Performance Management Stories

Sharing the successes and struggles of senior leaders who have walked the path to evolve performance management in their organization.

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Scott Morris of Singularity University on Bidirectional Performance Management

For two years, Scott Morris was Executive Vice President of People at Singularity University. He has been a senior HR professional for nearly 20 years and has experience across all disciplines of HR, culture and workforce development.

In this episode, Scott explores:

  • The difference between linear progression and exponential progression and change.
  • How Singularity crystallized its philosophy of performance management.
  • Why an environment of trust and relationships matter more than goal setting and ratings.
  • The role that alignment between supervisors and employees plays in driving engagement and productivity.
  • Why focusing on the combination of behaviours, approach, achievement and skill offers a more complete picture of performance than merely meeting goals.

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Also mentioned in this podcast:

Full Transcript

Michael: It’s time for another great story, great conversation about the evolution, the ongoing challenge of re-imagining performance management. So many of our organizations are facing the fact that the old way didn’t work, and they’ve now got their fingers up to their lips going, “Mm-hmm, so what’s the new way? How are we going to experiment with that?”

And, I’m really excited today to be talking to Scott Morris, who is just implementing, trying to roll out, a new performance management system/process at Singularity University. And we’re going to hear about some of the things they’ve been trying, and what’s showing up so far.

So let me tell you about Scott. He has been a senior HR professional for nearly 20 years, and has experience across all sorts of disciplines of HR, culture, and workforce development. He’s worked across a variety of industries including BPO, professional services, higher education, and the public sector. Scott was a partner in a consulting firm specializing in public sector transformation, and has held positions as chief HR officer for Georgia Tech, the University of Colorado, and is currently the EVP, the Executive Vice President of People at Singularity, a think tank focused on exponential technologies in Silicon Valley.

Scott, awesome to have you on the call, thank you.

Scott Morris: Good morning Michael. Thank you.

Michael: So, I’m a fan of Singularity and Singularity University. I get the newsletters; I’m even signed up for Peter Diamandis’ 360 digital transformation piece. But I’m a keener. Some of us may not know exactly what Singularity is, so tell us a little bit about the type of organization this is, how big you are, how global you are. What are you up to?

Scott Morris: Well, let me start, before I tell you about the company, let me tell you about the way that we are viewing the world today …

Michael: Perfect.

Scott Morris: Because that colors everything that we are trying to do as a company. And you know Michael, it’s widely understood that technology is changing pretty rapidly.

Michael: Yeah.

Scott Morris: But there is a big difference between linear progression and exponential progression. And because we only have audio and not the video here, let me have you get a mental picture of an exponential curve. So, over on the left-hand side, flat, and then rising really quickly to a slope that’s almost vertical; that’s an exponential curve. And that’s how technology is changing.

And to give you another example to help bring that to life, if I were to step out my front door, and take 30 linear steps, each step about the same length, when I get to the 30th step, I’m about 90 feet from where I started.

Michael: Right.

Scott Morris: But if I were to take exponential steps, where I was taking the length of each step, raising it to the power of two, by the time I got to the 30th step the distance that I’ve traveled is equivalent to about 12 times around the circumference of the Earth. That’s the radical difference between linear and exponential progression.

Michael: Right. And I love you’re telling this story because, this is the point Singularity is making, which is we think linearly; it’s all changing exponentially; and it’s really hard to think exponentially, so I love that you’re giving us an example.

Scott Morris: That’s exactly right. And not just that technology is changing fast, but the pace of that change is happening faster and faster and faster. And that means that technology has the power to disrupt every industry on the planet today.

I’ll give you one more quick example. If you and I were to walk into the offices of the chairman of Hilton Hotels five or six years ago, and sat down and said, “You know what? You guys were founded about 100 years ago; you’ve got more than 150,000 employees around the world; you’ve got more than 4,000 properties. But guess what? We are going to be the biggest hotel company in the world. We’re going to have 3,000 employees in a short amount of time and we’re going have a $30 billion valuation.” We would have gotten laughed out when we told that chairman that we wouldn’t own a single property, yet that’s the story of Airbnb.

Michael: Right. Of course.

Scott Morris: And that is a disruption that is happening as a result of a technology platform. And that’s a story about hotels. Even more interesting stories can be told about synthetic biology and artificial intelligence and robotics, and so, all of these organizations are being disrupted, and have the potential to be disruptive.

And so our clients fall into a couple of different categories. But no matter who they are, we basically help them do the same thing, whether they are corporate executives, or NGO leaders or team members, or government or public policy leaders, or entrepreneurs. It doesn’t matter which of those categories they fall into, we help individuals to understand disruptive technologies, envision what needs to happen in their organizations, and then make dramatic shifts to stay relevant and to have a positive impact in the future.

Michael: That’s a pretty fantastic remit. I mean it must be a really exciting place to go, which is, we really are part of changing the world.

Scott Morris: It is. It’s an exciting time to be in that business; it’s an exciting time to be thinking about those changes. We’re a company of about 158 employees. We’re headquartered at the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley, California. But we’ve got employees across the country, and operations around the world.

And at headquarters, we’re facing a couple of challenges. One, the challenge of living in the Bay Area of California makes it difficult to attract talent into the area; it’s an expensive place to live. And two, traffic congestion in that area has made it really difficult for us to have our employees in a simple office area.

And so, the compounding factor here for our performance management, and management in general, is that increasingly we have a number of remote workers. And that introduces a different kind of challenge for us into performance management.

Michael: Sure. And of course, the other thing I’m interested in is, knowing that you’ve got a degree of, “Look, we’ve got to live up to what Singularity is about”; it’s like, “Okay, how do we be on the edge of how to think about what performance and performance management is?” Because, as you describe Singularity, and at 150 people you’re a relatively small organization, but its remoteness and the dispersed workforce is, that’s a trend that’s only going to increase rather than decrease. So, you’re a great little petri dish I’m imagining.

Scott Morris: Well, one of our areas of focus as a company, are global grand challenges. And we teach the people that come to our programs about having an impact in the lives of a billion people over a 10-year period. And so our work inside the company tries to mirror that same thing, and a lot of our focus on performance management is really about the people, not just the process.

Michael: Right. So, how long has Singularity been around?

Scott Morris: The company’s about nine years old. And we are in the process of change on a regular basis. So this is not the typical start-up story and then come to maturity; it is truly that same exponential curve for us internally.

Michael: Yeah, fantastic. So, tell me how you think about performance then within Singularity?

Scott Morris: Well, you know, a lot has changed over the last six months for us. And as you said in your introduction, we’re preparing to implement the meat of a real new approach to performance management.

One of the things that we’ve done differently is to start with a focus on articulation of a philosophy about performance management. And as I know you understand, you know, we say the words “performance management,” and those terms comprise so many different activities that, my experience over the 20 years that I’ve been doing this, is that, just saying the words isn’t enough, because it conjures one image for one person and one image for another, and the two have different areas of emphasis. And pretty soon, you know, you’re implementing a single system but you’re implementing different parts of it, or you’re emphasizing different parts of it.

Michael: Right. So let’s define our terms. Yeah, I love that.

Scott Morris: Right. And not only the terms, but to really focus on what’s important. I think that’s one of the things that is true about the generational change that’s going on in the workforce. The Millennial generation really wants meaning. And I think that’s not just about the work itself; it’s about the way that we approach the work. So one of the things that was really important to me, was articulating, and being a thought leader for the executive team, around our philosophy. What do we really believe about performance management? And we crystallized that into a really simple and straightforward two-page document. And that document has four elements to it.

One is, an expression of our philosophy. It’s about a half a page. The second is, the principles that are going to guide us. And then the second page comprises the last two elements. The mindset that we expect of every supervisor to embrace our philosophy and equally important, the mindset that we expect of every employee, regardless of who he or she is. And I’d be happy, if you want just a few more details, I’m happy to give you some details about the philosophy and about the principles and those types of things.

Michael: Are you kidding? We’re all on the edge of our seat going, “What are you saying to these people?” So yes, please, we’d love to hear details.

Scott Morris: Alright, so when I say performance management comprises various activities, most people immediately think about two things: goal setting and ratings.

Michael: Right.

Scott Morris: And for us, it was important to say, “Look, this is fundamentally about building a relationship.” I’m willing to be that a lot of people have had the same experience that I’ve had. Which is that you see some supervisors who never, ever, ever overtly do anything related to performance management. They don’t give ratings, they don’t give reviews, and yet they’ve got employees who perform and outperform everybody else. And then I’m sure we’ve also all seen some variant of the other end of the spectrum, which is a supervisor who’s really dogmatic about the process, but can’t seem to generate the results.

And the reason for that, is the environment of trust and the relationship that the individual who was successful in those activities built. It’s not about the process. It’s really fundamentally not about the way you write smart goals and those types of things. Don’t get me wrong; those are important and they do have their place. But for us, there are five core components of our philosophy.

One, the purpose of this whole exercise is growth. It’s not comp; it’s not ratings; it’s growth and development. In fact, we’re trying to shy away from the term “performance management” and lean toward the term “performance development.”

Second, this is a bidirectional process. If it’s about a relationship, you can’t have a monologue, you’ve got to have a dialogue. All of the activities have to be bi-directional. Everything that we do has to build trust and raise the bar on achievement simultaneously.

Michael: Yeah. That’s beautiful.

Scott Morris: The entire thing is facilitated by alignment. And it represents a cycle of interactions, an ongoing cycle, by the way, not just one start to finish set of activities.

And those are the tenets of our philosophy, and we express that in a few more words, but that’s really the heart of it.

Michael: Scott let me ask you, because I love what you’re talking about. You know, what Box of Crayons does is teach practical coaching skills to managers, so, I’m waving the flag and banging the drum on exactly what you’re talking about. One of the challenges that I’ve seen show up in other organizations is, this philosophy of bidirectional. You know, it needs to be a conversation.

Underneath that, if you poke into that you start uncovering issues of power and control. You know, because if you’re the manager, if you’re the supervisor, it actually feels pretty good to have the voice, have most of the telling, kind of give the direction, because it kind of reinforces your status, it makes you feel good. It helps reinforce the hierarchy, subtle as it may be. I’m curious to know how you’ve helped shift the culture, or maybe it wasn’t issue for you, around this, getting beyond the theory of make it bidirectional to actually making it a practice for people?

Scott Morris: So I think there are a couple of elements. And just like anything, these are systems approaches. So it’s not just performance management, it’s also hiring that is important. We are big adherents to behavior-based interviewing, and the development of profiles of success.

Michael: How nice.

Scott Morris: And so, when we’re selecting supervisors, actually, let me back up a second Michael, because there’s two things, right? You’ve got to have the target. And in part, that is the profile that I am talking about for a supervisor. But then you’ve also got to have a mindset and an articulation of that mindset.

And so, back to that philosophy document, the four elements, right? The philosophy, the principles that guide us, and then the supervisor and the employee mindset. And the first sentence of our manager’s paradigm reads, “When I accepted a supervisory position, my first responsibility became the development of those who I supervise.”

We are really trying to be out loud about the fact that yeah, each of us as a supervisor, as a manager, has a responsibility really akin to an individual contributor, right? There’s stuff that we do every day. But when you put on that mantle of responsibility, you first and foremost, have others in your charge.

And so, being out loud about that, being written about that, using that mindset and repeating that a lot, is not only a good practice for change management, but it’s also a way to ensure that people culturally, and we use as a definition of “culture,” and this is not original, it comes from the corporate executive board, but, you know, culture is unwritten rules and behavioral norms. And the only way that people understand those things is if you’re talking about it all time, if you’re visualizing it, et cetera.

So, we expect supervisors to grab onto that mindset, and then we expect to select them based on those capabilities. And that’s how you get things to work together. Now, I don’t think we do that perfectly. I think we’ve got a long way to go on that. But we know directionally that that’s correct.

Michael: I love what you’re saying, but I’m going to put on the so-called devil’s advocate hat, and somebody may be listening to this going, “Boy that sounds lovely, but Singularity, it’s a think tank, it’s small; they don’t really have a driving profit margin that they’ve got to hit. But it would be nice if I could just talk about my primary responsibility is the development of my people. But actually my primary responsibility is to hit my targets, because that’s what I’ve got to do.” How would you get into a conversation with somebody kind of standing on that point of view?

Scott Morris: Well first let me clear up the misconception, Michael, for anybody who might have it. We’re a for-profit company. We just closed a B round of funding. We have investors who are very much interested in profitability and other business metrics, and we have every day a driving force that focuses on our profit.

Michael: Got it.

Scott Morris: Now, we are also a B Corp. And a part of our evolution makes this a little bit different of a journey for us. A California B Corp., it’s a different kind of corporate entity, one that has a double bottom line; the first is a fiduciary responsibility to our stockholders, but the other is a focus on having impact in the world. And so we think not only outside but inside the company, and our interest is in having an impact in the lives of our employees.

But you know what? Towers Watson did a study a couple of years ago, and found that employees who were fully engaged tend to produce 16% more than we pay them, while employees that are fully disengaged tend to produce 60, 6-0% of what we pay them, which means that we’ve got a .4 FTE leaking out for every employee that’s fully disengaged.

And one of the biggest drivers of engagement is a relationship of trust with the direct supervisor, and an understanding of how to connect their work. So, we don’t think these things are soft, and we think they have a direct impact to the financial component of our bottom line.

Michael: Perfect. I was hoping you’d have an answer like that, and you nailed it! That was excellent. Thank you.

So, what else is in this document? What else can you share about this kind of foundational approach to performance and development?

Scott Morris: Well, let me move on from the philosophy and talk about how we’re putting it into action. You know, there’s an awful lot of work being both researched and written about the need for ongoing conversation. And there’s also a similarly large body of work related to the disconnection of compensation decisions and performance conversations.

And so, one of the things that we’re doing is offsetting. We make financial decisions based on a fiscal year which for us runs on a calendar year, but our performance cycle, if you can call it that, runs July to June. And so, in July, every manager is expected to be thinking about a summary of the ongoing conversations that they’ve had around the year. And we think here in two dimensions. One is ongoing discussion of annual assessment. And you notice I’m not using the word “rating.”

Michael: Right.

Scott Morris: And for us, again, it comes back to that philosophy. And those words will come out of my mouth a lot, because that philosophy anchors everything. Once we’ve declared what we believe, then we connect everything back to that. So the language that we use, ongoing discussion annual assessment, doesn’t use the word “rating” because this is not about ratings. It’s about growth. And we have a tripartite focus. One is behaviors and approach. And actually, let me back up for a second, and to tell you that, the majority of what I consider to be my failures, which I think drive me a whole lot more than my successes!

Mostly because they’re more numerous. But, when I focused in the past on writing smart goals, and the OKRs, and setting objectives and those kinds of things, let me be clear, those are not bad things and they’re not wrong areas of focus. But if it’s the first area of focus, then it’s incomplete. Well if it’s the first area of focus I think it’s wrongly directed, and if it’s the only area of focus then I think it’s incomplete.

We have three areas of focus, and the first is behaviors and approach. And think of that for short hand as, how the work gets done. The second is the actual achievement. And that’s pretty black and white, right? We set a goal; you either got there or you didn’t get there or something in the middle. The last part is about technical skill. And let me break those down just a little bit for you.

So, behaviors and approach; I’ll give you an example. And this one that’s really important to us. So, being able to communicate with both candor and tact at the same time. That’s a behavior that is not only important to workplace success, but to performance management success.

One of the things that is true across my career, and I’m regrettably responsible or have been in the past as well, for dismissing employees who are not performing. And dismissing managers quite frankly for the same thing. And rarely is that because they’ve lacked the skills to do the job. Most of the time, it’s because the way that they’re approaching the work isn’t the way that we want them to. But defining those behaviors, and then actually integrating them into performance management and saying to the employee population, “Look, goals are really important and meeting them is critically important to us as a business, but the way you do your work is just as important,” that’s something that a lot of organizations don’t do, that we’re really trying hard to do.

Michael: So let me ask you Scott, if could just interrupt for a moment, that value, “communicate with both candor and tact,” is there a kind of almost standard set of behaviors that you’re looking for, for all your supervisors and managers? Kind of almost like, these are our core values and these are the behaviors, these are the manifestations of those values? Or is it a bit more kind of individual going, “Here Scott, you in particular need to learn how to communicate with candor and tact, because you’re good at one but you’re not good at the other.”

Scott Morris: I think it’s both and, Michael. Again, a lesson from my own failure in the past, being an adherent to behavior-based interviewing, I am laser focused on being able to distill what the profile is, and I think you do that not only for a job, but you do it for company success as well. And then being able to translate that into concrete and objective behaviors.

And, my failure in the past has been trying to go too big. I think the formula for success, and here I wish I could tell you a success story, but the fact is, is that this is in progress. And so I’ll tell you how it’s worked later. But our focus is to have a really limited set. And by “limited” I mean three to five behaviors. And what I want to do is create flexibility. So three of those behaviors are defined at the company level, and two of them are left open for divisional leaders to say, these are behaviors that, in addition to the company-defined behaviors, are going to drive my business. But a list of 10 is impractical.

Michael: Yeah for sure.

Scott Morris: There needs to be a focus on what really works, and I think the way to get to that is to look at the difference between highly successful and high potential employees, and everybody else in the company. Or at least some subset of those. And to ask, just in the same behavioral based interviewing style, what differentiates the superstars and their behaviors from everybody else?

Michael: Right. In some ways it’s almost, I don’t know if you’ve come across the change approach called positive deviance. But it’s that piece around, who are the people who are, with access to the same resources, are flourishing in a way that others aren’t flourishing? And what are they doing? And how can we learn from that and bring that back into the way that we all work?

Scott Morris: Exactly. So I want to say to my senior level managers, “Look, communicating with candor and tact is important. Persisting despite challenges and setbacks is important. Adapting to changing circumstances is important. And creating a behavioral definition of those for the company.” And then saying, “Okay, you can now take and in this same style, define a fourth and a fifth behavior if those things are important.”

Michael: Got it. Did you sit down at your desk and come up with those three organizational-wide behaviors, or was it a collective distillation from a bunch of senior leaders, or how did you come up with those three?

Scott Morris: Yeah, we did it in small group work. But if anything was left to me solo it wouldn’t be worth anything, I don’t think. The wisdom of the crowd is always better.

Michael: Yeah, for sure.

Scott Morris: But one thing that I did do when I came into the company was, I sat down for 90 minutes with about 3/4 of our employees one on one. And spent time, not only trying to understand their perspectives on the company and their challenges, but also asking an important question. When you look at all of your peers and people that have come before you, what differentiates the people that are really successful? And for us, those things came out over and over and over again. Not in those words. We invented the words for them. But the themes were definitely there.

And so we knew that that was what our employee population was seeing in their peers and in the company broadly, and so we said look, it that’s what’s driving success, then let’s incorporate that into performance management.

Michael: Got it. Okay so if that behavior base is the starting point of the first of the three parts, the second part is, goals are entered?

Scott Morris: Of course. And at the end of the day, and you question alluded to it, we’ve got business to do. And so setting goals is critically important; it’s just not the only component.

And here, in an ongoing sense, when we have the ongoing conversation, we’re not using a complex scale as the basis here, right? You’re either regularly doing things on the behavior, you’re sometimes doing the, or we’re not seeing much evidence. And the goals, you either fully achieve the goal as we defined it; you partially achieved it, which is not always a bad thing, by the way; or you didn’t achieve it.

And remember, our focus is growth and development, so what we’re trying to provoke here is not a scorecard, but a conversation. And one which I think fairly includes, yeah you know what, you partially achieved that goal but there were some extenuating circumstances.

And the difference here between the ongoing discussion and the annual assessment is pretty important. Because in an annual assessment, you know, my supervisor should be able to look at me and say, “You know what? You were fully successful even though you didn’t get to a couple of those goals. What you did achieve in those goals and the extenuating circumstances that you faced that were just a part of the change across,” whatever the time period is, the month, the quarter, semi-annually, a year, right? I take all of that into account and I take into account the way that you approached the work and the way that you interacted with others around that work, and I think you’re fully successful.

So, the goal achievement is important, but fully achieving the goal isn’t always the highest rated, right? The circumstances should count as well. And again, because it’s about growth. Now, if I’m a supervisor and I’ve got an employee who only partially achieves a goal, and there aren’t extenuating circumstances, then I’m having a different conversation because I should be asking about obstacles. “What happened there? Did you not know how to approach it? Did you not understand how to prioritize things? What the big rocks that are in your way?”

Michael: So, just to check back on the process, there’s kind of the kick-start of this in July, or end of June, each year. Is there an expectation that this conversation that kind of pulls out of the weeds of a particular challenge into a, hey it’s a bit of a meta-conversation, how are we doing? It may not be formalized, but are you kind of hoping it’s a weekly, biweekly, monthly conversation? What sort of rhythm are you expecting?

Scott Morris: Yeah. I think in a practical sense, I mean you want to have an ongoing dialog. I would love it if we could evolve to the point where we’re doing this regularly, and by that I mean monthly, but I’m going to be happy with quarterly for right now. And again, I’ve been out in front of the message that I think, we’ve got to learn to crawl first, walk next, and then really start to pick up the pace and start to run, because we’re talking about scaffolding, right? You learn skills from your supervisor and then you get better.

Michael: Almost like you get exponential growth, almost.

Scott Morris: There you go. Well you know what, it’s interesting because everybody focuses on the right hand of that curve, but there’s a left-hand area that’s flat, right? And it’s just as important to the curve as the steep sloped component is, it’s a part of a system. Which means that we’ve got to go through the hard work of building the skills and building the muscle. And so it’s an evolutionary process.

Michael: Brilliant. What’s the third part of the piece? You’ve got those three core behaviors and then add some more if you’d like; you’ve got the goals, which you can achieve, partially achieve, or not achieve. What’s the third and final part?

Scott Morris: The last part is technical skills. And when you think about it, in any career, there is a set of skills that have to be mastered to let you do the job you do right now well. But there’s a lot of evidence that shows that supervisors who are really invested in the career growth and development of an individual, tend to have a richer trust relationship with the individual, because that supervisor is demonstrating that he or she cares not only about the company’s business objective, but about the individual’s personal growth.

So when we think about technical skills, there’s a set of skill that have to be mastered. And again, a simple, straightforward conversation guide: you have either fully mastered it, you’ve partially mastered it, or I haven’t really seen it yet from you. But then there’s something else, which is, what’s the next level of your career success? And for a long time, the focus has always been like, your next step must be to be a supervisor. But that’s not right for everybody.

Michael: Right.

Scott Morris: And it shouldn’t have to be, and if you have a good comp philosophy, and a good compensation approach, you shouldn’t have to be a supervisor if you don’t want to be a supervisor, or by the way aren’t well equipped to be a supervisor, by virtue first and foremost of your mindset. You shouldn’t have to do that just to get the money.

So what we want in performance management, is for the supervisors to think about their employees’ skill development, not only for what they’re doing now, but what’s that next level? What is the next evolution of that employee’s career, and what skills do he or she need to get there. This is the most loosely defined part of our current approach, but we know it’s an important component.

So back to the evolutionary nature; our focus was to try and do something different, but not get it perfect because we would never be doing anything if we waited to get it perfect. So this is an area that I think represents a lot of development need for us, not to overuse that word, but the focus on technical skills: what are you doing today that you need skills for and how are you, and then what do you need for that next step in your career and how can I help you get those today?

Michael: I love that. So you’ve kind of given us a caveat that, this is early days, right? You’ve just started to roll this out. But I’m curious to know, what are you already learning in terms of, not necessarily the process, but almost the change-management process around how do you get people to engage in this?

Scott Morris: You know, I wish the lessons here weren’t ones that were well known, right? And that’s why I say I’ve learned more through my failures. It’s not new stuff that keeps coming out that needs to get learned, in some cases it’s the same old stuff. And change management, we’re working new ground here.

Michael: It’s like life. I don’t know about you, but I’m like, “Wow, I just make the same three mistakes over and over again in slightly different ways.”

Scott Morris: Right. Kerry Patterson wrote a great book on change management called Influencer that I would recommend to anybody who’s interested in the subject. And the techniques come down pretty much to the same things, right? Understand where you’re going, and have a destination that you can describe to people. And then really focus on, as a leadership team, the megaphone that’s in front of you. And don’t lose the opportunities to communicate again and again and again. It’s why it was so important for us, not only to articulate a philosophy, but commit it to a document. Because that then crystallizes it; it’s concrete.

So I think the lesson that we are learning, and I learn this in little increments every day, is that the job of talking about this stuff is never going to be over. Jack Welch in Straight from the Gut said by the time he got to the second year of his tenure talking about Six Sigma and being number one and number two in every industry, he was so sick of it he couldn’t do it anymore, and people were just starting to get it.

And I think that’s the key lesson for change management on anything, including performance management, is that people are unlearning lessons, but it’s not always clear that they’re unlearning them. So you’ve got to keep communicating it; you’ve got to keep coming back to the philosophy as I’ve tried to do today, and really keep getting focused on what’s anchoring you, what do you believe, and how are those activities centered around it. And that’s important not only for telling other people about it, but for getting the workforce centered on the activities that are important for us.

Michael: There’s a quote related to that I love, which is, “The problem with communication is the illusion it’s taken place.”

Scott Morris: That it’s taken place, right, exactly.

Michael: So this has been a fantastic conversation, in part because of the passion and the rigor in your thinking that you’ve brought to this. Before we go, any final comments, reflections on this? You’ve shared so much already.

Scott Morris: Well, I have one more, and it’s one that’s personally important to me. And I’ll give it to you in closing. Another element of our philosophy is that performance management has to be bidirectional. And I learned some important lessons by reading Laszlo Bock’s book Work Rules!

Michael: Yeah, fantastic.

Scott Morris: And as most of the listeners know, Laszlo is the former head of people for Google. And one of the thing that they learned is, there’s got to be feedback from the employee to the supervisor. And we borrowed some of the things from that book and incorporate it with some of our own. The conversation around the supervisor, an employee should be able to say, you know, “I’m not getting timely feedback.” Or, “The feedback I’m getting is not actionable.” Or, “You’re not open to my feedback.”

And all of those things are a part of the ongoing discussion that we want our employees to have with supervisors. For us they fall into three different categories, the way that the supervisor communicates and provides feedback, the work environment that he or she creates, and then the focus that he or she has on development of that individual. And then covers about 10 questions that we suggest to the employees you know, “Is your supervisor usually doing this, sometimes doing it, or rarely?” Again, a really simple rating scale.

Michael: Beautiful. Scott Morris, Executive VP of People at Singularity, thank you for this; it’s been a fantastic conversation.

Scott Morris: Michael, it’s been my pleasure. Thanks for the invitation.

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