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31 March 2011 0 Comments

Per’s Principle

Per Principle Photo

The modest yard of my childhood home had one crown: the Rose Garden. Although none of us were great gardeners, 25 healthy rose bushes produced a steady supply of flowers.  Credit goes to Per (pronounced “Pare”), the top gardener at my father’s workplace.  He selected and planted the roses, taught us how to water and fertilize them, and emphasized the key to sustainable blooms year after year: Per’s Principle.

The long-term success of the garden

depends on how one cuts the rose.

Cut in the right place, at the best angle, with a sharp tool, and the site will heal quickly and produce even more blossoms.

 But hack away at the plant indiscriminately, and you might ruin it forever.

Per’s Principle is not limited to roses.  Most organizations find the need to reduce staff at some time.  Many have done so recently (or should now).  But few leaders understand Per’s Principle, either related to roses or their followers.

Cut in the right place.

It might be easiest to reduce staff through attrition or to get rid of the person who is most difficult to manage.  But consider the organization as an organism, like a body.  All systems work together.  Cut out half your lungs and you will still survive, but your potential will be noticeably reduced.  Visualize the future organization, consider who you need to retain and focus on keeping them.

Cut at the best angle.

Treat the people you are letting go with respect, and help them transition well.  This might mean keeping them on payroll a little longer than you would like or extending their benefits.  Remember – she is a trusted partner in your organization.  If you help him land on his feet, he is more likely to find employment faster and be complementary about you and your organization.  Try to find a way to give advance notice.  Honor the contributions she has made and avoid humiliating her in front of her peers.

Use the correct tool.

Any cut is painful.  Manage that pain by using proper change management tools before, during and after the reduction.  Consider the feelings and motivations of the remaining staff – if it looks to them like the ship is sinking, your best performers will head for the lifeboats.  Explain your reasons to the remaining staff and help them understand how this change is a well-planned, strategic decision.  Be transparent. Let them see your vision for the future and how they play a critical role going forward.

It still might get ugly.  But these actions will help protect your reputation inside and outside the organization.  These are real people with real lives.  How you handle this important transition could bring quick healing and greater production or irreparable damage.  If you are going to wield the clippers, please remember Per’s Principle.

What About You?

  • Have you ever felt awkward being asked to cut someone’s position in a cold and detached manner?   How could you introduce an alternate approach?
  • Were you one of the survivors following a layoff?  Having observed how it was handled, how did you feel toward your employer afterward?

Comment on this post and share your story.

At ENTERCHANGE we help organizations grow healthy, collaborative teams.  Contact Us for a free assessment of your “garden.”
Copyright © 2011 ENTERCHANGE

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