For all you people managers out there — here is a great article from the late Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. It summarizes Rickover’s leadership principles and starts with a somewhat trite but nonetheless incredibly important observation:
“Human experience shows that people, not organizations or management systems, get things done.”
It sounds so trivial and obvious — but the number of times I have observed leaders act as if it’s all about “the system” is staggering. Normally, it starts out well-intended enough: A leader spots room for improvements, processes which are out of whack, have grown either stale or mutated into a Winchester House of epic proportions. He then goes on to bring processes and systems to his organization.
And this is where things tend to go wrong.
Instead of taking a step back, thoroughly analyzing the challenge and opportunity at hand, and consulting his people, the system will be blindly implemented as it is “a class-leading best practice”. In the process, common sense often gets thrown out of the window, people become disenfranchised, and work will be done for the sake of “following the process.”
Here is an example: I have been part of too many organizations where the annual “restructuring” was both a recurring rite of passage, a fixture on the calendar, and a (typically) completely nonsensical endeavor. Not once in my whole career was any of those restructurings based on conversations with the people who were getting restructured… You can imagine the effectiveness of these measures. And instead of taking a step back and asking “what went wrong” and “how do we make it better”, companies instead opted for yet another restructuring.
Make no mistake — I am not saying that companies don’t need to, nor shouldn’t adapt to their changing environment (both internally and externally). But doing so by not starting from the core of every organization — people — is a grave mistake.