I will always recommend managing the workload before the people. Give your people the training and tools to do the job. Share the big idea and give them a chance to buy into the goals. Then let them do it. It is understood that standards must be installed and met in order to ensure that your company’s promises to customers are met with reliability, but rigidity in the work can stifle innovation and positive change.
How often do we hear the child’s complaint of “if I got the right answer, why do I have to show my work?” The reason that we want to see the work is to make sure that the worker can repeat the process and continue to get the right answer (luck and skill). But once you have proven that the work derives the result reliably, does it matter if it was done differently?
There are lots of people in an organization that are happy to use the tools and do the work exactly as they are trained during orientation. There are also lots of ‘rebels’ who see opportunities in their daily work to use the tools differently or use different tools to get the job done faster or with less direct effort.
I am not suggesting that we let people run amok doing whatever they want. In our regulated industries and public companies with public scrutiny we must be able to produce evidence of the ‘work’ and explain what was done and why. What I am suggesting is that Management be macro and create an environment that allows for staff to develop methods and feel comfortable sharing their ideas and showing their work.
Finding a new way of doing things is exciting. Sharing it with Management is exciting. Having Management say “that’s all fine and good, but it’s not the right way and you need to stop” is disheartening. Having Management say “that’s interesting. it isn’t how we do it, but show me how it works and still meets all of our requirements” is innovation.
You may find there is a flaw. You may find there is an opportunity to improve existing practices. You may find the new normal.