Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Dirty Little Secret of Successful Companies (A Response)

Two responses to the Jay Goltz post in the NYT, The Dirty Little Secret of Successful Companies:

Response 1

Pfeffer is a Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford GSB. In The Human Equation, he lays out 7 principles of successful companies, two of which are obviously relevant:

  • Selective hiring of new personnel
  • Extensive training

The entire list:

  • Employment Security
  • Self-managed teams and decentralized decision making
  • Relatively high compensation contingent on organizational performance
  • Reduced status distinctions
  • Extensive sharing of financial/performance information

Response 2

Evaluations can be very arbitrary.

In one former position at a major bank, I was rated excellent year after year by various 'handlers'; I was never really managed. Well, a competing bank bought one of the trading desks, and then the management went with them. I was still excellent with the replacement managers, but my most senior supporter was shipped off to Europe to manage technology there, and I was left with the other senior person in the department. For her, I was just dead wood of the prior environment, and I hated almost everything about the new manager's style. Instead of being a 5/5, I became a 3/5, a 'six'. It took a year or two, but eventually I was laid off during a merger.

Social Scientist Sees Bias Within (A Response)

Two responses to the NYT's Social Scientist Sees Bias Within:

Response 1

I went through the recommended posts to see if my premise based on facts, that openness (big-five) correlates with intelligence and 'liberal-ness', was repeated, and found it was, as well as the occasional flip-side, that business people are typically conservative. Gee, smart people identify as liberal or independent, and conservatives are typically middle class and concerned with money.

Although intelligence and personality explain much of the difference, it doesn't explain why the US is so politically and socially backward, as compared to other developed countries.

Response 2

Your weakness is your strength. It is what you make of it.

Rather than looking at the distribution of political stances as a problem, one could try to see it as a positive feature, provided you are a conservative. My sense is that greatness, e.g., Nobel's in Economics or Einstein, is not the province of the common view but the iconoclast. Great thinkers attack their professions bad assumptions, they make new science, and they make their name on not being with the status quo.

A Journey — if You Dare — Into the Minds of Silicon Valley Programmers

My responses in a NY Times comment section for the book, Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson ...