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Don't hire "outside the box" thinkers and place them in a box

Euan Semple (@euan) mentioned something on Twitter a few weeks ago which I immediately saved as it resonated with this topic:

“onboarding” sounds perilously close to “waterboarding”

This is such a good way of putting it I hardly need to expand on it but I will since it converges very nicely with what this article is about.

As organisations we strive to buy the cleverest (often very expensive) tools to achieve what we need and hire the cleverest (also expensive) people we can afford to use/run them. Rarely do we hire someone without sifting through lots of potential candidates to find the “right fit”. That fit is not just about what people can do, but also about who they are, what their values are and how those are aligned with the organisation.

Then the very first thing we do with them, in almost every single enterprise (in my experience) is start a brainwashing campaign to place a box around them of processes policies and standards. With that we’ve immediately constrained their ability to positively impact the organisation and it’s even more ridiculous because it is simply unnecessary to do so as we’ve already established at interview that they don’t need to be given these constraints.

If you haven’t already established in the interviews that the individual shares the values and beliefs of the organisation and has the relevant competencies to carry out the role, you have failed to interview correctly. Heavy handed policies and long winded processes are unnecessary if you hire competent responsible adults with the skills and knowledge necessary to deliver what you need.

What’s the message from an Emergent Enterprise perspective? Well it’s all about environmental conditions. The more narrow the landscape, the more constrained the environmental conditions (in essence the smaller and tighter the “box” you put people in) the less likely your organisation is going to have to adapt, evolve, innovate and change. If you set up conditions where your processes and policies require deliverables, you’re taking away from people ability to deliver the things you do need. You’re feeding the process, not the goal.

An emergent enterprise doesn’t need to have “designed” processes and controls, they evolve naturally from focussing clever people on achieving goals (within the conditions of the environment), allowing those clever people to evolve the best way to do things and introspecting constantly to allow improvement with each “generation”. Introducing “new blood” to a team should be an opportunity for change and improvement, not an opportunity to fit that new blood into the “standard mold”.

Hire the right people, with the right skills and values and give them a clear understanding of what’s really important to achieve (the deliverables of your business), then let them achieve it instead of focusing them on how (someone else thinks) it should be achieved.

So if there’s one key environmental condition you need to adopt to become a truly emergent enterprise, its that you need to give up the idea of control as your assurance method. It doesn’t work now (you only think it does), it won’t work in the future and all it’s doing is placing a millstone around the necks of your employees and your organisation and binding them up in boxes from which they may never break free.