M.A.C.E is a performance-assessment thought framework which helped me greatly in making sense of hiring/firing decisions. The original idea was taught to me by a short-acquitant colleague in 2017. One of my personal missions in 2018 is to further develop this framework and extend its reach to many more managers. I have high hopes that it would help to make life of managers much easier and a lot more objective when it comes to assessing an employee for either promotion or demotion.
Have you ever wondered why some employees perform so well and others don’t, ceteris paribus? Why do some smartest people deliver less value to the organisation than seemingly ordinary colleagues? As an employee, why can’t you do your best work? What should you say to your bosses that could potentially improve your working environment? or knowing that it’s time to leave your current job?
Introducing M.A.C.E framework: . Mindset . Ability . Condition . Expectation
In order to understand these 4 factors indepth and in a practical way, let’s put these in the perspective of assessing an employee on why is or isn’t he performing well.
Mindset is attitude towards work or teamwork or company. Someone with the right mindset would usually have the right alignment with the larger vision of the project/company. Is he a loner or team-player? is he genuinely wanting to help others or just taking the credit for himself? Why did he agree to join the team to begin with? Mindset is detected through one’s behaviors.
Ability is the hard skill or the domain knowledge. This is real competency of the employee. This might be the most obvious and easiest to assess out of the 4 factors. If someone does not have sufficient technical skill, the teammates or direct manager should be able to tell right away.
Condition is the current role, position of power or allocation of work. Condition could also means the working environment employee is in salary, benefits, culture, etc. From the perspective of mangement team, the question to ask is whether the employee has sufficient power and support to do what he is supposed to do. Is he having too-junior of a title? Is he being given enough backing resources to carry on the tasks? Is he even thinking clearly about work or is he having too much personal issues at home?
Expectation means what are others’ expectation being place upon the employee. There is no right or wrong answer here, rather we judge by clarity of the work assignment. Questions I usually ask are: is management’s expectation of the employee clear? and vice versa? is the team’s expected output is communicated clearly across? More often than not this is the most difficult factor to assess, each side of the table has their own assumed perspective and often misaligned.
Internal vs External factors
Mindset and Ability are internal factors to oneselves and difficult to change, while Condition and Expectation are parameters that management team can definitely tweak for individuals. By classifying the factors this way, we can further narrow down action plan to help a person in need or to make quick firing decision.
We can’t unfortunately change one’s mindset, or ask someone to ‘be better’ in his domain knowledge in a day. As managers, we could ask ourself whether the team could wait long enough to let this teammate catchup with his skillset. Nevertheless we can’t change one’s attitude towards his job, unless something major happens in his life.
On the other hand, as a decision-maker, we can easily make changes to the employee’s working condition and/or set clearer expectation. Ask yourself, is he receiving adequate attention? is he carry the right title which gives him the right amount of leverage? Have we ever sat down and have a crystal-clear conversation about what he is supposed to achieve, acknowledging ambiguities? It’s relatively easy to fix the situation, even if you have not answered clear yes to all the above.
What’s so great about M.A.C.E is that there is a simple rule I found to be true in all cases: an employee must have had all 4 factors in order to deliver excellent value. Anything missing is a signal for troubles to come. A brilliant candidate won’t be able to show his values without the right support. An average teammate might bring intangible values to the team with the right scope of work and guidance from the managers.
Another way to rephrase this rule of thumb: to help your team succeed, your job is to help each individual team members satisfying all 4.
When to keep, when to let go
I struggled a great deal when it comes to making decision to let go of someone (who doesn’t, right?). What I’ve learnt by looking through the lens of M.A.C.E framework made my life significant easier.
I adapted the framework to help with decision making by asking one single question: How many factors of M.A.C.E is the employee missing and how, if at all, can those gaps be bridged?
The below rules are by no mean accurate, I strongly recommend taking these and make a version of your own:
Missing M and A : out. no further bargaining necessary.
Missing M but not A : more often than not, keeping the person around will bring great deal of pain to the rest of the team.
Missing A but not M : a change of responsibility might be the most appropriate move. move to another team or reduce scope of work. great attitude is hard to find, help him to find his spot in the team.
Missing C & E : salvageable, it warrants for a sit-down talk (or over some beers). clear out the misalignments.
Missing C but not E : this should be an easy fix by decision makers: change of working hours, change of benefits, even changing his desk could be an option, the little details matter.
Missing E but not C : a tricky situation, the root cause might be traceable way back to a wrong hiring decision somewhere. a misalignment in expectation from management side might usually require a change in responsibility, which might not fit employee’s ability.
Missing 2 out of 4 : in my experience this usually signal troubles from both sides. It could be holes in hiring process, or weak management team or a really bad candidate. Either way my final decision tend to lead towards letting go *and* rethink hiring strategies.
Next step with M.A.C.E
Retrospection! Why did you fire A or how did B do so well? What was missing? what have you done right, or wrong, that lead to the decisions? Could you have made the decision sooner? Could you have saved the situation?
I hope by the time you fully grasped this new concept, you would have a couple of revelations. It certain did bring peace of mind during my journey developing the mentioned rules. I’d really appreciate if you could drop a comment below letting me know in case M.A.C.E brought you to the same conclusions.
Do leave a comment, ask me questions, suggest ideas. I’ll try my best to help you with your specific situations and take those into account for my next article in the series.