“Pleased But Not Satisfied” is a self-published book by David L. Sokol, chairman of MidAmerican Energy, a major subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. Sokol recently was named chairman and CEO at another Berkshire operation, NetJets, which is in dire need of turn around due to the recent current economic downturn. Sokol’s name also gets mention as a possible Warren Buffett successor.

“Pleased But Not Satisfied” is similar to Kaizen, the Japanese philosophy of continuous and never-ending improvement: at the end of each of his business efforts, Sokol pronounces himself pleased with the results but not satisfied, since more improvement is possible.

Sokol sets forth the “six commandments” of business:
– Customer commitment
– Employee commitment
– Financial strength
– Integrity: “Integrity is not complicated. If it seems to be, you probably do not belong on our team.”
– Environmental respect
– Operational excellence

Importance of Accountability
Managers have a responsibility toward their direct reports to give them honest feedback: Lazy managers who grant everyone similar scores on generic performance reviews or who punt when it comes to supervision by saying they do not micro-manage, not only harm the business but do a disservice to employees looking to them for leadership.

The very subject of performance metrics can cause a revolt among underperformers in an organization, who will protest that their jobs are too complex or the industry is too dynamic for metrics to be established. Such individuals exist in every organization but have no role in a system that is seeking continuous improvement.

Metrics are critical because what is measured is what gets attention. By setting key performance indicators managers clearly communicate what is important and what is not. Strong employees embrace measurement and are motivated by scorecards. They are glad for an opportunity to show their stuff while poor employees object.

Always measure against a plan and do not be afraid to correct your metrics (up or down) mid-stream to account for new information, for changing assumptions and events.

(Some material is quasi-quotes from the book or paraphrasing of book reviews.)