More on stopping with the rules

A few days ago I wrote about the lesson I learned from visiting the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel in Mumbai – we need to stop trying and create rules for employees. I quoted something I wrote after watching  Barry Schwartz’s talk at TED:

Let them to the job – people work differently. They produce the same outcomes differently. Don’t interfere. Don’t make up rules. Maybe, as Barry says, don’t even create incentives (I am not sure I totally agree with that one). Don’t try to make them do the job the way you would have done it. Give them the intellectual and mental space to work it on their own. Provide support and training but don’t create rules about the specific job. If phase one was done correctly, they will find the way to produce the outcomes you required.

Yesterday, I saw the above Jonathan Zittrain TED talk. In it he talks about how the Internet is working because total strangers act, anonymously, without getting paid for it, kindly and humanly. It is a very entertaining  talk, but one paragraph seemed really relevant to what I was trying to say about rules:

… what we see in this phenomenon is something that the crazed, late traffic engineer Hans Monderman discovered in the Netherlands, and here in South Kensington, that sometimes if you remove some of the external rules and signs and everything else, you can actually end up with a safer environment in which people can function, and one in which they are more human with each other. They’re realizing that they have to take responsibility for what they do.

Wow. Exactly.

I think it is time to go back to a simpler type of workplace. Where we trust our employees to do the right thing. Where we build infrastructure and give guidance, but we do not set up the specific rules about how to do everything. Where we let people create their own mechanisms of safety, efficiency and motivation instead of using our mechanisms of control. Where trust leads to happiness. Where we promote responsibility and accountability. Where we celebrate common sense, humanism, innovation and excellence.

No more rules!



Shorts: Lean is Good (@leanisgood) on The Jackass fallacy

Bruce Baker from the Lean is Good Blog writes about performance evaluations and how they are set up according to the dominant philosophy of motivation in America – the carrot and stick. A small excerpt:

Psychologist Harry Levinson calls this the “great jackass fallacy.”  Dr. Levinson would ask participants in his executive seminars what they thought the dominant philosophy of motivation in American was.  They would quickly agree that is was the carrot and stick: punishment and reward.  He would then ask the participants to close their eyes and imagine a carrot and stick.  He would then ask them what the central figure in that image was.  It was usually a jackass.

I love it. It is an example of another mechanism of control to deal with employee heterogeneity, that worked in the past in a world of homogeneous products and efficient production, but has lost its ability in our modern world of innovation, autonomy, mastery and purpose. It is another example of a conventional wisdom that went bad and now is preventing managers from their real work – helping people excel.

Finally, it reminded me of something I wrote not a while back:

…we need to realize that the world is changing. That some things that we thought were true are not true anymore. There is a growing tendency of people to seek out work that not only gives them money, but also gives them joy, a sense of impact and work life balance. People look to use their strengths more and attempt to reach a state of flow. And we need to understand that money creates problems, because it is easy to compare …

People are not a jackass. Let’s put the carrots and sticks (and rules) aside and actually start talking to them.