Saturday, August 20, 2005

Managing for Creativity

In my previous post that had generated some buzz, I wrote that most people are not (directly) motivated by money. They work because they feel appreciated for what they do.

In today's environment where almost everything is outsourced, is heavily commoditized, and is highly deregulated, most competitive advantages no longer come from access to certain technology, certain raw materials, railroad access, or political connections. They often come from how effective an organization can "exploit" the only thing that's internally controllable: its own "creative capital". Though "exploit" might sound to be a negative term, it really is not. Take SAS.

Harvard Business Review, July-August 2005
Managing for Creativity

"Creative people work for the love of the challenge. An InformationWeek survey of tens of thousands of IT workers confirms that theory: On-the-job challenge ranks well above salary and other financial incentives as the key source of motivation ... SAS recognizes that 95% of its assets drive out the front gate every evening. Leaders consider it their job to bring them back the next morning. It takes roughly six months to get a new worker up to speed in terms of technical knowledge, but it takes years for the employee to truly absorb a company's culture and forge solid relationships.

(And) people who are preoccupied wondering 'When can I fit in time at the gym?' or 'Is that meeting going to waste my whole afternoon?' can't be entirely focused on the job at hand. The Oprah Winfrey Show, 60 Minutes, and lots of newspaper and magazine articles have publicized the perks SAS lavishes on its employees, but the company isn't just doling out treats willy-nilly. Not only do the benefits make workers more productive, but they also help retain those workers, reducing the company's expenses for recruitment and replacement ... the managers (in SAS) clear away obstacles for employees by procuring whatever materials they need. Larnell Lennon, who leads the software-testing team, describes his job as 'Go get it, go get it, go get it'. When his people come to him asking for a software package or financial support, he doesn't pepper them with questions. If it's a reasonable request, he takes care of it. If the outcomes aren't up to snuff, it's a different matter ... Some have described SAS's philosophy as 'Hire hard, manage soft.' But 'Hire hard, manage open, fire hard' is more apt.": Richard Florida, Professor, George Mason University, and Jim Goodnight, CEO, SAS Institute.

No comments: