Have you ever been frustrated by an organization’s overbearing rules, tools and processes? I think most of us can come up with quite a few examples really quickly. Things like our schools, healthcare systems, insurance companies, tax systems, frequent flier points, and governments just to name a few.
What about the opposite situation? Have you ever been frustrated by an organization’s lack of rules and processes? This might be a little tougher but I am sure we have all seen things like;
- coworkers getting random promotions or salary increases
- inconsistent service and quality at a restaurant or other business
For an extreme example, my father in law purchased a new car from a dealership that he thought he trusted only to find out later that week that the vehicle had been previously sold to someone who promptly crashed the car. The dealership bought it back, fixed it and then knowingly resold it as new to my father in law! Talk about having no rules and processes in your business (not to mention lack of integrity)!
Balancing between too few and too many processes, tools and rules is a tough thing for a leader to do. Too few processes, tools and rules leads to chaos and too many leads to paralysis. A leader’s role is to make sure that an organization has the right number of processes, rules and tools to ensure that the organization’s products and services are consistent and repeatable. A excellent, consistent and repeatable product or service is what attracts and retains customers. Customers are scared away by inconsistency and lose confidence in your organization quickly.
A number of years ago when my kids were younger, a new Dairy Queen opened up close to our home. We were hesitant to try it because we had a “favorite” DQ a little further away from us that made all of their frozen products just a little bigger and better than most DQs. However, we gave it a try a few times and were quite pleased to find that they too seemed to provide somewhat larger cones and Dilly Bars than most DQs. Over a few months that changed. Soon their Dilly Bars and cones were quite small and many times were too soft and runny to eat. We dropped that DQ very quickly and returned to the first DQ that consistently produced a quality product!
So what is the solution? What is the balance between too few and too many rules, tools and processes?
The answer is really multifaceted;
- The leader needs to build the rules, processes, and tools that will guide the organization’s employees to produce products and services that are cost effective, high quality, consistent and repeatable.
- The leader needs to constantly review the rules, processes and tools that the organization has in place and ensure that they are still relevant. This means that rules, processes and tools need to be continually updated and refined and “Stupid Rules” or outdated systems, processes and tools will be fixed or killed quickly.
- The leader needs to build a culture where employees are encouraged to continually innovate within the established rules, processes and tools to make the end product or service better while either maintaining or improving quality and repeatability. This is key to success. If the employees are encouraged to always innovate and improve, the leader will be tapping into the collective intelligence of his staff and engaging them in the success of the organization.
Spend some time this week and review your organization’s rules, processes and tools. Do you have the proper balance? Are your employees providing continuous improvement ideas? Do you have a system in place to capture, review, approve and implement these ideas? Are your employees productively engaged in the continuous improvement culture?