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Builders, Cutters and Maintainers: If You Keep Cutters, This is Likely Why

May 10, 2011

In case this is the first blog from me that you have read, Builders are your top performers, Maintainers are solid “B” players and Cutters are poor performers who do damage to your company. As I have mentioned previously, your responsibility as a leader is to:

  • Step 1: Remove Cutters

  • Step 2: Hire Builders

  • Step 3: Motivate Maintainers

Why do companies fail in their attempt to address the poor performance associated with Cutters? In my opinion, there are 4 reasons:

  1. Some organizations are fatalistic. They believe that you do your best to hire productive people, and then work with what you get. In many companies, the mix of Builders, Cutters and Maintainers is simply viewed as a constant that does not change.

  2. It is too unpleasant. Let’s face it, changing the mix of Builders, Cutters and Maintainers in an organization involves real people and real relationships, sometimes long-term relationships of 10 or 20 years.

  3. Legal risk. There is often concern about lawsuits and other unpleasant repercussions as a result of removing long-term, poor performers.

  4. Lack of good process. My observation is that when organizations are exposed to reliable change processes, they choose to do the right thing. The right thing is to build a competitive organization even if it involves making difficult decisions.

What every leader should know is that there are legally sound methods and technologies available to facilitate these difficult people decisions. In fact, just as there have been tremendous strides toward improving the operational side of business, there have also been parallel breakthrough improvements on the people side.  The net results are sophisticated methods and technology that can successfully address this issue.


  1. Understand that the percentage of Builders, Cutters and Maintainers in your organization does not happen by chance – you make it happen and you can change it.

  2. Understand that Cutters keep on cutting, even after training and coaching. It is your responsibility to remove Cutters from your organization.

  3. Understand that 50 years of research has proven that unstructured hiring and performance management approaches do not work.  They predict Builders and Cutters about as accurately as a coin toss.

  4. Understand that through innovative people assessment methods, evaluation tools and performance tracking practices, you can identify Builders, Cutters and Maintainers, and create the right mix for your organization.

In the next blog series on how to select and retain Builders I will discuss the specific steps involved in implementing an organization-wide process for transitioning to a Builder Culture.

The Ultimate Hiring Manager’s Guide

Kevin Klinvex Kevin Klinvex was a founding partner of Select International, acquired by PSI. He is a thought leader in organization-wide hiring and retention programs. His work focused on combining powerful testing and assessment tools with the best in web-based delivery and data tracking. Kevin co-authored the best-selling book, Hiring Great People.