Awards are difficult, but not for Nobel Prize Committee

Awards are difficult, but not for Nobel Prize Committee

Jun 2014. Weekly meeting with the project managers who worked with me.

” We need to recognize people. Let us give away some awards.”

We had many smaller team level awards. Also we had annual awards. We wanted to recognize more. We have some of the best people. These people are working towards making autonomous driving possible. No lesser goal.

How many to recognize?

The project managers happily agreed. they wanted to recognize their people. But how many people? We arrived at a percentage of people could get award. More will make it trivial. Less will not have much impact.

What about the criteria?

Now the difficulty. How do we decide? When project managers send me the nominations, it is very hard for me to decide without knowing the specifics. And many are from different kinds of tasks. One team  worked on communication technologies. The second one in simulation and tooling. The third is in the job of putting everything together.

Even within the teams, there is a lot going on. For the project managers, it is difficult to decide when there are more than one best guy.

“What is the big deal? Let us debate the details and decide” One project manager suggests. The other manager is not sure given the diversity.

Then the conclusions after a debate. Do it “scientifically”. Follow the book –

“Let us define few parameters. Let us also define weight-age for the parameters and rate the nominations. Each nominator shall explain the instances, results and values demonstrated”

We had detailed debate. We arrived at names. In the end, some were still not convinced. But we just went ahead with the decision.

Their fears were not unfounded. 

These managers need to go back to their team members and explain whenever there is unhappiness. That is the price to pay for open culture. Sometimes when people have less work, the issue becomes even bigger. As we know, empty mind is devil’s workshop.

Then we had all hands meeting. The awards were given away.

But, after the award I learnt something else.

My peers were chasing me.

“How did you decide the budget of the award? What were your criteria? Why was the all hands meeting done in a high profile way than necessary? It has become an issue for us. Our team members are not happy now. We did equivalent recognition as low key affair with lesser budget. You should have consulted us”

Apart from that there were noises to answer.

The Nobel Prize

After the announcement of Nobel peace prize 2014, I thought I would learn from the criteria and the process Nobel committee follows.


Here is what they have as criteria:

The nomination is only through qualified individuals. Self nomination is not accepted. Then who are qualified?

Members of national assemblies and governments of states
Members of international courts
University rectors; professors of social sciences, history, philosophy, law and theology; directors of peace research institutes and foreign policy institutes
Persons who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
Board members of organizations that have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
Active and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee; (proposals by members of the Committee to be submitted no later than at the first meeting of the Committee after February 1)
Former advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Committee )

Further, the nominations can not be made public for 50 years.

And, the committee has no headache of answering the world and clarify.

Good for the selection committee. There is no need to defend why Obama gets a peace prize. Nor there is no need to justify why Gandhi would not get. The prize can be used to encourage something, discourage something else, ridicule, build stereotypes. So many possibilities.

Somewhere I started feeling.. May be in the corporate sector we do decent job. May not be perfect, but decent job.

Coming back to corporate world…

– The key constraint is the award should finally help the business performance and employee satisfaction. If awards are not fair, it creates additional pain. Overall effect of the award gets measured in some or the other way.

Some teams avoid this pain by avoiding much of employee recognition, especially if the awards are of significant value. It is hard to do a fair job. Even harder to explain it. The same goes for performance appraisal and rating.

The moral of the story –

The awards are hard. If you have not received award, may be it is less about you. If you received an award, well – you have impressed someone. Along with the results, there was something more that helped. Be thankful for the same.

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