Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.



oops_cover In spite of the title, reading this book was not a mistake:  “OOPS! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time & Money (and what to do instead),” by Aubrey C. Daniels is well worth your time.  With “Oops!” Daniels takes us through a well-articulated analysis of a bunch of management practices that are commonplace in today’s corporate world, including:

  • Performance Appraisals
  • “Stretch Goals”
  • Employee of the Month programs
  • Hourly vs. Salaried pay schemes (including a discussion of bonuses and annual raises)
  • Downsizing
  • And 8 more management practices

In each of the 13 chapters devoted to the flawed management practices, Daniels provides examples of how the practices are used, a discussion of what outcomes they are supposed to achieve, and a view on what undesirable effects they actually create in the organization.

A lot of the flaws Daniels points out may seem like common sense, but organizations often do something that seems counterproductive.  For example, I’m familiar with a lot of organizations that have a “forced ranking” process in which they try to lop off the bottom x% of performers (10%, 25%, 1/3, or some such target).  So, what do you do as a hiring manager?  Do you set out to hire some bad apples so you have someone to cut?  Or do you hire the best team you can, only to get rid of one of your strong performers just because they aren’t the “most A” player?  This can be especially challenging in smaller teams.

What should you do instead?

The great thing about this book it goes beyond analyzing the flaws in these practices, and suggests better ways to manage.  For example, he has some great suggestions for better ways to motivate people than the “forced ranking” approach. 

One of my favorite chapters, “Promoting People Nobody Likes,” includes an illuminating analysis of the differences in results achieved by “tough managers” like Bobby Knight, and “softer” managers like John Wooden.  Both of these guys are legendary basketball coaches – one (Knight) is legendary for being loud, abusive, and intimidating; while the other (Wooden) is legendary for being a calm, supportive, and inspiring coach.

In many organizations, the “tough managers” are promoted while the “softer” managers may be passed over because they are not aggressive enough to get ‘real’ results.  However, we all know tough managers who’ve left a trail of bodies and resignations in their wake – and we know that hiring and training new employees is costly and disruptive to the organization, not to mention the impact on morale.  So how much more effective can you be if your organization considers not just the results a manager achieves, but how they get those results?

Daniels provides some sage advice on this topic and all the others in this book.  By the way - if you’re downsizing, you should definitely check out Daniels’ ideas on how to deal with that (it’s Practice #12).

Common threads

There are common threads running through these topics:

  • Providing timely feedback (positive and negative)
  • Creating clarity around expectations, roles, and behaviors
  • Thinking about whether your “system” really promotes the outcomes you’re seeking
  • Creating a culture that makes it easy to do the right things, and hard to do the wrong things

In my opinion, if you follow Daniels’ advice, you’re on your way to higher organizational performance.  I also love the “Performance Matrix” he provides in the appendix as a tool to help focus on performance (and replace the traditional approach to performance appraisals).

In summary, I recommend this to anyone who wants to up their game on management, or who has influence on management practices in organizations of any size.  [I’ve even caught myself changing how I deliver praise and criticism to my kids since I’ve read this book.]

Bravo to Daniels for “Oops!” – and don’t make the mistake of not reading this one.