I remember growing up, watching my mother put recipes together. She was meticulous in making sure that her measurements were exact. And the meals she prepared were predictably consistent.
A reliance on process
When I ventured out on my own as an adult, I followed the same process. I was careful to measure things out to precision. Over time I learned that there were some things that needed to be followed. For instance if I was baking, things like baking soda and yeast should be precise.
If I was making a marinade however, I learned that I can increase the amount of garlic, salt or other ingredients to customize it to my tastes.
I’ve seen the same reliance on process with friends and acquaintances over the years. I have friends who will follow directions and rules religiously. It can be a challenge to be a passenger in their car if they’re driving with a GPS. That woman inside the GPS becomes the traffic deity to be followed regardless of what better judgment comes from the passenger seat. I’ve lost many a battle with that robot-voiced woman trying to provide a shorter route.
In the work world, we live among a glut of policies and procedures. Like my mother and some of my friends, we’ve become conditioned, maybe even addicted, to a reliance on process.
Process is good in the right place. We need to have rules and laws to keep society in line. The law against murder is a good example. I like that one. I wish more people followed it, in fact.
But too much process can stifle creativity. Defined processes give managers a feeling like they’ve done their job and they give followers something to follow which gives them a warm and fuzzy feeling, not to mention a sense of accomplishment.
Over-defined processes turn normally-thinking people into good soldiers. “No need to take a risk, I’m just following procedure.”
If we removed procedures from much of our environment, people would be confused…for a while. We’ve conditioned them since kindergarten not to think for themselves so that they won’t know what to do.
Think for yourself and solve the problem
But given the chance, we could create a world where people stop following SOP and actually get creative about solving a problem or completing a task.
That may seem like anarchy to many, but I think it would be a happy chaos.
As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to see if we can add ‘Elimination of Process’ to our company’s procedures manuals.
Have you ever wished you had thought a problem out rather than following procedure?
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As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.