1. Ten policies you’ll find in every toxic workplace

    June 26, 2016 by BPIR.com Limited


    Originally posted on Forbes by Liz Ryan

    There are lots of clues that a company or institution you’re interviewing with is a bad place to work. You can tell by the way the recruiter communicates with you. You can tell from the feeling you get when you walk into the building for your job interview.

    You can tell in a second how friendly or unfriendly the people in the company are. You can watch them banter and joke with one another, or hand you off stiffly from one interviewer to the next. The cultural clues are everywhere — all you have to do is notice them!

    I don’t want you to accept a job offer with any organization until you’ve read its Employee Handbook cover to cover. If they won’t give you the Employee Handbook when they’re trying to get you into the company, that’s a good reason to run away, right there!

    If you were about to sign a contract, wouldn’t you expect to get a look at the contract before someone stuck a pen in your hand and asked you to sign it? Of course you would! Anyone would.

    If you take the job, one of the first things they’ll do at your new employee orientation meeting is to make you sign a piece of paper that says you’ve read the handbook and intend to comply with all its policies.

    That’s why you have to have a chance to read the handbook before you accept the offer. This would go without saying except that job-seekers are so used to being beaten down and treated like dirt that it doesn’t occur to most of them to ask for something as reasonable as an advance copy of their possible new employer’s handbook.

    You have to get it, because if these policies are in it, you don’t want the job!

    No Moonlighting Policy

    When you have a full-time job, you are responsible for giving the job a good day’s work every working day. After that, it’s your life. You should be able to spend it doing whatever you want to do, from fishing off a pier to making baked ziti or anything else that suits your fancy.

    No employer should be able to make you sign a policy that says you won’t work anywhere else after hours. How heavy-handed can you get? No-moonlighting policies are the epitome of fear-based bullying. They have no place in the Knowledge Economy we all operate in now.

    Stack Ranking

    Stack ranking or forced ranking is a medieval management system that became popular in the nineteen-eighties and in some out-of-touch employers is still going strong.

    In this system each manager has to “rank” his or her employees from best to worst, in case the employees are one-dimensional, stackable and rankable objects instead of vibrant, unique and amazing people. Run away from any employer who still uses a stack ranking system or otherwise pits employees against one another!

    Stitch-Level Dress Code

    Assuming that a company hires only adults, they can trust their employees to dress themselves. If your prospective new employer’s handbook includes a painfully-detailed dress code policy, it’s not a place that can grow your flame. Trust-based cultures don’t treat their employees like children, and children with poor judgment, at that!

    We Own Your Ideas

    It is reasonable for an employer to make it clear to employees that ideas that you have and bring out on the job belong to the employer rather than to you personally. It is not reasonable for an employer’s policy to say that any idea you have while you are working for the company, even at home and off hours, also belongs to them, but that is what some company policies say.
    Check this part of the handbook carefully before you take the job!

    Attendance Weenietude

    In the U.S. it is important for non-exempt employees to track their hours because the law requires them to be paid overtime once they pass a certain number of hours in the day or the week. Salaried employees are not covered by those laws and it is ridiculous for employers to make a big deal out of arrival and departure times for people who are paid a salary. If your possible next employer has a strict attendance policy, they don’t deserve your talents!

    Bell-Curve Performance Reviews

    Bell-curve performance reviews are testaments to managerial fear, because they forbid a department head from giving more than just a few people “excellent” marks on a performance review. A good rule of thumb when it comes to performance reviews systems is that the more formal the performance appraisal process is, the lousier an employer you are dealing with.

    Performance reviews will disappear altogether in all but the most hidebound and out-of-it employers before long. Don’t go to work for people who are behind the curve!

    Infractions Policy

    Some old-school employers count and will ding you for tiny “infractions,” sometimes called “incidents,” and they’ll do it by creating an Infraction Record or Incident Report that will require you to go talk to someone about why you goofed up when you did, for instance by transferring a customer call to the wrong person or forgetting a step in a process. You are not in prison – you are at work. The more a company runs its workplace like a prison, the longer and more detailed its Employee Handbook will be!

    Stealing Miles

    If you travel for work, you should be able to keep your frequent flyer miles, period. Business travel is hard on the brain and the body. Even more importantly, any company that chooses such a skeevy way to save money is not a company where you’ll be happy working.

    Funeral Leave

    Some terrible employers require their employees to bring in a funeral notice when a family member dies. Maybe at some point in history an employee invented a family death and now all the rest of you have to pay for that mistake. This policy is an abomination and a loud statement about the organization’s concern for its employees in their lives outside of work.

    Managers Decide Who Transfers

    It is downright stupid for employers to limit their employees’ movements from one department to another, because their competitors for talent won’t put up any barriers to smart people who want to advance in their careers. If your possible next employer has a policy that requires managers to sign off on employee transfers, don’t take the job! You can’t afford to put your career in the hands of unintelligent people.

  2. Organizational Excellence frameworks – How to fail

    February 3, 2016 by BPIR.com Limited


    Originally posted on South African Quality Institute newsletter by Prashant Hoskote 

    I often wonder why some organizations embrace excellence frameworks and others struggle to accept them as a way of life.
    At meetings and conferences, I am asked a variety of questions – Are these for everyone? Can it really fit in business, health care, not for profit and even in education sectors? Aren’t they complicated? Are there real examples of how and where they truly worked for organizations? Can I really implement something that is so systematic? Don’t they cost a lot? These are usually apprehensions of people who want to be talked out of it.These questions, and others, prompted me to put down some tongue-in-cheek thoughts about why excellence frameworks fail and what these frameworks require. If you intend to implement any excellence frameworks, be it Baldrige, EFQM, Deming Prize, the Australian model, or any such equivalent, be warned.Reason #12 – No strong external and internal relationships. You have to build strong relationships with external suppliers, partners, stakeholders, as well as build internal relationships with your staff. Additionally, these frameworks require an organization to develop performance metrics on how to measure and evaluate success with those relationships. The danger is, such relationships may break down barriers, improve teamwork, set higher performance requirements, which could actually improve efficiency and effectiveness of operational processes. This could disrupt the status-quo.

    Reason #11 – Train without action. Organizations often embark on an Excellence Framework by executing a Big Bang training plan to make all staff aware of the framework. As Dr Joseph M Juran once said, “Training without action is always forgotten, training with action is always remembered”. Start with the senior leaders, let them be the first few set of Examiners or Assessors. Staff at the grass root level doesn’t need to understand what Framework you are using. They only need to know, implement and improve just that part of the framework that impacts them. Aligned training might result in cost savings and targeted improvements. But it could upset your training department if they enjoy deploying high impact, highly branded, costly training programs.

    Reason #10 – Disregard free consulting advice. If you use any Excellence Framework and undergo an assessment or examination of your organization, you will receive a feedback report that is the most inexpensive consulting assistance designed to improve your organization. Trained professional examiners or assessors will provide your organization with ways to improve and maximize resources. But we wouldn’t want a detailed feedback report from strangers highlighting where you can focus your efforts, especially when some of them don’t even understand your industry.

    Reason #9 – Think we are doing as best as we can. If you use excellence frameworks, you will receive weird looks from other organizations and from insiders who don’t understand why the status-quo isn’t adequate. Your organization will work toward world class performance and outperform your competition. But then, you actually have to improve your organization. Frankly, it can be much easier to run an organization based on experience and gut feel of your managers. After all, that’s why you hired them in the first place.

    Reason #8 – Confuse activity with results. When you receive your assessment feedback report, two things could happen:

    1. Your organization might treat it like an audit report and pick up ‘non-conformities’ for ‘closure’
    2. Organizations typically look to address all Opportunities For Improvement at one go and in fact, ignore the Strengths. Am reminded of good old Dr Juran’s quote again, “You cannot eat an elephant in one bite, but you can… if you eat it one bite at a me”.

    Excellence Frameworks encourage prioritization and intelligent use of resources. Money, me, energy, and talent can be beer focused on what is important. Such alignment can cause an organization to actually increase capacity and use fewer resources. But all this might create capacity for our staff. Reduction of unnecessary hiring could cause turmoil in your Human Resources department.

    Reason #7 – Don’t communicate with staff?. If you use excellence frameworks, senior leadership and management will have to improve communications throughout the organization. This may mean meetings with frontline employees (management by walking around) to beer understand business issues and how it can be improved, it could mean team huddles, webcasts, town-hall meetings. Leaders and employees will have to be honest and open about what they can, and more importantly, cannot do. But many leaders may be uncomfortable mingling with staff?. They may prefer to just tell them what to do and see what happens.

    Reason #6 – Misunderstand and misuse tools. Excellence frameworks do not replace tools and techniques such as Lean, Six Sigma, Problem Solving, Kaizen, PDCA etc. On the contrary, these tools are needed to drive breakthrough improvements, reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction. But be careful. Employees involved in these improvements may become more engaged and outspoken about what processes aren’t working. It’s a slippery slope from employee involvement to empowerment and on to an employee driven organization.

    Reason #5 – No action planning. Using excellence frameworks requires planning. You may be required to develop short and long-term goals that have to be deployed across the organization. Something could happen and plans might change. You will be thinking about whether your organization is agile enough to respond to changes. This may force you to develop alternative plans. Then you will want to tell everyone in the organization about your plans so they can help you execute them. So when will you actually do real work, if you have to plan so much?

    Reason #4 – No benchmarking and best practice sharing. You will want to understand your competitors and how your performance compares with theirs. You will start analyzing your industry and market. This will need you to discover world class organizations that you may want to benchmark with. All this will give you insight into aspects of your business you hadn’t thought of. Then you will be thinking about how this knowledge can create a sustainable organization. See how, once you get started, one thing leads to another and soon you are out of your comfort zone.

    Reason #3 – No organizational alignment. Excellence frameworks will require daily work to be based on a strategic plan. The organization’s Work Systems will need to align with the Strategic Plan. Work will have to be evaluated continuously. Customers/patients will have to be consulted to understand how well you are doing to address their needs and expectations. The framework targets work, people, and projects. But all this seems like getting too many people to be aligned, all this seems like it’s a slow process.

    Reason #2 – No accountability. There’s too much accountability and responsibility up and down the organization. You are paid the same whether you effectively apply these world class excellence frameworks or not. You are already red when you leave work and you don’t need a rigid set of priories linked to your performance appraisal. All anyone wants is to keep your head down, avoid any extra work and hope for the best.

    Finally, the number one reason organizations fail to achieve success with an Excellence Framework.

    Reason #1 – Delegate too much. This might sound cliché but the hard reality is, CEOs often delegate implementation of such things to a ‘Quality department’ and expect them to wave a magic wand to transform the business. The CEO may be there for an announcement or an introductory training. They may say all the right things, and then tell their Quality department to make it happen. This trite approach can ensure failure. There is a reason why ‘Leadership’ is the first Category in all Excellence Frameworks. This has to be driven by the senior leader, not just in speeches, but in continuous action, visibility and support. Mr CEO, don’t even think about implementing an Excellence Framework unless you will unwaveringly lead the charge from the front.

    All kidding aside, let me get back to the questions I started with which represent concern about starting this journey. I have worked with excellence frameworks since over twenty years. I can say without any doubt in my mind that excellence frameworks work and can deliver dramatic results. They represent structure and discipline. But they only work if the organization is serious about improvement demonstrates belief, grit and determination. If the organization is not serious it will only deliver frustration and agony!

    In the words of Dr Juran, “Look after the process, and the product will look after itself ”!

  3. How Bad Design Wrecked Steve Harvey’s “Universe”

    December 25, 2015 by BPIR.com Limited

    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Eric Thomas

    Whether or not you believe the Miss Universe flub by Steve Harvey was hilarious or tragic (twitter certainly believes the former), one thing is for sure, a much better design could’ve saved a lot of heartache.

    View the Card below:


    Welcome to the silliest and most sloppily arranged piece of design to hit a multi-million dollar, overproduced, international beauty pageant to date. This is like showing up in flip-flops to the Oscars. And with months in the making, and thousands of hours worth of prep time, how did this part get overlooked?

    Let’s break it down.

    There isn’t any logical order to this. Sizing, placement, and organizing is all over the place. Why is “Miss Universe” all the way to the right, but “Philippines” is centered below it? The actual winner, compositionally speaking, was essentially just cast off to the side. It looks like a footnote. And even though this document was created so that the names could be added later, they could have at least made the letters bigger. Microsoft Word can certainly adjust font sizes.

    Redesigned Card

    I took 20 minutes of my time to try and get this right. First, I’ve updated the brand to match. Just because this is simple and utilitarian doesn’t mean it can’t match the rest of the show. After that, I tackled the hierarchy. Now our “2015 Miss Universe” is now way more obvious. I’ve even managed to leave places to add the winner labels. Also, everything is easier to read and follow. Our elimination card is legible, clean, and focused. By using size and color, we’ve made this document a lot more easy to understand.Maybe every elimination card couldn’t be this neat and pretty. But this is the main one. The Finale. This mistake isn’t Steve Harvey’s fault. The culprit here is, once again, bad design. Hey Steve, I got your back buddy.

  4. What are most valuable – Good or Bad Practices?

    February 4, 2010 by admin

    At the BPIR.com we have been focusing on collecting good or best practices. This is what we believe our customers want. However, perhaps we can learn just as much from bad practices – of what not to do!

    There are many cases of poor service that I could highlight but I will highlight the most recent that happened today. It was to do with Vodafone, a mobile phone service provider. I was thinking of not naming the company but how else will we get these companies to change? Over the last week or so I had gone in and out of their website to make changes to my add-on services. In each instance there were problems with their website – saying that the service was unavailable and various functions not working. This was not untypical, I have had similar experiences in the last few years but I still preferred to use their website than their automated phone service which is equally frustrating (especially when  entering information via their top-up system and if something goes wrong, as it often does, the whole process needs to be gone through again).

    Well today I managed to top-up My Account via the website and then I selected one of their Add-On services – Best Mates.  I managed to add 3 best mate phone numbers but when I clicked on submit I received a message to say the numbers were not recorded and to contact customer service. However, the system still took $18.00 from my account!
    I then rang their customer service. To speak to customer service and complain about their customer service I was informed by the automated message that I will need to pay $1.00 for this privilege. I had to press “1” on my phone to agree to this as there was no alternative. Unfortunately, after pressing “1” the call dropped off and so I was now in a situation where I had paid $18.00 for a service that didn’t work and another $1.  I then went through the whole process again for another $1 and managed to speak to customer service.
    At this point I complained about my experience but I could tell it was on deaf ears and nothing would change in the future. The person said they knew there were problems with the website and apololgised. I recommended that until the website works correctly it should be taken out of service or have warnings not to use the My Account area. Surely, it is not too hard for a large global company which reports huge profits to have a website that works? Surely they must realize that many of their WebPages do not work correctly?

    Well, at least, Vodafone did reimburse the $2 for speaking to their customer service but of course they would not reimburse me for the time I wasted using their website (over an hour over the last week). Unfortunately, Vodafone is not alone. Many companies survive and prosper even though they have many bad practices – particularly to do with service delivery. This is usually because there are few alternatives for the customer or it takes too much time and effort for the customer to make a switch.

    So that is my story. I am not sure how valuable it is as a learning experience for other companies? How important is it for your company to listen to your customers? Do your employees use your company’s products and services so that they can experience these from the perspectives of a customer? What is your opinion on whether the BPIR.com should highlight bad practices? Should we have a section on our website allowing our members to record bad practices to encourage companies to get their act together? Perhaps these could be balanced by allowing members to add good practices too for the same company.

    Your thoughts please?

    Best regards

    Dr Robin Mann, Commercial Director and Part-Owner, BPIR.com Limited, r.s.mann@massey.ac.nz