Our guest speaker from the HR department made a tactical error one December evening in 1988: she thought she was asking a rhetorical question.
“Isn’t there a place for mediocre coworkers in a large organization?”
“NO!” we roared in unison. She was visibly shaken, and never quite got her talk going again. I think her point was that an organization must recognize the diversity of its workers’ abilities and make sure each is in the correct position, but this was not a group inclined to sit still long enough for nuance. These were Kinko’s Managers.
In a profit-sharing environment, the distaste for mediocrity is constant and organic. Each coworker’s ability impacts every coworker’s income, so the teams become highly self-selective. By definition, there is still “mediocrity” in any group, but the culture of a healthy self-governed organization naturally raises the median.
In such organizations, people don’t talk about raising the bar. They jump for the love of the sky.