There has been a great deal of heated debated over Amazon’s management practices as reported in the August 15, 2015 New York Times (link here). The Gallop organization reviewed the article and followed it up with an intriguing analysis (link here). Both pieces go to the heart of issues around motivating employees, promoting organization excellence and good management practice.
The NY Times article chronicles Amazon’s very strict measurement of any and all performance indicators on the part of employees and management alike. Everything is subject to being questioned, tested, and improved including practices, policies and systems essential to making the company run better and more efficiently. The question I have is, “What can CUNY learn from these and other management practice?” I believe there are many potential lessons to be learned; some of these are outlined below.
In the NY Times article paints a picture of “extreme accountability” for each and every Amazon employee. Invariably, as the writers imply, this practice, taken to an extreme, can cause much stress in the workforce, and significant turnover. It remains a question as to whether those who leave the hothouse competitive atmosphere at Amazon could have been valued contributors over the long run. However, the Times article does point out those ex-Amazon staffers are highly regarded and often quickly hired by other companies in the tech field.
In my estimation (and from an admittedly biased perspective) I would contend that at CUNY is severely lacking in this area. I do not qualify that statement. I have seen institutional drift and ineptitude both university-wide and at specific campuses. This mismanagement is allowed to go on for years, seemingly without any checks or balances being exerted from faculty governance, CUNY Central and Chancellor, PSC-CUNY or any other body. Instead, despite many occasions of demonstrated incompetence and malfeasance, the status quo is allowed to fester, leaving staff, faculty and students the worse off for it. In all my years working at about a dozen different work settings (both private and public) I have never seen staff a so completely disillusioned and demoralize as currently exists. This symptom is largely attributable to a management accountability vacuum at many campuses.
Communication of Mission
The Gallop article clearly lays out the importance of communication of mission in any organization.
“Our research indicates that an organization’s mission or purpose must be communicated from the top down — and that when leaders prioritize ongoing communication, the outcomes are powerful. The way a company’s leaders define, display and disseminate an organization’s purpose and brand influences whether employees embody those values, especially with customers. Great leaders clearly and consistently communicate where the organization has been and where it is going, helping employees to know what’s expected of them and to see their role as more than just a job.” (Gallop report, par. 8, reference below).
A close second to lack of accountability at CUNY is the lack of communicating the mission clearly and effectively to all stakeholders. While management is good at occasional PR announcements that so –and- so won a grant or such college was ranked well etc., what is missing is a compelling vision of where we are going as an institution and as a campus. As indicated in the quote above, such communication is essential for providing guidance and context to employees, and enabling them to see their roles in a larger context. This is a dereliction of managerial responsibility that is quite shocking to me. I should note that the School of Professional Studies, the exception to the rule, does have very positive, proactive, and context-providing communications from their Dean John Mogulescu (CUNY Senior Dean of Academic Affairs) and others in that organization. Their example needs to be studied by other campuses, and learned from.
In a future post, I will address strategic planning for instructional technologies and online learning.
Rigoni, B., & Nelson, B., (2015) “What Amazon Gets Right,” Gallop Topics, Retrieved on October 15, 2015, from http://www.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/185990/amazon-gets-right.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_content=heading&utm_campaign=syndication
Kantor, J., Streitfeld, D., (2015) “ Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace,” NY Times, August 15, 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html?_r=0