TOTD 2019-12-27: Benjamin Franklin on Humility

Quotes are from here.

My List of Virtues contain’d at first but twelve: But a Quaker Friend having kindly inform’d me that I was generally thought proud; that my Pride show’d itself frequently in Conversation; that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any Point, but was overbearing & rather insolent; of which he convinc’d me by mentioning several Instances; – I determined endeavouring to cure myself …, and I added Humility to my List, giving an extensive Meaning to the Word.

 

E’er you remark another’s sin, bid your own conscience look within.

To be humble to superiors is a duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness.

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18 thoughts on “TOTD 2019-12-27: Benjamin Franklin on Humility”

  1. 10 Cents:
    “To possess self-confidence and humility at the same time is called maturity.” – Jack Welch

    Bah!  This is the very same Jack Welch who advised corporations to automatically rate 10% of their employees as somehow deficient, as a means to motivate the whole cohort.  Idiot.  My company thought him some kind of seer, followed his advice, and ruined the morale of a large, highly educated,  successful, and motivated cadre of dedicated employees, many of whom were ex-military.  To possess the hubris to tender such idiotic and heartless policy advisories is called a failure of imagination, and renders one immoral.

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  2. Trinity Waters:

    10 Cents:
    “To possess self-confidence and humility at the same time is called maturity.” – Jack Welch

    Bah!  This is the very same Jack Welch who advised corporations to automatically rate 10% of their employees as somehow deficient, as a means to motivate the whole cohort.  Idiot.  My company thought him some kind of seer, followed his advice, and ruined the morale of a large, highly educated,  successful, and motivated cadre of dedicated employees, many of whom were ex-military.  To possess the hubris to tender such idiotic and heartless policy advisories is called a failure of imagination, and renders one immoral.

    A quote on humility by him is kind of ironic, isn’t it?

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  3. Trinity Waters:

    10 Cents:
    “To possess self-confidence and humility at the same time is called maturity.” – Jack Welch

    Bah!  This is the very same Jack Welch who advised corporations to automatically rate 10% of their employees as somehow deficient, as a means to motivate the whole cohort.  Idiot.  My company thought him some kind of seer, followed his advice, and ruined the morale of a large, highly educated,  successful, and motivated cadre of dedicated employees, many of whom were ex-military.  To possess the hubris to tender such idiotic and heartless policy advisories is called a failure of imagination, and renders one immoral.

    Sounds like the company I worked for  from 1997-2003.

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  4. Trinity Waters:
    Bah!  This is the very same Jack Welch who advised corporations to automatically rate 10% of their employees as somehow deficient, as a means to motivate the whole cohort.

    I always admired Welch but had some trouble with this infamous practice as well. It often isn’t a true measure of an employee’s ability and/or accomplishments. One has to observe the individual business in question. If all employees have the same type of job or clientele, then it makes sense. This is rarely the case however.

    Example: I once had a job developing private label merchandise for a high end retailer and consistently made a 60% net margin and made an annual 8 figure profitability for the company. One of my peers had the seemingly glam but highly difficult job of buying couture and dealing with all the ridiculous demands of Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Armani, etc. She took a dept that had consistently lost money (nobody buys that stuff at regular price) and actually broke even her first season.

    If you analyzed this according to Welch, she should have been fired because her figures weren’t comparable to mine, but in fact, her job was in many ways far more difficult because her vendors controlled the buys (in addition to the retail world). We had a running joke that I paid for her dept’s losses, but nobody was more impressed than I when her skills allowed me to stop footing the bills!

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  5. Trinity Waters:
    This is the very same Jack Welch who advised corporations to automatically rate 10% of their employees as somehow deficient, as a means to motivate the whole cohort.

    Welch’s policy, called “rank and yank” or selection by “vitality curve” is based upon acknowledgement of the Pareto principle, that around 80% of the value created in an organisation is due to 20% of the employees.  The next 70% are productive and further the ends of the organisation, while the bottom 10% are nonproductive and a net cost.  Regularly pruning the bottom 10% within an organisation improves its overall productivity.  It’s like the independent “discovery” by the Gates Foundation that the single intervention which most improves outcomes in educational systems is removing the bottom 10% of teachers from the classroom, even if they were not replaced, but simply resulted in larger class sizes taught by the remainder.

    In the years that rank and yank were in effect at GE (1981–2001), sales increased by a factor of five and earnings by 28 times.

    Note that as applied by Welch, employees are ranked within a business unit or product sector, not across the entire company.  Working in a division that contributes a smaller fraction to overall earnings does not adversely affect its employees by comparison with those in more profitable divisions, as rankings are within the division.  It is the job of senior management to decide how to allocate resources among divisions with different contribution to overall performance.

    In the 1980s, Jack Welch’s nickname was “Neutron Jack”, due to his policy that any business unit in which GE was not and could not realistically expect to be #1 or #2 in its sector should be sold, spun off, or otherwise divested.  Welch became CEO of GE in 1981.  At the end of 1980, GE had 411,000 employees, and by the end of 1985, this had been reduced to 299,000.  As of 2018, GE had 283,000 employees.

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  6. Apparently, you ignored my comment about the bottom 10% that often cannot be compared to all factions of a company. Walmart is the king of “loss leaders” that bring in a customer base that spends an enormous amount of money on highly profitable items.

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  7. John Walker:
    Welch’s policy, called “rank and yank” or selection by “vitality curve”…

    The linked article contains the following passage:

    Forced ranking systems may lead to biased decision-making and discrimination. Employees at Microsoft, Ford, and Conocohave filed lawsuits against their employers, saying that forced ranking systems are inherently unfair “because they favor some groups of employees over others: white males over blacks and women, younger managers over older ones and foreign citizens over Americans”.[1]For example, around 2001, Ford used a forced ranking system with three grades, A, B, and C, with preset quotas set to 10%, 80%, and 10%. After a class actionlawsuit, which it settled for $10.5 million, it stopped using the system.

    If there’s anything that would convince me that the policy is a good one, that’s it. It offended the acolytes of the cult of affirmative action. Judging ideas by who it winds up is a useful heuristic.

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  8. I still have to insist that employees should be judged by their ability to meet set financial goals and again, not all divisions within a company are the same and are often required to accomplish different things.

    I didn’t like the “curve system” in college and even less so in the business world. It seems disparaging to the individual.

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  9. EThompson:
    I still have to insist that employees should be judged by their ability to meet set financial goals and again, not all divisions within a company are the same and are often required to accomplish different things.

    You are insisting on something which, as far as I know, was a property of every single ranking system actually used in large corporations.  Employees were ranked within departments and business units.  Typically, this was part of regular employee evaluations performed by managers on their direct reports.  There was no attempt to rank across business units addressing various different markets or, for that matter, different departments within a business unit.  How would you possibly rank, for example, a financial analyst in a cost centre such as the accounting department, against a profit centre sales support engineer in, say, the jet engine business unit of GE?  That would be impossible and makes no sense, and was never done.

    Explicit ranking has largely been eliminated not because it didn’t work, but as drlorentz noted in Comment #9, because it did work and thus rewarded merit and performance, which are anathema in converged corporate America.

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  10. John Walker:
    How would you possibly rank, for example, a financial analyst in a cost centre such as the accounting department, against a profit centre sales support engineer in, say, the jet engine business unit of GE.

    Easy. The financial goals are set and determined according to the nature of the particular division; you either meet them or you don’t. I should never have been compared to my business peer who dealt with a completely different market and was directed to achieve different goals than I.

    In reality, I met my goals (20 million gross margin) but she surpassed hers at 0 percent gm while enhancing the store image by attracting new, hip high status vendors. That sounds insane but it is what the company wanted us both to achieve. Again, it was all about loss leaders whose presence in the store helped my product sell.

    Can’t afford Gucci? Well buy S5A private label cashmere at $300 dollars instead from which we made an enormous profit. Every dept had a specific role to play.

    What do you think BMW and Mercedes were doing with their 200 and 300 series?

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  11. I liked the second quote. It is easy to find faults in others without looking inside oneself.

    I guess Ben Franklin got ranked and yanked by Jack Welch.

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  12. 10 Cents:
    I liked the second quote. It is easy to find faults in others without looking inside oneself.

    I guess Ben Franklin got ranked and yanked by Jack Welch.

    Welch must have had one heck of a time machine.

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  13. drlorentz:

    10 Cents:
    I liked the second quote. It is easy to find faults in others without looking inside oneself.

    I guess Ben Franklin got ranked and yanked by Jack Welch.

    Welch must have had one heck of a time machine.

    Er, ahem, I don’t remember Welch being on a hundred. (I don’t remember Ben either.) Ben is the one with the Time Readjuster not biographer chaser.

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  14. I suspect we are talking about two different things here. Welsh may have been right about large organizations, with thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of people. Smaller organizations, however, do not follow the above rule. They may not have the number of people, their jobs may not lend themselves to such “ranking”, their market may not support such evaluations.

    Seems to me ET’s point makes sense within the structure she posits. That is hardly what GE or other such behemoth does though. Even Boeing seems to have fallen for the big behemoth method of “survival” or “career progress” and has been taken over by bean counters rather than run by engineers as it was for lo these many years. So they find themselves embroiled in a problem totally needlessly incurred, because the bean counters prevailed.

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  15. Devereaux:
    Even Boeing seems to have fallen for the big behemoth method of “survival” or “career progress” and has been taken over by bean counters rather than run by engineers as it was for lo these many years.

    Being from the Motor City, you just reminded me of Lee Iacocca (gifted car guy) and that moron Robert McNamara.

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