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.
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!