Every successful company I have had included an incentive program for all employees. Every company that lacked one had mediocre performance at best, even when I paid higher salaries. Yes, incentives should reward quality first, before volume and costs, and they need to be applied and shaped over time. They also have to be reinforced with personal contact, training, and opportunities to grow. But you must have them to maximize long-term company profits and long-term employee happiness. To do without them is to shortchange everyone involved.

EDITOR-NOTE:

You may recall a column Paul Hawken wrote for us a few months back on the subject of problems in business. Businesses will always have problems, he argued, so you shouldn't even try to eliminate them because you can't. Rather, the goal should be to make sure your company has good problems as opposed to bad ones.

Well, this month, we have a good problem: too many thoughtful letters from readers. That's certainly better than having too few, but it is definitely a problem in that we don't have room to publish all we'd like to. Instead, we'll have to settle for a sample, with apologies to those writers we don't mention.

What surprised us most was the overwhelming response to three articles in our April issue. We often get flooded with mail about one piece -- Jim Koch's "Portrait of the CEO as Salesman" in March, for example. But seldom do we have two articles, let alone three, that strike a letter-writing chord among large numbers of readers. It was also interesting to note how different was the response to each article. Our cover story, "Heartbreak Hill," clearly touched deep emotions, eliciting some of the most passionate letters we have ever received. We've decided to feature them in our new Focus section (below). In the future, we will be using this section each month to conduct a dialogue with readers about a specific issue raised in letters to the editor.

Passion of another sort surfaced in response to the debate between Tom Peters and Alfie Kohn on the role of incentives and competition in the workplace. By our count, 42% of the readers supported Peters, 14% backed Kohn, and the rest disagreed with both of them.