Why does everything have to be a “process” or a “system”? This has been bugging me for a while.
As a hiring manager, I don’t have anything against a good solid process. I work at an organization focusing on process improvement, so trust me, I’m a process geek. But, here is what keeps happening to bug the crap out of me.
- An issue arises that may represent risk to my group or the organization as a whole.
- I noodle on the impact this issue might have on my group and/or the organization.
- I put my thoughts down on paper, develop some potential scenarios, and outline my plan of action should any scenario materialize.
- I discuss this with co-workers, colleagues, and others to test my logic and make it better.
- Here it comes. Are you ready for it? Inevitably, someone says, “This is great. This needs to be a system (or process) for everyone to follow.”
That in itself seems to make a great deal of sense, until you see it play out. It ends up giving everyone else a license not to think. Here is what I mean, based on a real-life example from early in my management career.
Me: “Team we have to go tackle this problem. Let’s talk about the best way to get it done.”
Team and I went through a session to develop our plan of action, and then we spent a week executing our respective tasks.
One week later…
Me: “Team, how did it go? What type of results did you get?”
Team Member A: “I did what we said, but didn’t get any results. When I got into it, I realized I wouldn’t get any results, but I followed the process we outlined.”
Me: “Team, if you get to a point of where you don’t think you are going to get the right result, please change your approach or grab me and let’s chat. Definitely do what your common sense tells you in that situation.”
Team Member A: “Nobody told me to use my common sense.”
Me: (I’m sure with that “18-wheeler look” much like Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket) “OK, I think that will be all for today.”
That is the dark side of processes and systems. It can become a license for organizations or individuals to unplug their brain and rely on “the process” or “the system.” Just take the template used last time, replace the key words, and there is your solution.
As a hiring manager in an organization of knowledge workers, that really scares me. I don’t want an organization comprised of people who can follow a process or click the right buttons on a screen. I want people equipped with the frame of reference to think about issues, develop scenarios, collaborate with others, act, and adjust.
Hire me that, HR Pro!
Editor’s Note: Ron Webb is what the HR Pros would call a “hiring manager” at APQC (www.apqc.org). He didn’t think he would stay at any organization, or married, for more than 15 years, but have somehow managed both. He’s had almost every job in the APQC building, and still hasn’t found a way to explain what he does in a way his mother can understand. To appease the interrogation, he just tells her that he solves business problems – they agree to leave it at that. Ron is a lifelong runner, enjoys any board games and traveling anywhere that can offer some outdoor activity. Feel free to connect with Ron on LinkedIn.