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Would you agree that stack ranking companies are essentially accepting poor performance from their managers? Otherwise why would they be telling managers they're not trusted to effectively manage performance.

Great thoughts. I have to disagreed on sales representatives though. The way most sales organizations are structured, forced ranking undermines loyalty. Most representatives have a territory but answer to a manager of several territories...thus they are considered by the manager to be one a "team" of people they also actively compete against. I had the misfortune of being on such a team during my six years in pharmaceutical sales. Ironically, I did my Master's thesis on potential remedies to this situation. (It was never read by top management, but several years later I heard they were implementing a new program from a pricey consulting firm that sounded quite similar to my thesis).

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Good thoughts, as usual.

My thoughts are that forced ranking inside a company are bad (the gold example, I have no problem with). Inside the company I want the people (even responsible for different territories) sharing information. We want to constantly improve. We want the truckers (or wherever else), wherever they are, sharing the things they are doing to make themselves more successful. Then we want to spread what works (pilot testing them first, of course).

The system impacts are likely large. The bottom 10% is due how much to those people just getting lousy luck from the system. A lot of it is that is my bet. I do agree you might discover some people just are not cut out for their current job. Believing in respect for people, your first reaction should be fire. First work with them, often that works, but sometimes not. Then figure out where they could be useful.

The same lucky system effects are another reason forced rankings are silly. If you insist on such a thing, just make it a lottery that everyone knows is a lottery (Dr. Deming suggested this - facetiously). In case anyone really is thinking of this it is a stupid idea. It is just less stupid than other forms of forced ranking.

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