Kill Bell!

It is an idea whose time has come!

It almost seems like we have made the legendary Bell Curve, the ultimate villain of the performance story and in true movie style, it is ‘Kill Bell’ in many organizations.

In my many discussions with managers over the years, I have often asked and wondered about why the Bell Curve is considered so villainous? Almost every time the reason has been because it forces them to make people fit the Bell Curve.

However, when I ask managers to rank people in their team, not once have I been told that he or she is unable to rank. In my experience, if you ask managers whether they can identify and know who in their team is a top performer, who is average and who is a low performer, their response is always ‘Yes’. In fact, they all know it and use it.

Further, if you were to ask – do you believe in performance and meritocracy; the answer is always ‘Yes’. If we replaced the ‘Bell Curve’ with a ‘Performance Curve’, almost everyone agrees and prefers it, as long as force fitting is not needed.

So, why make Bell Curve the devil?

At an organizational level, the core issue seems to be – NO COMMUNICATION!

No expectation setting, no dialogues exchanged periodically, no continuous feedback (good or bad). Instead, just reactive communication on a project situation, at the end.

And employees are in for a surprise when the appraisals come. This is like treating the symptom and not the underlying disease! When people cannot communicate openly and safely, they do not want to improve or work harder.

The talk about performance has to be an on-going communication. Eventually performance is all about two things:

  • Expectation setting
  • Consistent and open communication

All the hype and publicity on periodic dialogues and checks – Was it not always meant to be that way? No system whether Bell Curve or no Bell Curve can substitute a dialogue or the lack of it.

So, while we ‘Kill Bell’, we need to awaken from the silence – and stop avoiding or postponing meaningful communication. We need to start healthy and crucial conversations to set clear expectations which make sense, and provide clarity to both parties.

It is great to see many companies push the pedal on periodic dialogues and consistent communication. Let’s hope that all organizations choose to set the right expectations and make consistent communication a reality.