A Gringo’s View – Productivity and Meritocracy.

Posted by Bill Danahy
at Friday December 1st, 2017.

The 2017 nominal GDP in Brasil is about U$ 2,1Ti this year (8th in the world). The GDP of two states in the USA – Texas and Massachusets – are also about U$2,1Ti.  The number of employees in the workforce in Brasil is about 91MM and in Texas/Massachuetts about 16MM. With that, it takes about 5,7 workers in Brasil to produce the same economic output as 1 worker in the USA (+U$91/U$16 = 5,7 – this is a 34% increase during 21 years).  What power there is to be released in Brazil!


Custo Brasil – infrastructural and logistical challenges and costs, excessive local, state and federal taxes and fees, absurd banking usury or perhaps legalized larceny, unsupportable employee benefits (food, transportation, healthcare, pensions, xxx) – all contribute to a non-competitive business condition and culture.

Government policies that took decades to establish will take decades to unwind. The same financial leaders are the government and bankers, whose are not about to easily yield power or control despite a façade of change and democracy with independent institutions.

The impact?  (PT supporters  can stop reading now. )  A dismal economy, nearly impossible challenges for business owners and managers (profitability is often perceived as the enemy and equated with anti-society theft), and generations of antiquated and impractical personnel regulations, policies and laws.

Many (most?) small and medium firms fight to survive, often cutting corners to pay today`s bills. Owners neglect government payments that ultimately accumulate to a burdensome cost that compels the retention of non-productive workers who are de-incentivized to perform and whose lack of productivity cannot be challenged despite its cancerous organizational affect.

Worse, the underlying generational  traditions and culture that are institutionalized in a body of law that creates an under-current in which mediocrity is fostered and expected – demanded – even legally protected. The farm owners are today`s company owners, whose benevolence provides food and sustenance as part of caring for the indentured workers who are unable to care for themselves.

Employees are somehow the farm-hands of today – housed, fed, educated, provided healthcare, transportation and retirement – all by the owner.   The structure of workers has been institutionalized and coded although today 14% of citizens live in rural areas unlike the 56% who lived in the countryside only 50 years ago.meritocracy

Of course, the government has neither the resource nor the efficiency to fulfill these needs.  It functions through creating basic employment for the masses although it is virtually bankrupt and by handicapping the private sector in the process.

The government insists business pay to protect this form of governmental through collecting un-godlessly selfish profits (sarcasm intended) that support  government distributions (and corruption) rather than fostering a dynamic free market economy, personal independence, and national and international  competitiveness.

Life has moved to urban areas.  But culture largely remains in the past – presuming that the care of the population is the responsibility of the government, who believes itself empowered with the better knowledge of how to command and prudently distribute resource from the private sector to provide the safety, security, healthcare, education and basic comforts and needs of each citizen.

The (not so secret) dirty secrets are that there is not enough resource and only the form of denial is in question, and that the government is a mess, in policies and efficiency.

So how can companies survive when there is so much legal and historic incentive and momentum in favor of inefficiency?  One strategy is to encourage each employee to be responsible, self-reliant, and …. happy!!!  (Do you know that the county of Bhutan measures citizen happiness annually?)  Part of the answer is Meritocracy.

The best hope for Brazil may be a maturing of a young (if, for you like me, 45 can be considered young) next generation of traditional and newly created wealth – educated, traveled worldwide with an expanded vision of possibility and life, bright, hard-working, proud, enthusiastic for creating change.

That generation is inheriting the family wealth and beginning to assume positions of power.  A hope that this generation will enter with a new work ethic, vision of government and personal responsibility and a desire to serve honorably.  Many of this generations are within the ranks of companies nationwide.

Maslow, a behavioral psychologist, and Carl Rogers, E. Erickson, Viktor Frankl and so many others have looked long at human drive, freedom and sources of success, happiness and purpose. The highest level of personal development is self-actualization and purpose – a personal striving for excellence in all aspects of work and life.

It is personal – driven by defined values, goals, intent – internal and existential more than external.  It encompasses excellence for the sake of excellence, achievement for the sake of achieving and knowing and utilizing abilities and refining skills. That effort brings happiness and satisfaction in life.  Attained goals bring a sense of personal achievement and are satisfaction.

The Deli Lama will tell you the same – happiness comes through you, not to you.  Create something for yourself and bigger than yourself.  Mahatma Ghandi shared the knowledge of personal dignity and value of self, and led hundreds of millions to overthrow the prevailing social structure.

The debates over McGregor`s X-Y theory defined in the 1980-90s are now ended with the clear conclusion that theory y adherents (participatory management styles) have won hands down over authoritarian styles (any remnant PT adherent that remain must now cringe at this pronouncement).  Authoritarianism, control, and mis-trust do not work well.  People are intrinsically driven by an altruistic and trusting environment. They respond to being allowed to grow.

In sum – from theology, to philosophy to psychology, social theory and sound management theory – meritocracy (properly implemented and maintained) underlies better results, personal and organizational achievement and success.

Not only can we speak of the business benefits of productivity and goal attainment.  But within those same `good for the company` actions we can teach and learn about each employee`s personal growth.  We can contribute to his development, focus, goal attainment, achievement, excellence and other attributes that define quality life and even happiness and contentment.  We can challenge ourselves to excellence.  We can drive the best while enhancing pragmatic business goals.

We, as managers, can create an environment where we can push others – hold a mirror, reward, track – to be the best they can be.  We, as company executives, can create an environment that promotes and encourages each person towards achievement and goal attainment in work.  These same skills can then be applied by our employees in all life areas. As individuals we can learn to enjoy and benefit from growth, and to take home these learned lessons.

In Brazil, in our employment, we can flow with mediocrity, and churning out a predictable and largely inadequate and unsatisfying existence.  Or we can avoid the dismal expectations and requirements of legal and cultural structures.  We can define meaning through personal performance and productivity, personal integrity and dignity, within new terms that include personal excellence and personal growth.

Practically speaking, employees are one of, or the most important, expense line item in a business.  That investment must be made to perform to generate its most effective result.  Simultaneously, that objective can be aligned with contributing to the life and welfare of our employees. The two are aligned – and not contradictory – a healthy workplace should and can be a place of dignity and contribution to fullness of life.

Meritocracy is the right thing to do – for practical reasons for the business – and simultaneously for the welfare of employees and by extension employees and even families and to create a life time of growth.   Meritocracy clarifies the expectation and needs of individuals, teams, projects and departments as they also align with the highest priorities of firms during specific time frames. Meritocracy aligns expectations and objectives and leads to results – and highlights underlying individual performance.  Meritocracy shares company rewards with those who contribute to that success.  Inherent in the philosophy and practice is a requirement that each individual improve – attitude, focus, drive, knowledge, performance – all personal development points.

Mereo is extending its Human Resource and related compensation modules, better identifying performance and skills gaps both for individuals and organizations.  The intuitive periodic reviews and follow-up prompts identify `winners` and key talent necessary in future company upturns and down turns.

Organizational assessments identify cross training and development to prepare next internal managers and directors.  Variable compensation functionality aligns high payoff company actions with personal performance results. Meritocracy in action – improving short and long term results of the company – with personal performance alignment.  Better, the organization is better prepared for unknown future challenges.   Time to create a break-through corporate culture?


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