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A management classic: The “Open Door Policy” April 15, 2008

Posted by Jeff in Work.
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Here’s an excerpt from an actual email I received from a company executive on his “open door policy”:

I also want to encourage all of you to use our open-door policy to communicate any concerns or positive feedback you have.  I know that my door is often closed, and I have heard the same of other VPs.  Please realize that this is because I am constantly on the phone or in meetings…


Bank of America Reviews November 8, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Work.
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Here’s an example of Bank of America’s ratings and reviews they are collecting and publishing from their consumers.  This is an example of forward thinking from a large, well-established financial institution:

Management and monarchy July 9, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Work.
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Thomas Paine wrote,

There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of monarchy; it first excludes a man from the means of information, yet empowers him to act in the cases where the highest judgment is required.

I argue that most managers see themselves as monarchs of their own small kingdoms in the midst of the company and as a result, I think Paine’s words resonate equally well by swapping ‘monarchy’ for ‘management’.

I have worked for around 10 total managers during my career – some intelligent and effective, some blissfully incompetent.  One thing that nearly all of them have had in common, though, is that they typically spend their time doing “manager things” and thus excluding themselves from the means of information.  Yet they are all empowered to act where the highest judgment is required.

I think it would not be unfair to say that most of the managers I’ve worked for try to compensate for their self-imposed exclusion from the means of information in the final moments before their judgment is required.  Most of them have not taken the time to internalize even the important details of a problem, let alone the background, causes, effects, and consequences of that problem.  Their decision process nearly invariably results in operational and opportunity costs to the buisness.

I question whether my own employees have felt this way about me.  I don’t know.

I believe in laissez-faire management – communicate the desired outcome to an employee and the limits placed on him to achieve that outcome.  Measure the employee by his ability to achieve the desired outcome.  Be available for coaching, collaboration, or assistance as needed and as requested by the employee.  Take responsibility on your own to know intimately the details you need in order to make judgments that are required of you.

This approach results in lower operational costs (think ‘fewer status reports’), happier employees, and higher business efficacy.

Being disagreeable June 28, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Politics, Work.
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One of the great freedoms we have – and often overlook – is our ability to disagree with one another, especially on political issues.  If I think the president is doing a terrific or lousy job, I can say so.  If I think a particular policy is good or bad, I can say so.  No one is obligated to listen to me, but I can still hold my own opinion and speak it openly.  You may hold an opinion different from mine, and you have the same freedom to express it that I do.  We can disagree with one another, discuss our differences, and choose whether or not we want to change our individual positions.

There are a few ground rules about disagreeing that would behoove many of us to adopt.  For example:

  • It’s ok to disagree, and words like ‘argument’, ‘position’ and ‘debate’ are not dirty words.  Consider discussing a disagreement with someone as a way to help you grow as a person and a way to build a deeper relationship with the other person.
  • You and I are sometimes wrong – discussing a disagreement with others can help us see why.
  • Remember how name calling didn’t solve any problems in third grade?  It still doesn’t in adulthood. 
  • Your argument is not correct just because:
    • You can surround yourself with people who agree with you.
    • More people agree with you than agree with the other person.
    • One or more famous people agree with you
    • You have a statistic that says you’re correct

Here are some suggestions for having a conversation with someone with whom you disagree.


One problem I’ve never had at work June 27, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Work.
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Suggestion:  Whether you want to put in 8, 10, or 12 hours a day, at the end of the work day, go home.  Make yourself get up from your desk and leave.  Not in the sense of slacking and abdicating responsibility, but in the sense of remembering that you can be more productive and happier in the long run if you avoid burning yourself out.

I’ve dealt with a lot of problems at work, but I’ve never had a problem with someone sneaking in at night and doing my work while I’m gone.  My work is always there waiting for me when I come in the next day.