“Pettiness” and “I’m the only one doing anything” (not true, but…)
— Manager, POCC
Thank God we are still a free country where everyone is entitled to the relentless pursuit of his own pettiness. And if I am not ready to kick mine, how can I demand it of others?
I love this challenge because I’ve solved it in my company. And I did it by accident.
So, how do you solve pettiness?
Here’s what happened.
I stumbled upon a 1988 article about Patagonia while working on Who the Hell Wants to Work for you? Patagonia is a designer of outdoor clothing and gear for the silent sports: climbing, surfing, skiing and snowboarding, fly-fishing, and trail running. The article explained how Yvon Chouinard, CEO of Patagonia, ran the company while spending most of his time outdoors.
Once a week, every Patagonia employee filled out a form summarizing the past week’s accomplishments, challenges, and lessons, and setting priorities for the next week. (I have a version of this form and a solid case to make it your performance plan in my book in Chapter 19, Give Them a Voice)
Chouinard designed the weekly report to take about fifteen minutes to write and five minutes to read. Managers collected individual 5-15s and compiled team reports for their managers, and so on, until a filtered and synthesized version of the report reached the CEO, wherever he was.
Axero was going through many growing pains. I was working around the clock hiring and training new people and taking care of business. I often felt like I was the only one in the company getting anything done. Sure, I knew that wasn’t true—but I thought it anyway.
I wondered if there was a way for me to stay in the loop without doing so much work, and Chouinard’s idea caught my eye. It was insultingly simple. I couldn’t believe it had been around since 1988, and I was only now learning about it. So, I asked everyone to do the 5-15s. I didn’t know if it would solve anything. But at twenty minutes a week, it cost nothing to try.
Right away, I noticed that people liked writing and reading these reports. It was a great way to wrap up a long week. Even talking about the things that didn’t go well felt good. You felt like you were accomplishing something just by stating the problem and focusing on the next steps. Which often proved to be the case.
Soon, the mood in the company shifted. The reports gave us a break from chasing our tails, a moment to put our daily tasks in perspective. We saw the bigger, less petty picture. And we saw each other.
As I looked back on my week, I knew every Axero employee was doing the same thing: figuring out his wins, losses, lessons learned, and the next week’s priorities. We were all curious to see what we came up with, so, we put our 5-15s on the intranet where everyone could read everyone else’s. The reports didn’t just go up the chain; we shared them with everybody in the company.
It didn’t seem like a big deal, but after a year, I am amazed at the difference the 5-15s have made for us.
One, everyone knows what everyone else is working on, and that’s a good thing. People appreciate each other and don’t act like they are the only ones doing anything worthwhile.
Two, everyone knows what’s important to everyone else. Sales and customer service people share their reports, so we all know what’s valuable to prospects and customers and prioritize.
Three, we can set what we call “realistic and moving goals,” since we understand our capacity and priorities much better.
Four, because we set realistic goals and are transparent, everyone owns his job. People not only deliver superior results, but they are constantly improving the process so that a new person can step in their shoes and replace them when they move onto bigger things. This is exactly what we need to keep growing!
I agree with this POCC manager: pettiness is a big problem if you care about running your company and growing your business. Fortunately, it goes away when we share our work and sharpen our focus. Give it a shot!
If you dislike pettiness, you might like my book, because it will help you inspire people to get past the small stuff.