Turnover, Team Disruption, Loss of Customers

Sheffi Disruption Graph

This is a departure from my normal posts. My Project Social Teammates and I wanted to tackle the subject of “how turnover disrupts the team.” Laura over at “Working Girl” sees turnover from the employee’s perspective and change is good. Dave over at H.R. Official has a great take on flexible team structures vs static teams and how turnover is perceived. I have turned this into an HR therapy post about reform going on in my local public school system. Welcome new readers interested in this post. And for my regular readers, thanks for weighing in on a subject that is dear to me. I know you thought it was just all about bacon.

Joyful, Healthy Work Environments

I have the joy of currently working and volunteering in some pretty healthy environments. When I think of healthy, I think of low stress, productive, open and sharing work environments. Everyone is proud of the contribution they make, feel self worth from the job position they have and are rewarded for participating and seeing success in the business. Secure in an employees’ niche of expertise, the ability for the team to cooperatively advance performance is unstoppable.

All I Know I Learned in Elementary School

I have witnessed this healthy teamwork at my local public elementary school. It is a place where the principal, teachers and parents work toward the common goal of creating the best learning environment possible for our kids. No catty behavior. Parents bring their professional approach, sharing everything from strategic planning to website communications. We are on the same page. Driven by great administrative leadership, teachers that understand the unique needs of our student population and parents willing to donate and volunteer to fill in the gaps. It is an amazing synergy that results in happy teachers, high test scores and children prepared to learn. We are mindful of state and local policy. And we align their goals with ours. It works.

Team Disruption

But, what happens when one of these pieces within the team is disrupted? What happens if the new administration runs from the top down? What if teachers are unhappy and start leaving for other jobs? What happens when you take successful programming that has been supported from the bottom up and disrupt it? Unfortunately this is the summer re-organization going on at other schools all over our district, specifically at the High School level. Driven by a new administration that is applying the latest government grant-induced education reform, team disruption is the name of the game.

Retail Store as High School Metaphor; A Case Study

Let’s look at this model from the point of view of other industries as a metaphor. If you have 12 stores and only ONE is repeatedly succeeding, meeting their numbers constantly (Annual Yearly Progress), and even showing improvement with each evaluation, how would you apply their success to the failing locations? When upper management was hands-off and unable to supply budget for innovation, all of the stores would collaborate and share ideas with all levels within the organization (Principal, teachers, parents.) Slowly these failing stores start adopting some of the measures that made the one successful store succeed (IB). And they saw some success too.

But, upper management knows they need to do something to bring ALL store numbers up. And instead of looking at the one successful store for success tips and capturing their human capital, they buy into a program for sweeping reform (one size fits all.) While the new program is proven, the one successful store is asked to adopt this new structure as well. Wanting the program to run in tandem with their long-time successful methods the successful store staff discovers it is not the perfect fit. Rather than working collaboratively to discover a hybrid solution, upper management transfers strong opinionated store leaders and other strong employees leave for other jobs, essentially plummeting morale and affecting productivity at the most successful store. It is not about the customers anymore. It is about team disruption for the sake of sweeping reform.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (94:4) and featured in a post on turnover by The Cutting Edge Blog finds that:
* As rates of voluntary turnovers climb within key business units, customers are more likely to report poor customer service.
* Work units with many new employees have more trouble managing turnover and receive the lowest customer service ratings.

Sadly in the case of my real-world metaphor. The voluntary turnover are teachers and families leaving the school system and customers being under served are students.

“Empire Disruption”

Here is another great example of the study of Team Disruption written about by James Gardner, General Manager at the Spigit, an innovation management company based in London. He appropriately calls it “Empire Disruption.”

“My experience is that big organizations create situations where the politics of success dictate you grow your control of people and resources, even when that is counterproductive to the task you’re actually supposed to be achieving.

On the other hand, the inefficiency of the Empire is also what kills it in the end. It attracts more and more resources in an organization (because it is inefficient, and therefore grows its inputs faster than it can grow its outputs) and sooner or later this gets noticed by someone with the power to do something about it.”

Wanna kill your Empire? Eliminate key players leading your established success. Replace working systems with no regard to the employees (or in the case of school, I’m talking about, teachers and parents and PTO/PTA donations) that built the success culture and current systems while you were managing hands-off with no budget. Go ahead and replace everything with your ideas, never valuing the ideas that fostered that one store’s success. Watch your employees flee, morale dive and your once great store go down the drain. Hope that new program can bring up the other 11 stores to make a difference in your business and your customer service. But, customers looking for a quality product will not be shopping at your store anymore.

To my local school system: you are squandering your best SUSTAINABLE, resource: long-time active, engaged parents. Your mission statement about ‘parents in partnership’ sounds like the hot air of a one way conversation. As the grant funding runs dry and business partnerships struggle to keep commitments the biggest losers will be the students.

One Response

  1. H. R. Official » Turnover and Teams A Temporary Prospective Says:

    […] on teams, I began to think about the subject from my usual prospective.  Turnover is bad! In her post over at the Bacon Hut Lyn agrees with the concept that turnover is not a good thing, my other partner Laura is not […]

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