In almost every job I’ve ever had or project I’ve ever undertaken there always something that didn’t go as planned. We spend hundreds of man hours coming up with a plan, trying to think of every thing that has to happen along the way. We brainstorm risks and put together mitigation plans to minimize the chances or impact if it happens. As they say, a battle plan is only good until it sees battle. In order to be successful, you should have the right mix of flexibility and control within your company. Today’s discussion will help you understand some of the natural conflicts between flexibility and control in your business and why they are necessary.
Flexibility and Control
You probably wish you could control everything in your organization. I mean why not? The more control you have over processes and procedures the more predictable your results, right? I have worked with numerous companies that are very proud of their processes, and display banners with different process certifications. They brag about it on their websites and capability statements.
Processes give you confidence in repeatable and predictable results. Here is the thing, your process also can provide repeatable and predictable mistakes. I have seen this, and the response is always the same: “But, I followed the process.” So, the solution is to add a new process. Sooner or later, there is only process and no flexibility. Like Henry Ford said about the Model T, “you can have it in any color you want, as long as it’s black.” All control and no flexibility. Let’s look at some ways this occurs in your company.
Veteran vs. New Hire
How many times has a company, maybe even yours, hired someone from the outside to bring in a fresh perspective? This person comes in, with a bunch of ideas from his/her previous experience. After six months to a year, all those fresh perspectives are gone, and the person you hired to change things has fallen into the trap of “this is how it’s done here.”
I have worked with several companies, especially small to mid-size companies, where there is a distinct dichotomy in their employee base. Often you have an employee base that started with the company and has been there since the beginning. However, as they reach retirement age, new employees must be hired to fill the jobs. This isn’t always a generational thing, but it can be. You many have veterans at your company that have been there fifteen to twenty years, and another group maybe three to five years.
The veterans in your company typically lean to the control side of the spectrum. They have their ways of doing things, they follow their process and they get predictable results. That is why you have them working for you. However, when you bring in new people, they are generally lean more towards the flexible side of the spectrum. They are flexible because they don’t know your culture, your company habits, and they aren’t as set in their ways. They begin to question everything, and maybe even offer alternatives.
The fresh perspective that your new employees bring can help you add flexibility into your business. This does NOT mean that you change everything you have been doing. There has to be a balance. Your veteran employees helped you become the success you are right now. They understand the processes, and know how to get results.
I have been the new guy in this scenario. I worked with a team of veterans that had their process down pat. The trouble was, because they kept doing what they knew, they kept perpetuating the same mistakes. At first when I offered suggestions, I was dismissed because I was new and didn’t know enough about what they did. After all, they had decades of experience and I didn’t. Which is another way of saying they didn’t trust me. It wasn’t personal. They just didn’t trust that I had the background to make suggestions.
My solution, as the new guy was to understand the process, what they were doing, and why. I found that they had evolved (or devolved if you will) over the years cutting process to cut costs. Taking the time to understand their process and their history, added credibility to my suggestions. I was able to build trust because I wasn’t just telling them all the things they were doing wrong. As a result, I was able to offer a few suggestions to improve the process, without a complete overhaul, and the typical mistakes they had been experiencing became a thing of the past.
This Week’s Challenge
Do you have the right balance of flexibility and control? Do you have a culture that allows for new ideas from outsiders? If you need help creating this balance or culture, please contact us to learn how we can help!