For the Sake of AGILE, Fire Him, Shot Him, No Mercy!

© Richard Simkin, The Peninsular Epoch

Managing by an Excel Sheet

It is tempting for many managers to run an organization by excel sheets. It is easy — the side has to give, the side gave — the difference is the profit or loss. This is how the cost-cutters see the organization. Everything is one-dimensional. I call such management mode managing by an excel sheet. They are missing entirely, that organization is a community of people firsthand, a living organism. And that they are serving the interest of multiple stakeholders, not just one. In a high-performing organization, the collaboration of all stakeholders is critical for success. So their interests must be taken into account, too.

So what is the problem?

Let’s look at the problem in my story from different perspectives of agile and traditional organizations. My story illustrates many managerial failures. Simply there is so much of what went wrong.

The human aspect of the change

To get the most out of the people, they have to be engaged and motivated (another Agile pillar, probably the most important) and empowered to do the job. We invest heavily in education. That is why highly skilled people are the most important asset.

The company culture aspect of the change

To differentiate from the past, HR departments came with new labels for the people. We call them talent now or co-workers because the word human resource is bad. They do it to pretend they suddenly care about the people. People are now important. Out of a sudden, the action of the excel sheet manager reveals. What does it say about the organization? There is no better confirmation that regardless of the label, the people are still just resources. Individual contribution does not matter. And when it does not matter, people lose their engagement and also their appetite for achieving something. They will either go elsewhere if they still have some ambitions. Or start treating their work as a transaction, focusing on the labor code, delivering barely minimum for not getting fired, counting salary for hours spent, politicking, and holding power. No loyalty, no deeper interest, nothing. When engagement is out, motivation shortly follows.

The social aspect of the change

The most organization tends to hire young people. It results in situations where people around their fifties and above are having difficulties finding any job. As the age increases, the chances are deteriorating. What is the good on the situation if we fire the people at around 55? We interrupt their career, and they fall financially. Particularly in a time when their income level starts counting for their pension. So their life quality will be affected till the end of days. Are they potentially underperforming? Most probably no. There are only outdated customs and stereotypes. That is why laws about anti-age discrimination are introduced.

The financial aspect of the change

While salaries and remunerations are usually the highest expense of the organization, it is often associated costs that contribute to it. The cost of recruitment in the era of shortage of people is also very high. Unlike the remuneration, the recruitment expense we can reduce significantly.

The managerial aspect of the change

The purpose of the management in the organization is to balance the stakeholder’s interests. It can be through creating an environment that enables creating value. What is the quality of working with people when their knowledge becomes suddenly obsolete to the level, that they need to be made redundant? How is the personal development and training organized? How does the organization work with its plans and scenarios related to knowledge acquisition and development? How is the planning of the skill development organized? In a good organization, the people will get information about changes on the market, about the decline in demand, or about different opportunities to focus the attention in time. Acquiring new skills needs some time. The purpose of annual performance evaluation serves exactly for this, however, I believe the interval should be shorter.

Human Resource department aspect of the change

In many organizations HR department takes on themselves taking care of the company culture. When and how did they intervene when such a miserable policy is introduced? What alternatives did they offer to managers? What was the action when they start witnessing people are being dropped away for artificial reasons? What is the impact on the other people in the organization? Some metrics? In my consulting experience, I have met only very few HR people who are capable of this broad thinking and who could be a partner for managers in designing business policies.

Is there any way out?

Most painful on this story is that whatever crippled requirement appears, some people are always willing to implement it. It occasionally challenges personal integrity, too. I doubt they do not see it causes harm.

  • Michal Vallo, Agile Transformation — Definition of Business and Enterprise Agile, 2019, LinkedIn article.
  • Michal Vallo, Agile Organization does not value hire & fire culture, 2019, Medium article.

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Michal Vallo

Michal Vallo

Building human organizations (www.michalvallo.eu) Chair in Agilia Conference / Agile Management Congress - inspiring people w/ new ideas to grow their business.