From the enterprise that adds to the one that removes

2
2006

Still in the “how to adapt the way we work to new challenges”, a frequent question is to know how to get employees involved.

If we rely on what I said here, three cases can be distinguished.

– when employees follow rules, processes.

– when employees are left alone and have to go out of the usual patterns to achieve their goals.

– when the organizaiton relies on employee’s willingness to participate.

I won’t tackle the third one here because it’s marginal in comparison with businesses main issues and needs a specific approach. But the two first still remain.

In the first case, which is about enriching an existing process, one or two rules have to be added. I specify that adding rules doesn’t necessarily mean adding an extra workload : it’s often about making public things that used to be kept for one’s use, that were only shared by two people (debrieffing a mission or a project with a superior…) because there was no relevant way to sharte them, or that were shared through irrelevant tools (email…)

In the second case, it’s the contrary. What can make people switch to an “adhoc” work mode in order to attain their assigned goals ? The answer can be found in the difference between a “push” and a “pull” mode : in one case the organization has to add pressure to move forward, in the other it has to remove constraints.

For some reasons you will easily find by yourself, no one never think about removing things while managing a transformation project. Managers, project leaders, executives have their pride, which is about what they built, not what they remove. Building, adding, shows that one is really doing somethings, it increases one’s status. Removing make people think you have no solution, you try the easy way. To some extent it’s considered as lazyness. Even if removing needs a lot of work, even if it’s more complex that adding something, organization only pay attentions to those who do, those who add. Anyone who build a huge labyrinthine system will be rewarded, not the one who removes barriers what is seen as a “non-achievement” that is not worth being on a CV.

Just imagine what this kind of attitude would look like in medicine. It would be like treating appendicitis not by removing an useless organ but by making a difficult transplantation. You can find the opposite example in the software industry where many OS or softwares are made by endlessly adding new layers on an old base no one masters anymore, because things have been added for decades without simplifying anything. Ten years later, we all can see what it means in terms of user experience, maintenance etc…

Businesses who will do things the right way will be those who will learn how to reward those who remove instead of endlessly adding useless layers that harm the organization.

Years ago I wad told that the evidence that a software has reached maturity can be seen by its designer’s ability to make it more simple and remove useless things instead of adding unneeded features, a pretence of progess that is in fact a true regression. Some industries discovered the LEAN method, knowledge industries need to learn from them.

Then, and then only, organizations will reach a kind a maturity.