I once worked for a man that had a defined process for everything. He tracked everything with a spreadsheet. Everyone was expected to follow all of his processes to the letter. People became so bogged down following process that they got little else done.
It was also a drain on morale. They did so much mindless administrative work that their brains never really got a chance to create anything meaningful.
At another time in my career, I had another boss who went to the other extreme. He didn’t believe in process at all. He thought that if we establish core principles, people should be enabled to make decisions on their own.
The problem was that nobody knew what anyone else was doing. Duplicate tasks would be completed by two people because neither one knew the other was working on it. Some tasks fell through the cracks because everyone assumed someone else was doing it.
Consistency is important for an organization as well as individuals. Consistency is not necessarily rigidity. Everyone needs to be flexible for the many situations that they run into on a daily basis. So where is that balanced area between not-too-rigid and not-too-loose?
Defined processes: Some people cringe when the word “process” is mentioned. Others break out in hives if a process is not well defined. An organization needs to define basic procedures to define roles and responsibilities to make sure the right people do the right things. There should be enough flexibility to allow people to apply their own creativity.
It also depends on the application. There are areas such as establishing IT Security where a lot of rigidity may be necessary. In other areas, establish the necessary parameters and let the team determine the rest.
Which Bob will show up: It is important as an individual to have a consistent approach to people from day to day. Some people allow their emotions to control their behavior. If there is a lot on your mind or you are under a lot of pressure, some form of release has to be in place. It is important for people to expect similar behavior from you on a consistent basis.
Good days and bad days: That being said, consistency does not imply that you are a robot. Everybody has good days and bad days. The goal isn’t to be perfect. But the variation in mood should not swing too far in either direction. When there are swings, it should occur on an infrequent basis.
Slow and steady wins the race: Some people, especially when they start a new job or responsibility, become gung ho to change the world in a short period of time. They work long hours and they expect others to do the same.
But that’s an excellent recipe for burning out. Someone following that approach will make some great gains initially. A point comes when they’ve been so hyper-focused on one thing that they have had enough. Others working with them have given up and they find they are now working on their own.
Working toward your goals on a consistent trajectory, having success on a consistent basis is still the best way to succeed. Taking breaks and allowing the work to stay fresh allows you to apply your focus and your creativity in more positive ways.
We all know people who are too rigid in their approach. We probably also know people who meander through their days letting life happen to them. Neither is necessarily wrong. But when you work with and manage people in the business world on a daily basis, it is critical to have some form of consistent approach. People like to know what to expect and when to expect it.
How consistent are you in your work?
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
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