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What Your CEO Is Reading: The Performance Review Will Not Die; Sleep Deprived CEOs; Supporting Maker/Thinkers

February 18, 2021


Wall Street Journal

Every week, CIO Journal offers a glimpse into the mind of the CEO, whose view of technology is shaped by stories in management journals, General interest magazines and, of course, in-flight publications.

Not dead yet: The performance review. GE and International Business Machines Corp. are among the large companies reported to have abolished annual employee reviews.  But overall organizations are no more doing away with the process than “a person who shifts from drinking whisky to wine is becoming teetotal,” the Economist reports. Reviews are actually multiplying from the annual slogs, to quarterly, even weekly, affairs. Some consultants link the changes with being more agile and supporting “constant learning,” but the magazine sees “hoopla.” The annual review may be “an expensive and complex way of making people unhappy,” but done right it still provides a way of measuring an employee’s development over time and his or her performance against peers. 

The organizational cost of insufficient sleep. Practitioners of the always-on, 12-latte-a-day work style are doing themselves and their organizations a disservice, McKinsey & Co.’s Nick van Dam and Els van der Helm write. Would companies want their decision makers to show up drunk? Probably not. But they cite research which finds that employees operating on 17 to 19 hours of wakefulness can be similar to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 percent. They argue that workplaces may need to “embed sleep training” into a broader approach organizational approach supporting employee well-being. Such a program could include napping facilities at work, email blackout times and investing in new technology. One app, called f.lux, limits blue light on computers and iPhone, to insure that the potential for a good night’s sleep is not undone by the constant thrum of digitalization.

In search of ingenuity. Missing from the names attached to the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945 is one Norman Heatley, whose efforts improving penicillin mold production methods made the big breakthrough possible. “Heatley didn’t have the sudden insight that sparked a big idea,” Andrew Hargadon writes in Strategy+Business. “Rather, he put into practice the hundreds of small insights necessary to make a big idea real.” Companies looking to tap into that spirit need to find their own Heatley–”makers as much as they are thinkers”–and create the conditions in which they can thrive. Encourage  experimentation, starting with inexpensive tests first, Mr. Hargadaon suggests. And avoid funding commitments or milestones set before the work. “Base each new tranche on what the team has learned (and how that has changed the original plan). Doing so provides room for the trial-and-error nature of ingenuity.” In a related read, Astro Teller, head of Google’s R&D lab, offers a peak into how the moonshot factory works.

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Wall Street Journal

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