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(originally published by Booz & Company)


Getting Rid of Grades to Boost Performance

Making the Change from Grades to Accountability
One reason that most CEOs are comfortable with existing job grade systems is that they tend to organize top-down. They are trained to link structure to strategy. But the danger in this approach is they are prone to add jobs for the comfort of the boss that do not add value for the customer or to the work of others. Building an organization is like building a bridge over a river, where construction begins on both banks and must meet in the middle. Good organizational architecture needs to be designed both top-down and bottom-up. It needs to link with the purpose and mission of the organization as well as satisfy its customers and, indirectly, its employees.

Replacing grades with levels of accountability can accomplish this goal, and need not be difficult. The best way to assess value-added tasks is to start from the front line. What does the customer need? What does the person serving the customer need? And so on up the chain of command. By interviewing jobholders and asking what decisions they make, one can establish the discrete levels of accountability in any organization, and thus define the optimal layers in a company’s hierarchy.

Author Profile:
Brian Dive is a manager, author, and consultant who has worked in 70 countries in the past 40 years helping to build more accountable organizations. He runs his own business, DMA Consultancy Ltd.
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  1. Brian Dive, The Accountable Leader: Developing Effective Leadership Through Managerial Accountability (Kogan Page, 2008): The implications of clear accountability for leadership.
  2. Brian Dive, The Healthy Organization: A Revolutionary Approach to People and Management (Kogan Page, 2004): The problems that result from poor organizational design.
  3. Brian Dive, David Mader, and Adam Pearce, “Leadership Levels — Empowering Leaders to Deliver Customer Service,” Booz Allen Hamilton white paper, February 2008: Case study of an organizational redesign of a major U.S. utility company by Booz Allen Hamilton and Panthea Strategic Leadership Advisors.
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