07 July 2009

Procedures Foster Fear

As I mentioned yesterday, Alex Laufer's presentation on project leadership really got me thinking. And there's one comment he made, almost as an aside, that really stuck in my head:

"Procedures foster fear."

That is, formalized procedures create an environment in which under-led and over-managed employees frequently face the fear of noncompliance. As the rule set grows and gets more complex, a person's ability to know and understand the rules decreases. And yet, the rules must be followed... thus the persistent fear of being criticized for non-compliance. [not that every set of formalized procedures leads to under-led / over-managed people... but it doesn't help].

That's why we need more punks in our organizations. Punks don't care about fitting in and following stupid rules. Punks don't mind criticism by The Man. Punks have a certain type of fearlessness. It's something the organization needs, sure, but punks don't do it for the organization. They do it for themselves and their peers... (and yes, this benefits the organization).

And cool things happen when the punks get in charge. For starters, there are fewer stupid rules, less complexity and less confusion. And that helps drive out fear, as Deming recommends.


Dick Field said...

Even us old punks still get a rush from the feeling of "oh, crap - this one could get me in trouble" (smile on lips).

The Dan Ward said...

Absolutely! There's a huge difference between thriving on fear and fearing fear.

And with all due respect to FDR, those who fear fear itself end up seeking to avoid scary situations, and that's bad...

(and yes, I know FDR was saying we should only fear being driven by fear - i.e. we shouldn't allow fear to dictate our actions)

LookingUp said...

I took a class the other day and the instructor had a saying that made me think of this post: "All models are wrong. But some are helpful."

Rules can help -- to a point. At what point do you throw the rules out the window and try to wing it? How do you know the punk's way is the right way to go?