I have had a happy morning sorting out a list of questions on starting up a business. I’ve got a couple of telephone conversations coming up with organisations that support budding entrepreneurs like me.
Curiously as I was sorting my thoughts out a bundle of stuff arrived in my in-box. Work-related emails have become rarer than an Aussie opener reaching three-figures so I was all agog. My correspondent was writing to remind me that we are approaching the annual review process. I boggled slightly but then noticed the small-print. It said those of us being booted out before the end of the year needn’t worry. Phew!
Reading the message with its detail about timescales and so on brought on a strange and wistful nostalgia for reviews I have known and loved over the years. The tears, tantrums, sulks and occasional joys of the annual performance review.
Of course I’ve seen fads come and go in performance management practice. Personal bonuses used to be all the rage until it became obvious that few, if any, people were actually motivated in any way by the meagre groats on offer. Now bonuses are a dirty word except in some bits of the private sector where everyone seems to believe they are essential to prevent our highly talented business leaders being snatched away from us.
Various new reward frameworks came and went over the years each with a slightly different strapline that often seemed lifted from a George Lucas script. I’m sure I can recall –
- Performance Reward: a new hope
- Rewarding performance: the workforce strikes back
- Managing people productively: the return of JFDI
- Dealing with poor attendance: the phantom menace
- Setting performance objectives consistently: attack of the clones
- Dealing with sickness absence: revenge of the sick.
Of course I might have been hallucinating but it all seems so real now.
Putting all mirth to one side I am missing most the role I had as a manager of people. I’m still helping where I can but this isn’t the same as deep satisfaction I’ve got over the years in helping people achieve things for the business and for themselves that they didn’t believe they would ever be able to. With twenty years of experience I was just beginning to get beyond being adequate.
I suspect I am not the only player exiting stage left from their current role saddened by the loss of experience that will come with the public spending cuts. Of course almost every organisation claims their greatest asset is their people. Some may even mean it. But we’re living in times where experience is viewed with suspicion and ‘new thinking’ is venerated.
I’ve always believed that experience is the return we get on the investment we each make living our lives as fully as we can: the greater the investment, the more valuable the experience. At the end of the war on the deficit where will all that experience be?
In my case, assuming my calls materialise – they are already late – I will be investing all the energy I have in directions that I haven’t even yet thought of. Just imagine the experience after all of that.
Talking of unexpected directions here’s one of my favourite bit of desperate blue sky thinking under pressure.