Sometimes the Road Less Traveled leads to a Band of Flying Monkeys

stickman flying monkeys

stickman flying monkeys

We all get bored. Most of us fill that boredom by exploring something new. Often this leads to an exciting new restaurant, but sometimes it means a terrible meal. Sometimes this means meeting new friends, other times it means getting stuck at a colleague's holiday party listening to stories about office politics and sick children. In my experience, very few compensation professionals are also extreme sports fanatics. I seldom speak to someone in our industry who has recently snowboarded off a cliff or free-dived with white sharks. I bring this up because we are responsible for a huge portion of our companies' success. It surprises me how often professionals make a decision to follow a new path without first calculating to possibility of the path ending in a band of flying monkeys, rather than a better solution.

Are you following the road less traveled in the spirit of Robert Frost or Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz?

I ask because I still see a lot of compensation professionals acting against their nature when it comes to new programs. When an old plan is not working as well as planned, many choose to roll out a new program. This is done instead of enhancing the features and communication around an older plan. While the problems may be driven by failures in the design of the old plan, it is just as likely they are caused by poor utilization of available plan features or poor communication of the same.

Given our increasing responsibilities and shrinking staff sizes, rolling out a new plan efficiently is often beyond our capabilities.  We frequently discover that completion is impossible when we are already well down the "new plan" road, when turning back is no longer an option. This results in abandonment or, worse, partial roll-out of the new plan.  It can also mean that your old plan may still, by necessity, be your ongoing solution.

This year, explore a quick trip down the future of your current program path and ask yourself if you can get where you need to go without starting all over. You may find that you have simply been doing things by rote when a burst of new energy is all that is needed to reach your destination.

Remember that although Dorothy finally got where she was going, the journey was both arduous and terrifying.  We seldom have the luxury (or desire) of putting our employers and employees through a truly frightening experience. Dorothy had the distinct advantage of an author who could ensure that her story had a “Hollywood” ending. We generally drive the ending of our stories and are held professionally accountable for their success or failure.

Take a few days before 2011 disappears to document the reasons for the success or failure of your current (or recent) compensation plans. Be brutally honest about whether you and your staff could have done anything to have made them more successful.

Might I recommend doing those things, before you start down another unknown path?

Executive Compensation and the Great Wizard of Oz

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