While it’s true that I play a traditional HR Pro by day, deep down inside I’m really an OD guy at heart. And if you know anything about us OD peeps (aside from being a little eccentric and the first ones to go in a down economy) it’s that we LOVE our processes. Process maps, decision models, communication models, you name it, we love ’em all. We especially love it when a company is in a growth mode. You give us a call and tell us all the challenges you are facing – nobody knows how decisions are made, we’re not empowered, we don’t know how information is shared, things seem chaotic, etc. We’ve got a process up our sleeve for every one of those scenarios. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret that will probably get me taken off the invite list for the next ODN Conference – most of these processes place emphasis in the wrong place and are a WASTE OF TIME. That’s the best case scenario. If you’re in the business of innovation they can be deadly to your company. Why you ask?
- Many processes are too old skool for the modern company. The most common thing I hear is “we don’t know how decisions” get made. The natural next step often seems to be putting together a detailed decision making process that everyone must follow to the letter. That sounds pretty 1950s to me. Frankly, these processes seem like ways for senior level management to feel in control of the situation that really can’t/shouldn’t be controlled in the modern company. Remember, the modern company should be looking for increased effectiveness, not just increased efficiency.
- Chaos is where REAL innovation occurs. Working in a company that is in rapid growth mode or in the midst of change can often make us feel like we don’t know which end is up. But, it’s in the midst of this chaos, the exchanging of ideas and opinions where new ideas and relationships are developed. Wouldn’t happen if your process had you talking to the same people every single time.
- Processes often replace dialogue. A smart guy once told me never to introduce any process that replaces an actual conversation. Yes, a process can make your work more efficient but most real insights tend to come from where there are disagreements and the discussion around how to overcome the disagreements. If you’re sending Sally down the hall a checklist rather than going to have an actual conversation, stop it immediately!
So what’s an HR Pro to do? Here’s where most of you will say I’m being too simplistic, but I truly believe it. Hire really smart people and trust they will be able to figure things out on their own. The ones who are willing to struggle, try new approaches, fail and get up again and try something else. The ones who see a failed process and go around it rather than follow it. And most importantly, the ones who actually have a real, honest to god conversation!
Andy Porter is Chief People Officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, MA which means he works with some wicked smaaht people. Some days, he indeed does wear short shorts around the office(call it a morale booster) but it really just makes people uncomfortable. Other days, he spits some mad game on cheese. No really – he’s somewhat of a cheese aficionado. But more importantly? At Broad he gets to his small part to help change the world of healthcare.