Friday, July 6, 2012

The fRiDaY File - Stack Ranking

Scott Adams comes closest to the truth when Dilbert is the most unbelievable.

Proof lies in the fact the world is filled with managers who believe in stuff like "stack ranking".

What's stack ranking? Well, I didn't know either, until...

The Terrible Management Technique That Cost Microsoft Its Creativity

"... a management system known as "stack ranking" — a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor — effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. "Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed — every one — cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees," Eichenwald writes. "If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review," says a former software developer. "It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies."
- Forbes, 7/03/2012

But wait, there's more...

Here's a earlier analysis of stack ranking at Microsoft...

The stack rank system creates an environment that is not conducive to high employee moral and team performance. By ranking employees there becomes a sub-optimization in terms of team unity because it singles-out the performance of some at the expense of those who provide the daily support that is necessary for the team effort.
- Human Resource Management, Stephen Gall, November 23, 2005

That article contains numerous quotes from Microsoft's 3.0 (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Curve):

AAAHHH!@!! I could not agree more:

"Why bother? I'll get the same review no matter what I do."

I killed myself one year. I mean the whole year; just one giant death-march Ho-Chi-Minh nightmare. Shipped. Accolades from customers.


3.5; because "You went dark". Yeah, no s*** Sherlock, I was working not preening

And I know it wasn't that I "went dark"; I really felt for my manager at the time, because he just wasn't a forceful enough person to push for a better ranking. He just flat fell down against a much more experienced manager in the peer team.

Anyway I left. The phenomenon you describe is known in psychology as "learned helplessness", and I did not want to become one of those depressed I'm a happy rat employed where there's no curve ranking.
- comment on Microsoft's 3.0 (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Curve), Monday, June 20, 2005

It's always good to go to the original sources where you can find stuff like this:

My first rating: 4.0. (Shipped a product) My second: 3.5 (Shipped, but didn't do anything extraordinary beyond what I did for the 4.0) My third: 3.0 ("I really fought for you to get a 3.5, and I personally appreciate your efforts...) After that point, what was the point? "You did well - but we have this number box, and you didn't fit in. Sorry. Enjoy the free soda, though."
- comment on Microsoft's 3.0 (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Curve), Sunday, June 19, 2005

You can't make this stuff up, it has to be real...

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