As a freshman in college, we as a class were given an introductory lecture by the college dean. It went something like this:
“All of you are used to getting straight A’s and maybe an occasional B+. But not very many B’s,” continued the college dean. “We grade on a curve. So most of you will have to get used to getting B’s, C’s, and an occasional A, and maybe a few D’s.
“As you might imagine, this will be difficult for you to accept. Look at your classmate to your right for a moment. Now look at your classmate to your left. Some of you will not be able to accept the grading curve.
“One of those two classmates you just looked at will not be here next year.”
I think this was meant to be motivational. No goofing off at this school. It’s a time in your life to buckle down, grow up, and make something of yourself.
I, however, couldn’t understand how a college could be proud of their ability to lose 1/3 of a class of highly talented and probably gifted young men and women. I am sure none of us were perfect.
How does an institution, or a business, or an individual elevate itself by its ability to create losers? Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric and Fortune Magazine’s “Manager of the Century,” has made a career out of trimming the dead wood, or the bottom 10%, of the workforce.
Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the “high prophet of quality,” when questioned about the “rank and yank” practices of trimming the deadwood, responded, “Were they alive when you hired them? Or did you kill them?”
Maybe creating winners would produce better outcomes.