October 19, 2009
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Filed Under (Ponderings) by justin

Scott Adams recently proposed a ‘Ratting System’ that allows employees to anonymously point out their peers’ flaws. That post merged with a lot of other mental systems to generate a response idea: A Raving System. (For more information, see Part One: Introduction and Part Two: Implications.)

I’m not a manager, so I can’t really evaluate a Raving System’s efficacy nor its viability in a corporate setting. I would love feedback from those who can.

I can, however, test the underlying concepts. And, in fact, I have.

I took some standard problem-solving advice and started small. I gave myself a Raving System. It’s called the Happy Dance. Some of you may have found it, but most of you definitely have not. Feel free to check it out. Suffice it to say, it has begun to form a good habit for me. Low-quality and internet-dependent though it may be.

I’ve also applied this concept in my classroom in two ways. Like several other ESL teachers I know, I give out rewards for participation in class. Mine are called oracles.1 Oracles, like many employee assessment strategies, play a part in determining the students’ grades. However, I’ve also tried allowing the students to give them to each other. It was a faltering attempt, but it proved interesting. I plan to revisit the concept soon.

More successfully, I have a determined start to my classes. Before anything else, I ask students to share something special—however small—from the previous week. It not only gives them a chance to warm up to speaking English in class but also helps them look at a monotonous week of study in a new way. It took a while to catch on. Some students never responded. Most eventually learned to have something to say. A few let it change their outlook on life.

I’m certainly not alone in this outlook. The most recent example I’ve found is The Thank You Project, a blog I stumbled across via GOOD. I have no idea who Julia is, but I find her happiness with life worth sharing.


@Businesspeople: If you’ve seen a system like this, I’d love to know about it. If you  try it, let me know how it turns out.

@The rest of us: This system, if truly valuable, need not be limited to business. I’d say it must not be. Do you or have you ever done something like this? Tell me about it. If you haven’t, I suggest you try it. And, of course, let me know how it works out for you.

  1. It’s an oral English class. If that still confuses you, just go on.

October 17, 2009
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Filed Under (Ponderings) by justin

Scott Adams recently proposed a ‘Ratting System’ that allows employees to anonymously point out their peers’ flaws. That post merged with a lot of other mental systems to generate a response idea: A Raving System. (For more information, see Part One: Introduction. Part Three: Implementations to follow.)

I think as a manager. It might be my gift. It might be my curse. It might be my big head. In any case, it’s my inclination. As a manager, I like this idea for so many reasons.1

diversemoraleGroup Morale. I increasingly believe people need to be pushed to look for the good around them. I have no trouble finding things I don’t like. I suspect most people have the same proclivity.2 And while that fault-finding is an invaluable aid to troubleshooting, it tends to reduce productivity, trust and overall satisfaction with life. It is, therefore, a tendency a manager wants to minimize. When I realize just how thoughtful the lady in the next cubicle can be, I’m more willing to work with her.

Personal Motivation. I also generalize far too easily. Just ask my mom. She never seems satisfied when I report the last week/month/year has been ‘Good. Normal.’ And while I’m often satisfied to look at life that way, I’m often too easily satisfied.3 Part of this complacency results from my failure to see the details of progress. Paying attention to the little changes in my relationships with my friends makes life more interesting. Recognizing the small differences between classes makes me a more effective teacher. Noticing the little good things happening around me every day encourages me to contribute to them. The better we understand the details of something—the more we see their effects, the more likely we will invest in them.

Accurate Assessment. Employee assessment is a primary reason management exists. At least, it should be. A good manager is good judge of ability, but no manager is omniscient. Extra sets of eyes feeding back information can only help. So what happens when Amy points out that Brad has a good eye for aesthetics? You make sure Brad is on the team vetting the new design for your website. You get better feedback. Brad gets a job that interests him, and Amy gets the gratification of knowing she has influenced your decision-making. This starts an upward cycle of employee satisfaction and empowerment.

culture-societyFeedback. Obviously, that’s what this system is. It tells you what your employees value, who is getting overlooked, who is satisfied and who deserves more responsibility, recognition or attention. Note those employees getting fewest commendations and you’ve identified weak links. Include office systems as open for commendations, and your office is an increasingly efficient and satisfying workspace. Perhaps most importantly, you foster an environment where employees are comfortable giving honest, constructive feedback.

Feedback Weighting. Feedback is good, but it’s even better when you have some matrix to quickly determine its value. This is the reason I said you want to know who is giving the feedback (Part One), even when they wish to remain anonymous. Frequency of positive feedback is, I believe, a frequently overlooked and valuable data point. That is, when I get a complaint from two employees, the one who complains more frequently may be easier to ignore. That may or may not be a good response—perhaps he is a whiner; perhaps he just pays attention and has good ideas. Like me. Or like I want to be. Knowing how much positive feedback that person is giving makes your decision so much easier.

There are plenty of other implications. These are just some of the primary ones.

  1. No, I’m not actually a manager, and perhaps my idealism still needs a little jading to reach realism. At the same time, I’m a teacher—a manager of classrooms of students. I’ve done something like this in class, with decent results. And when idealism dies, improvements are usually buried with them.
  2. Perhaps this suspicion is simply an ironic outflow of my own critical nature. I’d like that to be true. But I don’t think it is. And, usually, the problems I find are legitimate problems, so I’m going to trust myself on this one.
  3. Some of you are wondering how this squares with my troubleshooting nature. I could give a complex explanation, but for now let’s summarize: I’m messed up.

October 14, 2009
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Filed Under (Ponderings) by justin

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, provocative blogger and friend of the blog, (for my part anyway—he’s the only person in my blogroll feed I don’t know personally.) recently proposed a ‘Ratting System’ that allows employees to anonymously point out their peers’ flaws. That post merged with a lot of other mental systems1 to generate this idea. I’d love feedback on this.

(Part Two: Implications and Part Three: Implementations to follow.)

I think Scott’s idea is perfect–if you turn it inside out. That is, rather than allow employees to complain or troubleshoot, why not get them to focus on the positive things happening around them? I envision a virtual (because I’m a techie) or literal (because I know non-techies exist) dropbox for people to award attaboys.

These commendations could be anything. Note a person’s particular skills. Comment on the extra effort someone put into a project. Draw attention to the wallflower’s quiet consistency. An act, a quality, a system, a trait—all are acceptable targets of praise.

You would want to know who made the comment, but could give an option to keep their identification secret in any discussion. I’m not sure why anyone would be afraid to admit they commended someone, but I’m sure there are situations or personalities that would appreciate the option. Knowing who made the comment is vital, though, because it helps you know the weight of the comment and tells you a lot about your employees. Also, you want to make sure people aren’t praising themselves. Or at least know when they are.

Of course, most companies have some sort of system to allow for positive feedback. The key is to encourage—not allow for—positive feedback. So we’d have make it a functional, simple and rewarding system.

The results could feed into a system of public recognition ranging from a minor daily award to an official performance review. The possibility of getting the award could increase participation. To further increase participation, only those who have made a comment or a designated number of comments within that day/week/month are eligible for the award.

Alternatively, feedback could be used solely to create informed managers, but you still want to stimulate feedback without forcing it. Tangible benefits such as an extra fifteen minutes of break for every three comments submitted could do the trick. My alma mater had a scheme of allowing casual dress2 during final exams if 75% of the student body completed course evaluations. It only broke down when they raised the standard of casual dress to almost match everyday class dress and revoked casual dress on certain days. Sure, some students didn’t give honest feedback, but I did. And eliminating a standardized questionnaire form would make thoughtless feedback nearly impossible.

Keep it simple and obvious. A box with notecards and pens next to it. A designated email adress. An online form linked to the company intranet. Optional pop-up reminders for task-focused people like me. Casual (read, non-obnoxious) references to it in meetings and decisions.

The system could even be combined with Scott’s negative system to form a Rant and Rave program, but the positive aspect is my primary concern.

  1. I hope to discuss these in detail at some point, as they seem to be the themes increasingly shaping my thought patterns. You’ll get hints in the coming ‘Implications’ section.
  2. Everyday class dress was a tie and dress pants or a dress/skirt and nylons, depending on your gender.

November 08, 2008
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Filed Under (Life) by justin

I’m sure most of you have already noted this, but I figured I would point it out for those less observant souls. My last post gave you instructions on how to read something, complete with easy-to-follow links. Imagine my smugness, then, when I read Scott Adam’s latest post and found the same thing.

When Mensa members get blogging ideas from you, it feels good, I’ve found.

*Obscure allusion for a close circle of friends