Organizations openly promote safety.  Safety is droned (the right thing to do!) at people all the time.  The message is, “You will be safe, you will be safe, you will be safe…”  There are often messages at the door promoting safety.  Many restrooms have a decal on the mirror with the note below, “You are looking at the person who is responsible for your safety today”.  And on and on and on.  Promoting safety is a very good thing!

Yet, in many organizations if a key client’s delivery date is in jeopardy of being missed because a line is down, the message shifts from, “You will be safe, you will be safe” to “You will get that line up and running, you will get that line up and running and (I’ve never heard it said out loud…but…I have heard it heavily implied) by the way, wink, wink if you’re not safe that’s OK!”  So, a technician saves time by not locking out, gets the line up and the key customer gets an on time delivery.  Everyone is happy.

Immediately the message goes back to, “You will be safe, you will be safe, you will be safe…”  After a few whiles that key client’s delivery date is in jeopardy of being missed again because that same line is down.  Now, the message shifts from, “You will be safe, you will be safe” to “You will get that line up and running.”  That same technician saves time by not locking out, gets that line up and the key customer gets an on time delivery.  Everyone is happy.

Immediately the message goes back to, “You will be safe, you will be safe, you will be safe…”  After a few whiles that same line is down.  This time no orders are in jeopardy of being late.  That same technician saves time by not locking out, starts to work on the line, gets caught and written-up for a safety infraction, no proper lock out, and is sent home for 3 days without pay.  Think that doesn’t happen?  Well, it does.  And that is what we call an Imbalance of Consequences.

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An Imbalance of Consequences is a complex phenomenon.  The quick definition of an Imbalance of Consequences is, “Before the behavior the Performer does not know for sure whether he or she will be rewarded or punished for the behavior.”  In the example above, the performer (that technician) got rewarded for not locking out when the key customer’s order was in jeopardy and got punished, for the exact same behavior, when no order was in jeopardy.

An Imbalance of Consequences is a very bad thing! Here’s why.  Most people work in 2 to 6 or so different Performance Systems.  Think of your own job.  How many significant Performance Systems do you work in on a daily basis?  Now, to the cold, hard truth.  An Imbalance of Consequences in any Performance System impacts all Performance Systems in which the Performer works, not just the one with the Imbalance of Consequences.  The reason, once stated, is obvious, although not intuitively obvious until stated.  It is a trust issue.  If the Performer can’t trust the organization in one Performance System (remember the lock out) why should he or she trust the organization in any Performance System?  The Performer, usually subconsciously, concludes, “If I can not trust my organization in the Performance System where the Imbalance of Consequences exists, how can I trust it in any Performance System?”  And, sadly, the answer is, “I can not!”

Where a strong Imbalance of Consequences exists in any Performance System in which the performer works, we need to find and eliminate it before we can effectively manage any other Performance System in which that Performer works.  A strong Imbalance of Consequences often appears to be a Deficiency of the Individual.  (See the Deficiencies related to the Performer section of this series of posts troubleshootinglogic.com/?p=5110)  Be sure that no strong Imbalance of Consequences exists before concluding the Performer has a DI.

If your organization has any Imbalance of Consequences going on get rid of them!  It is better to miss a ship date to your key client than to create mistrust between your organization and its Performers.

Tip of the day:  You can’t “fix” what’s wrong with performance if your people don’t trust you!

Next time we’ll to look at Consequences to the Organization.

 

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