Monday, March 28, 2016

Up or Out

Jack Welch popularised the idea of an 'up or out' policy. Where the bottom 10% of performers in an organisation were either managed up, or they left. The idea being that this would constantly keep the group of people who stay on their toes, or improving. Most people are happiest when they are good at their job. If you are in the bottom 10%, you would probably be happier elsewhere if you weren't able to lift your game. 

Jack Welch - Retired CEO of General Electric

At stages, I have bought into this idea completely. The idea of a meritocracy is very appealing. If you are the one doing well. The problem comes when you get to horrible people who are top performers, and great people who aren't that good at their job. There are a lot of people who aren't looking at their work as a constant progression - money, authority, achievement. A big part of why we enjoy our work comes down the community we are in. The culture of the place. The sense of being a part of something. A place to fund other things that are important. By definition, an 'up or out' culture means there is never a stage when everyone is safe. There are always wild animals waiting to nibble on the stragglers. You can't work on something with long term pay offs because you have to spend so much time on short term survival. On marketing the value you are adding.


If you are part of a family, or in a committed relationship... there is no 'up or out'. At some stage you decide to accept that you are in it for the long term. That you will work out whatever problems come along. You buy into the person. Once you buy into the person, the game changes. The escape hatch is put out of commission. That allows you to put ego aside because ego and the broader aims become one and the same.

I am interested in the idea of how we build communities. How we build groups of people where we accept that we are in it for the long term, like we do with family and relationships. I do think there should be boundaries that shouldn't be crossed. Laws. Unconditional love requires constraints. Whether it is about poor performance or antisocial behaviour. Those are the tough problems to which we don't have an answer. Those breaches are the ones that hurt the most. That need creative solutions.

There is a premium to trusting people. How do we build trust?
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