Friday, December 22, 2006

Open honest feedback at AOL

I wouldn't doubt that some people will feel I'm a bad person because I don't give all of my web usage to AOL considering I work there. I do use Google for quite a few things one of which being Alerts which is how I found a recent post by Steve Gaitten who's Director of Product Marketing for Community Products.

It looks like Steve started blogging this past October and his latest post was advice to Ron Grant and Randy Falco. This is not a short or superficial post, there is serious thought behind it. I agree with most of it.

There are a few points that Steve has made that I disagree with.

Steve's Point #2 covered a lot of ground - "Culture matters, it's broken, fix it."

My feedback - We all have a responsibility to create culture, not just Ron and Randy. Your ability and responsibility to impact culture increases the further you are up in the organization. I can't tell you how many times in meetings with people from all levels where they have complained about AOL. Great, thanks for sharing, now how do we fix it?

Subpoints - "Fire incompetent employees, replace GOAlign"

These two issues are highly intertwined. Writing actionable goals takes time and effort. I always have my managers write their own goals. They write the first draft and it becomes an interactive process, back and forth. I make sure they are on track and there's enough of a stretch in them. When it comes time for scoring any difficult discussions are easier because, they had an active effort in writing in their goals. While they are working to achieve them it's easier because the fully understand them.

This takes me to performance management, without clearly defined goals and ways of measuring them it becomes difficult to manage out poor performers and reward the rest.

The feedback that GOAlign needs closer watching from the top down to ensure goals and feedback are done on time is needed, but it doesn't prevent any manager from doing it themselves today for the area of the company they manage.

Are there things I'd like to change about GOAlign? You bet, but for now it'll have to do.

For 2007 my directs are already drafting their goals (in Word), with the goal of goals being in GOAlign by mid-January for everyone on our collective team. I'm lucky because for the most part unless there is a dramatic shift in company strategy the work of my teams don't dramatically change. The tool does allow for goals to be added or changed over the course of year, maybe people aren't leveraging this ability and adjusting during the year.

On point #6 "Hire from within, Whenever possible" and point #7 "Value Tenure"
Sounds good, but unless point #2 is nailed 6 and 7 are more difficult to achieve.

I'm disappointed that there are only a few page views of Steve's blog, more employees should read this and comment. I'll be sending it out to my directs.

Happy Holidays!

And thanks to Steve for taking to time to write a thoughtful and thought provoking post!

1 comment:

Steve said...


I was thrilled to see a detailed and thoughtful response to my post suggesting advice to Randy Falco and Ron Grant as they chart a new course for AOL.

It seems to me there is very little we disagree about. I think you strengthened my themes by emphasizing personal responsibility (e.g. for making GOAlign work, for improving our culture)for all of these issues.

I have to admit that I've spent too much time just bitching about these issues and not enough just jumping in and fixing them.

I'm inspired by your response and eager to partner with you directly or indirectly to make sure this stuff isn't just talk.

We are AOL.