Since beginning of my career, I have been associated with some leading knowledge organizations of the country. The inclination I have towards knowledge domain always spurs in me varied concerns about the knowledge industry. Last year, I attempted a blog on ‘Rewarding Knowledge Workers’, which was very well received. After about 9 months a related question has bothered me for sometime – How do you evaluate your peers in a knowledge domain? My last year’s post was from an organization’s perspective, however in this post I am focused on how peers evaluate each other when they are working in a team. My urge for this blogpost strengthened when I noticed this Facebook update by my friend @Davenderbisht. Though his update mentions ‘subordinates’ which technically means evaluating a person lower in hierarchy, its no different from evaluating your peers who are on same level, in fact its tougher in latter case.
Teamwork has always been emphasized in the management field as a key success factor for success. A step ahead many a times it has been precisely emphasized that the team should consist of members with complementary skills for the overall success. However, something that is often neglected during discussion is evaluation of peers in a team. In a well-structured organization the evaluation part could be taken care of by the HR manager or the team leader. The situation is complex in case of small firms or especially with entrepreneurial firms where couple of colleagues get together and start a venture.
In such small firm setup its happy-go situation until everything goes well for the organization, but the blame-game starts once organization faces some tough situations. Well, the evaluation of peers for firms involved in selling products could be still convenient, but let me add another level of complexity to the discussion. In today’s globalized environment we often notice knowledge oriented firms sprouting in various domains. In these firms there’s hardly any tangible output that could differentiate the performance of team members. For instance, a consulting boutique consists of team members with complementary knowledge skills. In such situations its more complex to attribute reasons for a project failure, because ‘knowledge’ is an abstract phenomenon. Now, how do you judge your peers when you are offering knowledge oriented services?
Davender hinted at few factors – performance, attitude, dedication, discipline. I believe in a knowledge oriented business all the four metrics are abstract and its hard to quantify them. Would you consider performance by number of hours a team member contributes? or number of ideas one comes up? or number of hours within which a project is completed? Unlike product oriented or service transaction oriented businesses, measuring performance in a knowledge business is much more complex and debatable.
The other three factors are pretty interesting – attitude, dedication and discipline. When knowledge workers get together these factors are presumed to be at a required levels in each one of them. They are never reviewed and even if reviewed and found to be missing by few notches in a particular peer, it is taken for granted till situations are good for the organization. The moment something bad occurs to the organization these three factors are questioned and in worse situations even ‘doubted’. This would hurt the individual to a great extent. Now does that mean there are no factors on which peers could be evaluated in a knowledge business? No, the factors need not be tangible however should be identified and tracked over a period of time.
I believe knowledge workers would hardly underperform in a deliberate manner . When a product manufactured through a scientific procedure get result into a defected product, how can’t a knowledge worker’s ideas not result into unconvincing results? In my experience or with my intuition, I don’t think any knowledge worker would say I would not think ‘x’ times better for a project due to some reasons. Every knowledge worker tries to contribute his best possible efforts, it might do wonders or fail depending on the context. It doesn’t mean the attitude, commitment, dedication of discipline of the person should be questioned. When a person is questioned for one fault, the entire premise of holding him so long in the team gets void.
Hence, I believe its the trust between the peers and among the knowledge workers which matters a lot. I would like to end this post with the same quote with which I ended my ‘Rewarding Knowledge Workers’ post.
“Entire knowledge economy is built on the trust that employees and their employers have in each other; there really is nothing else. It is only this relationship- the one between employees and the organization – that keeps a company going”
~ Vineet Nayar Vice Chairman & CEO, HCL Technologies