Production, Not Profiles

I think the case of Specialty Medical Chemicals (SMC) bringing in Laura Wells to evaluate the management team is a classic example of a firm putting too much stock in a consultant.  Carl Burke using so much of her input when deciding who to fire and who to keep seems inadvisable.  It seems like Mr. Burke, who works with these people every day, should know better than anyone if someone works in the company culture or not.  Testing managers psychologically will not paint as a picture of their value as their past accomplishments would.

Also, Ms. Wells’ psychological tests can only measure the personalities of the people who take them.  Personalities cannot be changed.  However, behavior can be changed.  This is because behavior is not driven by personality; rather, it is driven by structure.  What Mr. Burke should have done was take the information Laura provided him, and then change SMC’s structure so he could best utilize the talents and personalities of all of his managers.  He could have done this in many ways.  For example, if he had a more analytical, structured manager, he could have increased the structure in that manager’s job, giving them tangible, short-term goals and rigid time frames to complete them.  For the more creative managers, he could have given them more broad goals, allowing them to utilize their creativity.

Unfortunately, Mr. Burke did not try to change his structure to fit his people.  Instead he changed his people to fit his structure.  I’m not sure if this is a good way to approach a business.  If managers know that they can be let go because they do not fit with the predetermined mold of what a SMC manager should be, they will try to conform and fit into the same cookie-cutter mold as everyone else.  This could stifle both the creativity and the diversity of thought that a business needs to move forward and grow.  This may also lead to managers being more careful about what the say and do around Mr. Burke.  This can lead to a decreased level of trust between the two parties, thereby damaging the working relationship.  Another factor in the decreased trust between managers and Mr. Burke is that he brought in an outsider to do tests that have a large impact in the manager’s lives (whether they kept their jobs or were fired).  Seeing that Mr. Burke apparently values the words of an outsider over their own could make them feel the Burke does not value them or their opinions very highly.  I think that the next time SMC evaluates their top executives, they should go about it in a different way.


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