Marissa Mayer, the honcho at Yahoo, should get down on her knees and thank the Lord every night that she was born when she was and not 147 years sooner. Had she come into the world then it would seem very likely she would have made the trek to California with her neighbor to the south Mr. James Reed, instead of on her own as was possible by the time she moved from Wisconsin to Palo Alto. She and Reed think a lot alike. And had she hooked up with Reed, there is a distinct possibility she would have ended up on a barbecue spit and been served up for someone’s lunch. As it turns out – luckily for her – she is very likely to end up embarrassed and unemployed – but not skinned, roasted and eaten.
Reed, you see, was like Ms. Mayer, that is to say a man accustomed to luxury and not inclined to listen to folks who told him anything other than what he wanted to hear. And like Ms. Mayer, he scorned people who told him he was heading down a path that had been thoroughly proven to be the wrong one, and one that could only lead to disaster. In Reed’s case, the path he pursued against common knowledge led to what history has come to call The Donner Party – and cannibalism. Ms. Mayer is pursuing a path laid down by Jack Welch – one that is so wrong even he has advised against it.
Apparently unaware that the Welch bandwagon has not only passed and is too late to jump on, but has been scrapped and sold for parts, she has decided to rank Yahoo employees on a bell curve – with a 5-15% mandatory quota of low performers (whether they actually are or not) to be given the heave ho.
That’s right. Boil people down to numbers - take the Human out of Human Resources, as one article says. Then pit them against each other is some weird, Darwinian gladiator match where only the fittest survive. Jack Welch was a veritable fountain of such bad ideas, but he has been gone from GE for twelve years and just about everyone who imitated this cockamamie practice of his has since seen the light.
“The Institute of Corporate Productivity says the number of companies using either a forced ranking system or some softer facsimile is down significantly from previous years. Companies performing well were less likely to be using forced ranking systems than those that weren’t. Just over 5 percent of high-performing companies used a forced ranking system in 2011, down from almost 20 percent two years earlier.”
A Yahoo employee puts the spotlight squarely on the blatant hypocrisy of such a nonsensical approach to people, writing:
“Will the ‘occasionally misses’ classification apply to L2 and L3 execs also? At every goals meeting, we find senior staff who missed even the 70% goals. Thus, by definition, they should be classified as ‘occasionally misses.’ Two such classifications, and that person should be let go, amiright? How about we set an example for the rest of the company and can a few of the top execs who miss (or who sandbag their goals to make sure they ‘meet’)?”
Of course no such harsh metrics apply to the yahoo execs.
A few weeks ago a Toyota executive was giving a garden variety explanation of the company and its management approach. He listed once again and in no particular priority the three driving philosophies: Customer First, Respect for Humanity, and Elimination of Waste.
Respect for humanity is right at the core, and it is measured by performance to three goals: Job satisfaction, job security and consistency of income. When those goals are achieved flexible, motivated employees are able to use JIT and jidoka thinking to drive kaizen.
That’s how Toyota sees it, anyway. Marissa apparently has a different view that starts with scorn for humanity, and her application of scorn is in the form of a management practice that has been thoroughly discredited by companies not a whole lot less scornful then her.