By Carol Haig, CPT, and Roger Addison, CPT, EdD

It is our great pleasure to welcome Aubrey Daniels, founder of Aubrey Daniels International (ADI), to TrendSpotters this month. Aubrey was involved with ISPI many years ago when it was the National Society for Programmed Instruction (NSPI). Today, Aubrey,, is an internationally recognized authority on applying scientifically proven laws of human behavior to the workplace. ADI specializes in accelerated performance change, building profitable organizational habits, and implementing cultural change in organizations to improve performance. The author of a number of best sellers, Aubrey’s latest book is OOPS! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time and Money (and what to do instead). He graciously shares with TrendSpotters insights and suggestions from his book and his experience.

Genesis of the 13 Management Practices That Waste Time and Money
Aubrey has spent more than 40 years working with clients, training and coaching their managers, and helping organizations change performance. He has educated his clients about the key principles of human behavior. On a visit to a longtime client whose managers ADI had trained, Aubrey learned that the company had an Employee of the Month award. He looked further and found in place a number of other common management practices that scientific knowledge tells us are not effective. He started keeping a list and talked about it at subsequent presentations where participants eagerly added other management practices from their organizations that were not working. Aubrey held the line at 13 items.

The List
The 13 Management Practices are familiar to many organizations, and some are probably in yours. You may even have experienced one or more of them yourself:

  1. Employee of the Month
  2. Setting Stretch Goals
  3. Annual Performance Appraisal
  4. Ranking Employees, Offices, and Plants
  5. Rewarding Things a Dead Man Can Do
  6. Salary and Hourly Pay
  7. You Did a Good Job, But…
  8. Using the Sandwich Method of Correcting
  9. Yelling and Screaming and Other Forms of Public Criticism
  10. The Budget Process
  11. Promoting People That No One Likes
  12. Downsizing
  13. Mergers and Acquisitions and Other Forms of Reorganizing

© 2009 by Aubrey Daniels. Used with permission.

The 13 Management Practices are examples of the ways in which organizations try to increase performance. Unfortunately, the activities “…have their genesis in what is popularly called ‘common sense’ or based on an individual leader or manager’s experience. Few if any were designed on the basis of valid and proven research in human behavior” (Daniels, 2009, p. 21). The 13 Management Practices are expected to produce significant results in a short time, and most organizations lack the required scientific knowledge about behavior change to generate them. This is not to point the finger of ignorance at senior leaders. MBAs do not necessarily study behavioral psychology in graduate school, so they do not know what they do not know. As the client mentioned above said to Aubrey, “I knew that the Employee of the Month program was the wrong thing to do, but I didn’t know why.”

Added to the lack of knowledge about behavioral science is that most organizations have some of the 13 Management Practices in place. And, if “everyone” is doing it, how would they know it is ineffective?

A Crash Course in Behavioral Principles
Behavior is a function of its consequences. Here are some things we know:

  • There are two types of consequences, positive and negative reinforcement, that increase existing behaviors and can be used to teach new ones.
  • Positive reinforcement produces higher rates of behavior than negative reinforcement.
  • A small, immediate consequence has more impact on behavior than a large, future, and uncertain one.
  • Behavior that occurs without reinforcement is weakened and will eventually stop.
  • Two types of consequences, punishment and penalty, stop existing behaviors; they do not increase behaviors, and they teach no new ones.
  • Behavior that is stopped by punishment and penalty will reoccur when the threat of punishment or penalty is removed or is remote.

To make reinforcement work:

  • Make it personal
  • Make it contingent
  • Make it immediate
  • Make it frequent

Success Story
ADI has had many successes over the years and a number of long-term clients. When TrendSpotters asked about organizations that have eliminated the 13 Management Practices, Aubrey told us about one large company that has made progress in applying the principles of behavioral psychology by stopping several of the practices. This organization:

  • Changed its compensation system to one that is pay-for-performance based
  • Eliminated its Employee of the Month program
  • Minimized the impact of its performance appraisal system but still have it

Some individual managers there decided to change a few personal practices, particularly when they realized they engaged at them at home as well as at work:

  • You Did a Good Job, But…
  • Using the Sandwich Method of Correcting
  • Yelling and Screaming and Other Forms of Public Criticism

We were reminded that it is one thing to become aware of such behaviors and decide to change them, and quite another to do so successfully. Individual behavior change requires tracking one’s own actions and setting up reinforcement to help cement the change.

Links to the Performance Technology Landscape
The elimination of the 13 Management Practices That Waste Time and Money supports these principles of performance technology:

R: Focus on Results: Consider the results each practice produces and evaluate the intended against the actual.

S: Take a System View: Management practices reflect organizational culture–do the 13 represent yours?

V: Add Value: How can these practices be replaced with others that will produce the desired results?

P: Establish Partnerships: Managers can partner with each other to coach and reinforce for more effective practices.

Application Exercise
Identify which of the 13 Management Practices are in place where you work and determine the best candidates for elimination or modification. Some may be ripe for change due to other initiatives such as a new performance appraisal system or a revamping of the salary structure that is imminent or already in process. For example, an Employee of the Month program can work if:

  • There is no limit to the number of employees who can be recognized
  • It is criterion-referenced so that all who exceed the standard are recognized

Advice for Our Times
Organizations are making many changes due to our current economy. There is no better time to address the 13 Management Practices That Waste Time and Money than right now when people expect change. This is a perfect time to look at pay and bonus structure to ensure that companies do not revert to their old ways once the economy recovers.

Find all the models and tools featured in TrendSpotters at

Daniels, A. (2009). OOPS! 13 management practices that waste time and money (and what to do instead). Atlanta, GA: Performance Management Publications.

You may contact Carol Haig at or at; and Roger Addison at Roger blogs at