Stop Destroying My Team with Bad MBOs

A Manager's New Year's Resolution

code freeze?" Company morale was completely extinguished. The company ultimately failed.

The executives had certainly put themselves between a rock and a hard place by blowing all their cash, but surely there were better options than such a devious scheme. Perhaps the CEO could have called a company meeting, admitted the situation, accepted responsibility for it, and informed people that raises would be deferred to a subsequent year when the cash situation improved. People wouldn't have been happy, and they might have grumbled about the stupidity of upper management, but at least they couldn't have accused them of stabbing them in the back.

When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. Put down the shovel and step slowly away. You can still rescue your employees from the MBO trap.

"But I can't stop," you protest. "The corporate bigwigs have all decreed that managers must use MBOs as part of the yearly performance review process." Don't worry, because our resolution is not to stop using MBOs; it's to stop using bad MBOs.

I've written objectives that worked for testers and test teams before, and I've discovered a few helpful practices:

  • Identify how the test team provides valuable services to the organization. What roles does each employee play in providing those services?
  • Use the SMART mnemonic to remind you to create objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-boxed.
  • Consider what incentives you're giving employees in each objective. Will the objective point the employee in the direction of serving the customer
  • Ask yourself what signals you're giving with each objective. Are you directing employees toward what's most important?
  •  Specify the objective, but leave the means of achieving it to theindividual. You don't want to be a micromanager, do you?

Some managers, it is true, use MBOs successfully. They have learned to apply the tips-and to avoid falling into the traps-I discussed above. So, let's make a New Year's Resolution-no, a New Year's Objective: No more bad MBOs!

Editor's Note: Watch for a more detailed article by this author, with
more case studies. It will appear as a StickyMinds Original in coming weeks.

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