Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sorry Way to do Business

I have been thinking a lot about Esther Derby's work on performance assessments and wanted to jot this down.

Competition is a good thing when it pushes people forward, but anyone who has ever played Sorry can tell you that the game is in is the relative progress you make with respect to others on the board. You can succeed by getting better movement cards than other people (being lucky) or by denying success to the other players (opportunistic sabotage). If you can block forward progress and send people back to the start then you have a little more control of the game board. The trick becomes making sure you can move between safe spaces without sacrificing too many pieces while wiping out the opponents from behind.

Relative success in a company is, I think, intended to be reached by propelling yourself forward. What I have seen in my 30+ working years is that you can also move ahead more surely by hopping between "safe spaces" and denying success to your coworkers. I've seen people who were excellent at that game. They take a larger slice of a smaller pie, which affords them the prestige and perks of a winner.

But it's a smaller pie they're making. Denying success to your coworkers should be an absolute obscenity inside a business. To consider the company achieving less so that you can beat that other salesman, manager, etc. to the perks is without merit. People who play this game are Sorry coworkers.

Now, the problem with it is that a Sorry boss will look for the Sorry workers, and will admire those "smart enough" to play this Sorry game well. He will admire the sharper gamesman and will not mind promoting him... to a point. Eventually the Sorry employee will start denying success to his Sorry boss, once he has some contacts higher in the Sorry company.

Don't work for a Sorry company. Loving your job means never having to say you're sorry for working there.


  1. great metaphor... unfortunately there are no dice in Sorry! It's based on cards.


  2. Oh crumbs. A Parcheesi Company is not nearly as funny.

  3. Deming was pretty staunchly against internal competition.