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« Time to batten down the hatches or turn up the heat? Part 3 | Main | More on Strategy »

Now for something completely stupid

While recently working at a clients, one of the VPs told me about an idea he had a few years ago.  I thought it was a pretty good idea, although from what he described, I guess everyone else at the company thought it was a pretty stupid idea.  First, you need to know this guy… he is one unique (and loveable) individual.  He most certainly isn’t hardwired the way most are.  He called his idea something like “what are we doing that is stupid program?”

He explained the mental development of this program as follows:

1.                  From his experience, all employees think their employer is doing stupid things (I’d have to agree with this generalization).  This starts at the bottom of most organizations and goes right to the top.  Generally only the owner or general manager don’t think they are doing anything stupid… or they do and they’re just not talking ;-)  And of course we all KNOW suppliers are doing stupid stuff but that’s a rant for another day.  Generally stupid is very directional, only other people do and think stupid things, not me.

2.                  If an employee thinks the company is doing something stupid, there are two possible reasons:

a.       The employee simply doesn’t understand why something is done a certain way and thus considers a valid action “stupid”… or

b.      The company is truly doing something stupid.

3.                  Neither of these is acceptable for the long-term success of any organization.

So this VP implemented a one time “stupid program”… asking in each department meeting to all employees, “what are we doing that is stupid?”  The employees could answer there, or talk to the VP one-on-one, or drop their thoughts anonymously in the “stupid box”.  There would be no repercussions to any stupid thought… just a request for honesty so the organization could minimize its stupidity.

Obviously if someone thinks something is stupid and it is not, they need to better understand WHY it is being done in that manner… so we take the time to explain it to them.  Why do we have to check-in like this?  Why is this report run like that?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Addressing this version of stupid stuff greatly reduces employee frustration (who likes to knowingly do what they think is stupid stuff?) and perhaps points us to areas where we need to better explain.  Overall our organization will operate better if our employees aren’t fighting (and bitching about) things that they consider stupid when they really aren’t.  And we may even find a kernel of truth in their stupid belief and be able to tweak our policies and procedures to function even better, i.e. less stupid.

Less stupidity equals more happiness… and hopefully more success.

On the other side of the coin, perhaps we really are doing stupid things.  If so, we need to know so we can quit doing stupid stuff.  Organizations and policies and procedures evolve over time, perhaps we have conflict in how things are presently done and don’t know it.  In this case, the person who points and yells stupid is doing the organization a tremendous favor.   Remember the concept of corporate time management, we can spend our minutes driving the company forward or spend them doing stupid stuff. And also try to fight that directional aspect of stupid… don’t get defensive (and possibly stupid) just because someone thinks you are doing some stupid stuff… it is mathematically possible - although I agree, highly unlikely!  ;-)

And for those employers who think this is still the 1940’s and don’t care if employees think we’re doing stupid things… “It’s my business and I don’t give a damn what they think”… well that’s just plain stupid.

Thanks Jim, this idea certainly wasn’t stupid… now about a few others you have ;-)


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