A better work environment

I have always been interested in the human condition, in particular how to create a work environment that makes people want to come to work each day. Like most things in life, there is no one magic set of things that defines the perfect work environment for all people. The world would be a boring place if that were true.

There are some themes that have been repeated in several of the texts that I have read. Then there was the post describing the ten best ways to make your people quit. One could argue that if you do the opposite of those things, you would be well on your way to a good work environment.

What I would like to draw your attention to is something that has been called the ABC’s of management (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequences).

All too often we challenge people in or organizations with seemingly impossible tasks. I have been on the receiving end of such challenges for the better part of my career. For all but a few of these companies, the consequences of my behavior has been rewards in the form of praise and stock options.

Important details that are sometimes overlooked however are that the Antecedent or Challenge was presented to me by a person with enough domain knowledge to know that the goal was achievable. The Challenger was also the biggest cheer leader and constant guide. If the person setting the challenges is not aware of what is possible, the whole cycle is destined to fail.

Behavior in this case is the work ethic applied to solving the challenge. If the path to the goal is clear (not a moving target), then most professionals will rise to the challenge. It is not uncommon for me to double the number of hours that I am paid for in order to get a handle on the issues. I and others like me enjoy what we are doing to the point where we work and think about the challenge 7 X 24. I often go to bed with a problem and wake with an answer.

Observing your teams behavior should provide feedback with respect to the quality of the team and or your ability to define a good Antecedent.

When the team delivers, the Consequences should adequately reward the creativity and effort put forward. In one of the most successful start-ups I worked in, the team and their families were flown on a chartered jet to Disney World for a 4 day weekend. That trip became a legacy that allowed the company to attract some of the most dedicated technical staff for many years after.

I was recently told by a CEO that I was having coffee with that he believed that when people stopped contributing they had to be let go. The problem with this statement is that people contribute in cycles and there will be periods where individuals need to recharge. Terminating employees at the first sign of productivity decrease sends the wrong message to the rest of the team.

Universities tend to grant tenure to professors once they achieve a certain body of work. I’m not promoting that for commercial enterprises, but I do believe that a person’s contributions should be evaluated as a body of work.

So what is a CEO to do then? I am currently reading a book written by the CTO of Telus International (Weeding out the wankers). He suggests job rotations although he is cautious with respect to how it should be implemented. More on that in another post.

At the highest level, it really does come down to ABC’s.

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