Years ago, I took a job at a Fortune 500 company that was, at the time, a darling of the press.
When I showed up for my first day, I found I was missing some basic things that I needed to be productive: for example, a computer.
What did this company do?
They built computers.
Where did they do this? Right down the street.
I was a little surprised and a lot intrigued. Seriously?
Come to find out, I wasn’t the only one.
Besides missing computers, many new employees showed up to find some combination of no workspace, no desk, no chair, and no network connection…. You name it.
To give you an idea about how crazy this was, the admins routinely begged the IT folks to hook new people up to the network as a personal favor.
Why? Because it was nobody’s job to connect new people.
Twenty new employees showed up each week at that company’s global HQ. And every week, they just weren’t ready. It was taking days and even weeks sometimes to organize space, furniture, equipment, and connections for new people.
The executives who worked there regularly touted their superiority over other companies that made less cool computers. They prided themselves on “not having processes.” Processes, they felt, would ruin things.
Of course, you can have processes that tie you into knots—that keep you from getting things done. And those are just as bad.
What these folks didn’t realize was that they had processes all along. They were just inefficient, ineffective, inconsistent, “make it up as you go” processes.
They were afraid that intentionally instilling processes would hurt their creativity. But what really happened was, people spent their creative energies on what should have been routine stuff.
Guess what? They are out of business now.
It’s not that surprising, and I’m sure the antipathy toward processes was only one of the factors. But I’m also sure that it was a significant force in their demise.
The moral of this story: for routine stuff—figure it out once, repeat many times. Improve as necessary.
Don’t be afraid of processes altogether. Instead, avoid irrational, irrelevant processes that are inefficient or ineffective.
Create helpful ways to do routine things so we can use our creative energy for the products and services that we bring to market. Let’s use our best thinking for the things that we are uniquely suited to provide, and let’s avoid spending any more time than absolutely necessary on routine stuff that should just get handled.