Simon & Schuster’s wildly important goal
Ask any Simon & Schuster employee about their â€śWIG,â€ť and a look of recognition mixed with a Nietzschean grin into the abyss* will flicker across his or her face.
In the business/self-help psychobabble of the Franklin-Covey organization — best known for its training program spin-offs from Stephen R. Coveyâ€™s mega-bestselling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — WIG is an acronym that stands for â€śWildly Important Goal.â€ť
But what, you might ask, does that have to do with publishing employees? As of earlier this year, Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy decreed that all departments were required to come up with goals — wildly important ones. The company overall has a WIG to increase sales by a certain amount. A publicity department might have a WIG to get more national media for authors. Even individuals — from the high-up publisher to the lowly assistant — have personal WIGs. Each week, employees are required to log in to software and chart their progress. If goals are achieved, the screen displays a green icon. If progress is not made, the screen shows a red circle.
This might sound like something from an Onion press release or a scene from “Office Space,” but in fact, employees still have mandatory weekly department meetings at the S&S Rockefeller Center offices to discuss â€ślead measuresâ€ť and â€ślag measuresâ€ť — indicators of how their performance has progressed. As part of the training for the program, participants were informed that if someone came to the meeting and reported an inability to meet a task from the previous week, he or she would be â€śfrozen,â€ť which means that no one could speak to that person for the duration of the meeting.
The Franklin-Covey organizationâ€™s logic for this method, as described in the bookÂ The 4 Disciplines of ExecutionÂ co-authored by Coveyâ€™s son Sean Covey, posits that employees are most efficient when everyone can see that they are â€świnningâ€ť or â€ślosing.â€ť This is why all goals and progress must — in addition to the computer program — be charted on a centrally-displayed bulletin board that is visible to everyone.
In a climate of grim news for book publishing, this attempt to goose performance and results seems like either a savvy and optimistic human resources strategy or a late fourth quarter Hail Mary pass. Franklin-Covey is an apparently successful business training operation, so other companies in other industries must be doing this too … right?
Yesterday, Simon & Schuster announced that they will partner with the self-publishing company Author Solutions, Inc. (which is owned by Pearson) to create an imprint called Archway Publishing, allowing writers to publish their work for thousand-dollar fees. Whether or not this will be a popular choice for authors or how Simon & Schuster will work with a company that falls under the owner of a competitor remains to be seen.
Perhaps the emergence of Archway Publishing means that someone has achieved their WIG. But what will happen to those who are frozen with a red circle? Apparently they go the way of Free Press — the former publisher of Stephen R. Covey and his sons.
* The phrase “Nietzschean grin into the abyss” isÂ courtesy of Dustin Kurtz
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.