Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

I guess we have all been (or still are) in a relationship (friendship also counts). Regardless of how good we are at it, we all know how to lay foundations to build and grow a relationship (or not). Imagine this scene: once a year, you and your partner sit together with a form and have a conversation like: “Ouch, this year your focus on being a successful partner has fallen from 4 to 3 since last year” or “Congratulations! This year your chores sharing percentage rose by 4.7% since last year. This is 1% higher than the objectives. You can get the gift you asked me for!” At the end of the conversation, you fill in the form, you write next year’s goals, both of you sign the document and, after 365 days, you get the form back out of the drawer and repeat the same scene. If it looks utterly silly, why do we insist on keeping such ritual with our relationships at work?

We are human beings in both our professional and private lives. We build our relationships the same way in both worlds: by little gestures, by sharing experiences, by getting together in difficult times and by solving our differences. Building relationships is something natural and human we have been doing instinctively for centuries thanks to our ancestral DNA programming. When did we have the crazy idea that a biased form and some subjective metrics will help us to create better relations?

Growing a relationship which nurtures a team’s talent is not related to a form nor a process, but to setting strong bonds of trust and support in the most human and natural way. We would never score love or friendship from 0 to 5. Therefore, we cannot do so with our team’s talents or the way these talents are shown.

Let’s be honest. Essentially, there is not even a hint of rational thinking in the way a relationship is built. Hence the fact that every attempt at introducing Cartesian elements to a relationship will have an unnatural outcome that will put the final user off.

Performance reviews and its metrics are a clear example. We are talking about one of the tools whose implementation is an exhausting nightmare for everyone. Realistically, even if we are full of good will when we decide to launch it, this tool works in opposition to its goal. The way most performance reviews are created opens a gap with the final user (people managing teams) which is impossible to bridge. It is written in a language which is uncommon for the final user (regardless of the many trainings he/she is attending), it is developed in a support that forces its user to put daily operations aside and, on top of this, the user is forced to apply metrics to something which, essentially, is impossible to measure with figures (and not to even mention rewards-linked reviews). It is not time to “rethink the tool”. It is time to have the courage to throw in the dustbin a tool that never connected to its client.

Question is: Why do we insist on turning something so human and instinctive into something complex and transactional? What if we give our managers a blank piece of paper and a pen (or the digital version of it) and let them work on their talent relationship with their team in their own way? Development would probably be sexier and we would not have to waste time, money nor energy creating tools that never convinced anybody. As the great Leonardo da Vinci said: simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

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