The Fallen Star Weed: This one is tough. Several organizations I’ve worked with have struggled with this one and in each case, the organizations were undergoing significant industry change. Entire business models were shifting.
Unfortunately, the revenue wasn’t shifting as fast as the models which required the organizations to preserve the existing streams as well as they could while they reshaped for the new environment.
The J.M. Torrels quote applies perfectly here. An employee who, in the “old” business, was an out and out star performer, was now, in this new environment and through no fault of his or her own, a weed. These long time, high performing, well-connected, revenue producing employees were now becoming obsolete. So of course the plan was to promote them.
Well, yes. To preserve the revenue and retain the employee during a tumultuous time of change, each of these organizations planned to (or did) promote these individuals into a “special” role. A win/win for everyone, no? The organization secures the revenue through the transition, the employee is recognized and rewarded and the organization…well, that’s why it’s not a win/win/win.
The problem with the preservation/promotion approach is that the organization gets a mixed message. The “old” business model and all it represents is the lucky recipient of the political, cultural and HR capital that is desperately required by the organization toward the new direction.
In the best case, the employee sees the move for what it is, understands and accepts the transition role, and is expressly supportive of the new direction whether or not he or she is part of it long term. Worst case is the employee uses the promotion as “proof” that the old business is still intact and will prevail.
A Note on Good Weeds
Weeds do have their good side. Under controlled circumstances, many of them can greatly benefit our gardens and organizations. They hold top-soil (market position), pull up water and nutrients (revenue/clients), help control insects (competitors) and more. If your Fallen Star Weed is one of these – by all means preserve them for the transition.
Gardening Lesson: Remember: “A weed is a plant that interferes with management objectives for a given area of land at a given point in time.” Be honest with yourself, with your star employees and in your commitment to organizational objectives. That’s why you get paid the big bucks.
How to Grow a Flourishing Garden/Organization
1. Good soil / Fertile market and clear business objectives
2. Landscape plan / Strong culture, talent and management practices
3. Ruthless weed management / Strict adherence to cultural and performance standards
4. Respect for all plant life / We’re talking about people here folks. Transform or transplant when possible and treat everyone with dignity.