Goals are useful tools for channeling behavior and helping to target objectives that businesses' are interested in, however to be effective - goals need to be clearly stated and well defined.  

When explained properly and tracked appropriately, goals help to increase motivation and performance and help to define job expectations.  SMART goals are excellent tools for building an effective Performance Appraisal System and for defining measurements for your employees.

Clearly stated - difficult goals - have a much greater impact than simply and easy goals that are not well explained and some of the best goals are SMART.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART goals are:
  • Specific

  • Measureable

  • Actionable/Achievable

  • Realistic

  • Time Based
Goals defined using the SMART mindset allow employees to have a better idea of what they are being measured on and what the expectations of management are for them in terms of performance.  Employees are better able to align their work to their rewards which increases motivation.

Now many organizations define these goals from a top down perspective but it is actually a better idea to involve the employee in the process.  This improves employee buy-in and and also ensures that the goals are actually realistic to the work being performed.  This is called MBO (Management By Objective) and is both a strategy and a tactic to help drive performance.  MBO needs to remain flexible, because the MBO process will require adjustment over time.

When goals are SMART and the rewards for successful achievement specified there is generally a higher level of commitment and acceptance with a correspondingly higher success rate.

Goal Feedback

One of the worst things that managers can do is not communicate with their staff and a critical area of communication is their goals.  Managers should have regular (weekly/bi-weekly/monthly) meetings with all of their direct reports and a discussion about goals should occur at least once a quarter. Measuring someone on their performance only at through a performance appraisal is criminal and completely unfair as if you only discuss goals annually there is no opportunity to improve.

To ensure that goals are on-track, it is good to provide feedback to the employee.  Companies should ensure that they incorporate feedback into all of their processes and well timed formal and informal feedback on goals helps both parties determine their progress.

Theory Y principles discuss empowering the employee and one key way is through this MBO feedback.  Completed rigorously and often it allows employees to grow and exceed their goals while ensuring that company objectives are met and surpassed.


Quality measurements in manufacturing teams are actually somewhat easy to do – simply determine the number of parts that fail in a specific and measurable manner and review those failures against the successes or targets that have been set. 

Implementation of Self Directed Teams with appropriate Scanlon or Ruckerplans are great ways of having the teams doing the work, self police themselves in fact which makes it an even more cost effective solution and helps those companies that make the effort truly stand out from their competition! 

Customer service (template and administrative) teams too are not too difficult to measure – here a quality team would be ensuring that a representative provides appropriate information based on company direction and that they do not deviate from a set script that has been assigned to them. 

In technical teams however, measuring quality is not a simple thing to do. Standard KPIs are almost always based around Quantity (for example, number of calls handled, average speed of answer etc…) whereas quality based KPIs are focused more on customer satisfaction which by definition is often a subjective measurement and more often than not based on a customers’ “perception” of the service which is often colored by previous interactions. 

However regardless of the difficulty there is absolutely still a solid and worthy reason to measure this as it ensures that your staff are being polite and empathetic to the customer and their problems. Perhaps even more importantly though, technical teams should have the technical skills that they need to solve the problem at hand – quality measurements are the perfect place to ensure that those skills are present and that the team answering the question on the phone or via email is giving the customer the right answer the first time. 

Quality measurements tied to performance appraisals are a key tool in developing staff and by having unbiased analysis conducted through an external team (or even another geographically separate team doing the same job) it is possible to incentivise teams appropriately and also determine what training opportunities or gaps exist so that the overall service provided to customers is improved. Future posts will discuss measurement tools and KPIs that are appropriate to quality in significantly greater depth – stay tuned!


Motivating staff for the best performance possible is a matter of finding the right drivers that interest them and reinforcing those drivers while providing negative reinforcement on other, unwanted behaviors.  There are two main types of theories to motivate employees - the content theory (motivation is internal based on employee needs and wants) and process theory (external factors that can be used to influence employee behavior).

Two of the most famous content theories are Maslow's hierarchy (as shown above) and Herzberg's two factor theory.  Maslow's theory proposes that lower order (physiological) needs must be satisfied before higher order (psychological) needs can be considered.  Herzberg's theory falls in between Maslow's and other process theories and states that one set of factors causes motivation and satisfaction (content factors) and another set is responsible for dissatisfaction and low motivation (hygiene factors).

Process theories of motivation are primarily split up into Expectancy and Equity theories.  Expectancy theory focuses on the relationship between effort, performance and rewards and as the name states, rests on expectations, instrumentality and valence.  Equity theory is very much a match to the name - with equity theory, the employee is basically comparing themselves against others and depending upon that comparison choosing to be motivated or demotivated.

Behaviour modification (BMod) specifies the crucial role of the environment in shaping behaviour and states that behaviour is a function of its consequences.  With BMod positive and negative reinforcement strengthen behaviour, and punishment and extinction weaken behaviour.  Reinforcers can be either fixed or variable and the delivery can be either at a fixed interval or at some defined ratio. Partial reinforcement schedules have powerful effects on behaviour.  By changing the ratio's of reinforcement, positive behaviors can be strengthened.  This is known as behavioral shaping and is a very powerful tool.


The General Adaptation Syndrome has three key area's:
  1. Alarm - is the ‘fight-or-flight response’ that mobilizes the body and mind to defend against physical and psychological threat.
  2. Resistance 
  3. Exhaustion
Employees suffering negative stress related symptoms (Alarm/Resistance phases) generally demonstrate specific behaviors or patterns in lowered on the job performance - inattentiveness and carelessness are two prime examples.  As stress continues to build  and the cumulative effects get felt, an employee's ability to cope tends to get exhausted (Exhaustion phase - physical and mental shutdown) and they experience job burnout (a prolonged period of psychological withdrawal from work). Note however that positive stress (eustress in contrast to distress) exists also and while eustress can lead to increase effort and performance (challenges to the employee) ... too much of this too can eventually lead to exhaustion.

Environmental stress factors originate from economic, political or technological uncertainty and induce alarm reaction and cause the employee’s performance to decline.  Organisational stress factors increase in number and intensity in firms that are contemplating downsizing or outsourcing to revitalise a flagging business model (deteriorating competitive advantage).


Type A personalities are generally considered very competitive and action oriented.  They show little patience and in extreme circumstances can become hostile.  Certain Type A's exhibit Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) where their reactions are completely out of context to the situation.  Type B's by contrast are more "normal" and generally better able to handle stress and stressful situations.


Stress on the job is an unfortunate fact of life and probably something that is here to stay until the inevitable robot uprising (probably another cause for stress to be honest) but controlling our reactions to the stress we experience on the job is a crucial component of work–life satisfaction. Some common strategies for reducing stress are as follows:
  1. Exercise - notwithstanding the obvious weight loss and health implications, moderate, regular exercise is strongly correlated with personal well-being (peace of mind), rising levels of ‘good’ cholesterol and falling levels of bad cholesterol and reduction in other health risk factors.  Exercise also helps to reduce stress and can mitigate intermittent explosive disorder (IED) symptoms as discussed in further detail here.
  2. Relaxation - while exercise gets the heart pumping, relaxation in contrast does the exact opposite, but it too has a positive effect on stress reduction and overall well being.  There have been many studies conducted that positively demonstrate this behavior - in Western culture, the relaxation response is triggered through prayer, whereas in Eastern culture it is activated by meditation.  One fact to be considered though - one easy way of reducing stress is through the avoidance of and distancing of stressful situations in the first place - while not the easiest thing to do at work, its definitely something to be considered!
  3. Diet - A simple but basic concept that is popular with computer programmers is called GIGO.  This acronym stands for Garbage In, Garbage Out and it really speaks to the role of diet in stress management.  We are what we eat. Diet plays a significant, indirect role in stress management. While you might only correlate fatty foods with weight gain, the body too has stress symptoms that are triggered when "bad" foods are introduced.  These symptoms are shown by elevating bad cholesterol, lowering good cholesterol and dumping large quantities of glycogen (basic sugar) and sodium into the blood stream.  Unfortunately like everything else in life, the best strategy with diet is moderation.
  4. Guilt & shame. The key thing to establish here is that they are NOT the same thing!  Everyone makes mistakes in their life and guilt is a useful emotion when we resolve to make amends, however you are who you are and should never feel ashamed of that fact.  People who experience guilt will alleviate it by becoming more empathetic and working harder to resolve conflicts. Individuals who feel shame isolate themselves (I’m a bad person), become depressed (I’m worthless) and alienate others (It’s their fault).
  5. Build up your stress resistance. Like most things in life, "practice makes perfect" and while continuous and ongoing stress is not good for you - small doses can actually make you a better and more effective employee.The key principle is learning to handle more stress while you resolve to experience less of it. 

Wellness and Job Stress Management

Corporate stress-management programmes have two main goals and while an employee might think their objectives are 100% benevolent  the fact is that both goals are focused on getting the most that they possibly can from their employee. 
  1. Improve overall job satisfaction and employee performance
  2. Improve the overall effectiveness of the company

Some common features of stress management programs are:

  • Theory and information about stress, its physical effects and the psychological and behavioral problems caused.
  • Tools and resources to allow an employee to determine their level of stress and have an ongoing way of measuring it.
  • Details of some relaxation and coping techniques as discussed earlier and  if a specific stressor has been identified - more specific information on how to deal with that also.

Theory Y organizations (as discussed in further detail here and here) tend to make these commitments for more positive reasons - namely the knowledge that investing in their employees pays significant future dividends from a loyalty and commitment perspective in the future.  Theory Y organizations generally exhibit 3 key preconditions for success:

  1. Rewarding performance vs. "facetime"
  2. Focusing on living and working by values
  3. Respect for the individual

A Fact of Life

One of the biggest stressors in today's world is the threat of redundancy and job loss.  Unfortunately a significant driving factor in job loss, is the trend to outsource jobs (service and manufacturing) to developing countries.  Dealing with employees - the survivors - in industries experiencing downsizing is never easy or fun. Some of the facts of life now are:
  • Domestic competition isn't - with access to the Internet and global markets, its now extremely easy for even the smallest entrepreneur to offer their products or services in any size market.  Larger organizations are also taking advantage of these trends.
  • Big companies are getting bigger - mergers and acquisitions are a continuous and ongoing trend and most often, the managers and employees who work for the loser become the next ones to be unemployed: ‘To the winner go the spoils!’ Unfortunately while not an ideal growth choice, it is often the only way for some companies to grow in saturated markets.
  • Contractors and Temporary staff - Theory X companies especially practice this strategy and employee many contract and temporary staff due to the lower costs to the business.  Loyalty in temporary staff is not a driving factor and unfortunately due to the economic situations, there is never a lack of resources to fill the role!  Additional pressure is applied in public companies for this very same reason as the outsourcing of non-core business functions (even through the loss of skilled staff) raises profits by lowering costs.


In contrast to the hard sciences like Physics and Chemistry, Organizational Behavior (OB) is a Social or soft science that is specifically focused on people and processes at work.  OB studies the relationships between operational effectiveness and employee needs and how differing factors like job satisfaction, organizational commitment and job involvement relate.

Management while a key component of the study of Organizational Behavior does not in and of itself comprise the whole of OB.  Management in fact deals with achieving the goals of OB through the people and resources of the organization.  Manager`s jobs in the 21st century have changed from what they were previously (& the rate of change is increasing significantly with Generation Y) however and have taken on more of a focus towards coaching, mentoring and conflict resolution.

Values are enduring beliefs that a person has and they help drive their behavior and actions.  Values are considered either Instrumental or Terminal.

  • Instrumental Values - how do you achieve the goals in your life?
  • Terminal Values - what are your life goals?

Read a detailed description of the information presented at the links below:

Locus of Control
  • Internal Locus of Control - personal behavior drives specific behaviors and they are responsible for their own life.
  • External Locus of Control - environment controls behaviors and outcomes are driven by forces beyond their control.
Employee behaviors are shaped by - 
  1. Achievement - people high in this area tend to go into business for themselves if not properly motivated.
  2. Affiliation - people high in this area tend to like groups and greater involvement.
  3. Power - generally of two types (1) personalized and (2) socialized.  Socialized is the better of the two as it can help energize a team and organization.  A "bad" example of personalized is a Machiavellianism personality.  This type of person has the urge to control, manipulate or influence others to achieve one’s personal ends. The high-Mach individual thrives and embraces fluid, unstructured organisational circumstances.

Job Satisfaction

Composed of various different factors, job satisfaction is not directly related to performance but rather has a complex relationship which is determined by the availability of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.

Read a detailed description of the information presented at the links below:

Organizational Commitment and Job Involvement

How hard will someone work on the behalf of their company?  This is a description of Organizational commitment.  This doesn't happen as quickly as Job Satisfaction, but it lasts longer once formed - although it can be impacted by economic situations (job losses and redundancies in the firm).

While organizational commitment is a positive, an employee that does not show this behavior can still have job involvement and as such will not be as negatively impacted by redundancies.

The Difference Between Incident Managment and Problem Management

Incident Management and Problem Management are both key components of the ITIL service model and have been defined and created in an effort to provide a better and more streamlined service to consumers.

ITIL itself stands for the - Information Technology Infrastructure Library - and comprises of the following books:

  1. ITIL Service Strategy 
  2. ITIL Service Design 
  3. ITIL Service Transition 
  4. ITIL Service Operation 
  5. ITIL Continual Service Improvement
Incident Management and Problem Management are both elements of the fourth volume - ITIL Service Operation, which tries to define the best practice for dealing with interruptions to a customers service.

What is an Incident?

An incident is a single - unique - issue impacting one specific customer and their service. While there can be many similar incidents impacting multiple customers, each of them are in their fashion unique and need to be logged and treated as such.

An example of an incident is you losing your home Internet connection. While the underlying root cause could be related to a fiber cut impacting hundreds of houses, your individual issue is one specific incident as it is unique to you. 

What is the objective of the Incident Management team?

The Incident Management team is the group responsible for dealing with your issue. Now they could be called by a variety of different names - Helpdesk, Service Desk, Technical Support Team etc... - there primary role is to get your service restored in as timely a manner as possible. They are basically there to put a "band-aid" on your problem and not necessarily resolve the root cause.

How are Incidents Tracked?

Incidents are tracked and responded to through a variety of different automated and manual tools. The ideal function of the Incident Management team is to resolve the issue before it has an impact to your business/life and they track these issues through a variety of different alarms and monitoring tools.

The worst type of reporting is one in which a manual report is needed. If a customer has been impacted, then in some fashion they have already failed in one of their primary roles!

What is a problem?

In the context of Incident Management, a Problem is one that comprises multiple incidents. If you take into account my previous example of an Internet failure at your home, the problem in this case would be the actual fiber cut which is the root cause of the issue.

As such, this "problem" would have multiple incidents attached to it.

What is Problem Management?

In contrast to Incident Management, Problem Management is a lot more than just slapping a band-aid on an Incident. With Problem Management the underlying root cause of an issue must be discovered and steps taken to ensure that similar issues do not occur in the future. Problem Management is a significantly more involved process and takes quite a bit more time and resources to achieve correctly.

Technical Support and Tiered Support Levels

In Customer Service and Technical Support it is all about getting that client issue to the right person (based on skills and language) as quickly as possible and ensuring that you meet or exceed your SLA. Now this can be accomplished through a variety of different methods and depending upon the size of your contact center, you should ensure that you explore some or all of them.


Probably the most important criteria is training. You need to ensure that you have explored the requirements and needs of your customers fully and that based on these needs, the majority of your agents have the requisite skills to resolve their issues and assist them. Determining Their Needs 

If you do not know what your clients need then this is absolutely the first area of concern. You need to conduct surveys and do analysis of your past and historical incidents and contacts and determine from that what they are going to be asking. You will find that there is a significant amount of repetition with regards to client inquiries and if you are in a business with a growing customer base you will see this repetition play out most frequently with new accounts. Once you know what they are going to be asking, then you can put a training plan into place to ensure that you plug those holes. The quicker and sooner you are able to do this, the more satisfied your customers will be. 

Tiered Support Model 

As important as training is, you are not going to be able to have all of your staff at the same level. This is actually not a bad thing as the questions and queries that you will be receiving will also be at differing levels of complexity. By putting in place a plan that allows you to tier your teams based on their skills not only are you being more efficient with your resources, but you are also building an escalation model and a promotion path into your support organization. 

Erlang ‘C’ & Scheduling for Call Centres 

Tiered Support ensures that your training dollars are best spent where they are most useful and also allows you to offer your customers an increased level of service in various different fashions. 

Tier'ing Your Customers 

As you might recall from my previous posts on the 80/20 rule (here and here), you are best served by distributing your clients based on their “value” to your business. As much as you might like to treat all clients the same, the unfortunate fact is that they are not! You will often find that 20% of your customers are responsible for 80% of your issues and also (and perhaps more importantly!) 20% of your clients are responsible for 80% of your revenue. Unfortunately also, these two different “circles” do not always overlap and it is absolutely key that you determine which of your clients fit into which circle. 

Once you have made that determination however, things become much clearer and easier to handle. By putting your customers into tiers, you are able to offer the ones with higher value to your business a different path to the support that they need in contrast to your other customers.

What is PRINCE2

PRINCE2 stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments and is a very popular method for effective Project Management. 


While PRINCE2 is one way of managing Projects, it is worthwhile defining what exactly a project is and why it needs management in the first place! 

A project is specific task/role that needs to be completed to meet certain objectives. In a managed project, you would have a defined beginning and end and certain "check points" throughout the process itself to ensure that you were on target to meet your overall objectives.

These checkpoints are referred to as "gates" and at each gate, you would have certain deliverable and targets to check your progress against. By managing a project in this fashion, you are able to ensure that you stay on track and that any issues or concerns are identified and dealt with at an early stage of the process versus waiting till the end.

The defined "end" to a project is necessary as it creates a clear distinction between business as usual and the new objective that you are trying to accomplish.


PRINCE2 is the standard that is used extensively throughout the UK government and by millions of organizations world wide. PRINCE was established in 1989 and was superseded by PRINCE2 in 1996. Similar to ITIL, PRINCE2 provides Project Managers - regardless of the industry or sector - with a common language and terminology. It also provides a "best practices" framework for project management and ensures that - if done correctly - all relevant parties are kept informed and appraised of the progress of a project from start to finish. A few of the key features of PRINCE2 are:
  • A defined structure for the Project Management Team
  • Product based planning with a clear focus on Business and Customer needs
  • A staged process allowing the project to be divided into manageable chunks


There are two primary levels to the qualifications available for PRINCE2.
  • PRINCE2 Foundation - The first level of qualification, the Foundation, provides the basics and terminology used in PRINCE2. Foundation training is appropriate for those looking to make a start in Project Management or working towards a supporting role in Project Management.
  • PRINCE2 Practitioner - Unlike some other technical certifications, PRINCE2 only has the 2 levels instead of a whole tree. The Practitioner level is the highest qualification and is appropriate to those looking to manage Projects in a PRINCE2 environment.