(column for 08/26/07)
What Were They Thinking?” by Jeffrey Pfeffer, Harvard Business School
Press, $25. At the author’s suggestion, look at the chapter titles and read those that fit
the situation that confronts you. Mr. Pfeffer isn’t offering one-size-fits-all solutions –
he’s offering an abundance of ideas to get you thinking about what may work in your
company. He knows that common sense and careful thought don’t show up in the data,
charts and the surveys you look at, but you need them to make the right decisions.
He encourages thinking about the long-term ramifications of cost-cutting
measures because businesses can’t shrink their way to greatness. This is particularly true
when looking at wage and benefit cuts. It’s easy to think that profits will increase if you
cut wages and benefits – or downsize your workforce. The flip side is the effect on
productivity and retention. Cut compensation and watch productivity fall, while turnover
climbs. When you downsize, the workload doesn’t change. You’re TELLING survivors
to do more with fewer resources. Productivity suffers and employees, tired of working
longer hours, leave. What ARE you thinking?
Chapter 4, “A Blueprint for Success” is a must-read for any executive thinking of
cutting the company’s training budget. Training has three positive effects: 1. People
learn skills and apply knowledge essential to keeping the company competitive. 2. By
investing in your people, they will invest in the company. They will work harder and
own their jobs because they are offered opportunities to apply new knowledge. Turnover
will decrease. 3. Training builds self-confidence. Your employees will be better
prepared for growth assignments. You’re building your internal management talent pool.
Chapter 23, “Dare to be Different” offers a number of insights: “You cannot
benchmark your way to the top.” Benchmarking means you are only following the
leader. You’ve disguised “we’re behind the competition” as continuous improvement.
“You have to think differently