January 4, 2010 at 3:55 pm #88365
After a meeting last month, one of my customers called and said, “Did you see all those really accomplished senior managers in the meeting who are either unemployed or underemployed? We should figure out a way to make money with that kind of asset!”
I had noticed, but my thinking was a little different.
Yes, they are senior, they are accomplished, and they are underemployed.
I think that is because in the course of their work, they have gone from first order producers to second and third order producers.
Since I am making these terms up, let me explain them.
First order producers grow, make, sell, or count work.
Second order producers organize, manage, or administer first order producers.
Third order producers find ways to improve the growing, making, selling, counting, organizing, managing, or administering process.
In a recovering economy, we have more of a need for first order producers. The growth of second and third order producers during the boom was an attempt to “do more with less.” That may not be as desirable in a restart as growing, making, selling and counting.
The best second and third order producers I have worked with started as first order producers and were moved to leverage their efficiencies. Of course, many others found themselves in higher order positions and used that as an excuse to consume coffee.
There are new breakthroughs to be discovered and used, but as work changes, we need a face-to-face familiarity with it to improve it. I suspect the next crop of second and third order producers will have experience with new types of growing, making, selling, and counting.
January 4, 2010 at 4:57 pm #88369
John van SantenParticipant
An interesting take on contribution - the value added by a specific individual in a specific role. The crux of the matter is determining the proper measures. In my opinion, much of the criticism leveled against the most visible political public figures is based on selecting measures and pointing out how poorly the individual fared in accomplishing them. There is precious little agreement on the desired outcome, so there is a much opportunity to critique; especially when favorable factors are overlooking or misrepresented.
I came from an environment where academic credentials, job performance, and outcomes using the SMART process were significant determining factors in promotions. The checks and balances of private industry allowed for fewer and fewer "dead weight" employees, especially as the economy pressured companies to perform in order to survive. Unfortunately, the preponderance of 3rd and 2nd level producers (to use the terms introduced in the original post) arose as the more senior personnel preserved their positions at the expense of the less senior (1st level producers) - as an onion loses outer layers before the core, or alternatively, as a tenure-based system rewards longevity. There were exceptions, as is always the case, but there was also a ratcheting down of levels, as 3rd level people displaced 2nd level who displaced 1st level - with mixed results if the processes and skills of actual production of the product or service were less dependent on accumlated experience than hard work, knowledge of certain technology(s), specific experience with tools, customers, processes, and procedures used in the performance of the value-creation process.
I believe the result has been a desire for the present ratcheted-down persons to want their prior position and status back, with spotty performance by that group in individual contributor roles; a loss of mutual feelings of loyalty between company and employee; a low standard regarding situational ethics (employees willing to take corporate data or clients when they leave; employers willing to put larger workloads on fewer and fewer employees; investors willing to buy stock in companies who fire personnel to improve short-term cash flow; C-level employees willing to manipulate data and performance to maximize bonuses; financial institutions willing to pass off risk to the next investor,; ad nauseum); and fear and disullusionment maximized at the entry or individual contributor level (1st level producers) but extending all the way to the top of the organizational hierarchy - the American optimism, can-do attitude, and generosity, flexibility and quick-learning skills have given way to pessimism, protection of gains, callousness towards others, and unwillingness to invest in a corporation due to lack of trust.
I believe attitude and outlook are far more damaging to recovery than the lower productivity of the ratched-down 3rd and 2nd level producers. Restoring positions will not erase the lessons given; we need to address the new world of business in high schools, colleges, the workplace, and particularly in social programs that provide security when corporations no longer can. European social models should be studied and adapted to American cultural norms. When our standard of living and certainty of heathcare is wholly dependant on employment and employment seems capricious, our ability to build our lives and our country is subsumed by issues lower on Maslow's pyramid of needs.
January 4, 2010 at 5:35 pm #88367
Excellent thinking, John! You've added a lot. Thanks!
In addition, as work practice is changing, 2nd and 3rds are clueless. 15 years ago I first heard, "Government is where your boss has no idea what you do or how to do it." That has since spread to the private sector as well.Work changes and generally in the direction of more throughput. To lead that, (In the words of Jimmy Buffett's live album title) "You Hadda Be There!"
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