This editorial was originally published on Jan 6, 2011. It is being re-run as Steve is away on vacation.
I saw an article recently with a great title: Put your trust in systems, not in genius. It is a great read, and starts out by talking about the Gauls and their sacking of Rome in 4BC with a superior army. However by 200 years later, the Roman army was the strongest in the ancient world. How did this happen? Many people believe it was the creation of a set of processes, management, and training that used standards and synergies to achieve greatness.
Many companies today try to implement standards, and strong management of their staffs, but they don’t achieve greatness. Why not?
I think it is because we have failed to grasp the important fact that building a system, a set of processes and procedures and unleashing managers to enforce the rules is not the important part. The really, really important thing is using the thoughts and ideas, the brain power of the individuals to evolve and adapt the procedures to work better. We too often don’t “trust” our individual knowledge workers to make good decisions.
We have to hold people accountable for results, for building better systems, and then let them bend rules, change procedures where it counts. Most people want to do a good job. If we give them the responsibility to do so, I think most people will rise to the challenge.