hearts – myself included.
This modern redaction of an ancient story (Genesis 18:22 – 19:26) was inspired by a recent blog post at Bill Dorman’s place: Whose team are you on anyway?
18 April 2013
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