Every once in a while, a news story crosses my computer screen that makes me simultaneously cringe and chuckle. For example, New York police ticketed an illegally parked van... numerous times... only to later discover there was a corpse inside. Um... no wonder he wasn't motivated to move his vehicle.
That happens a lot in corporate America. We create rules and regulations and penalties and punishments, but rarely do we look inside the van to figure out what is the root cause of the problem. We address the outputs we observe. We don't stop and ask WHY the van is illegally parked. Obviously, not one single ticket issued changed the fact the driver was dead.
This is a systems thinking issue. Instead of addressing the inputs to the system, we keep trying to change the outputs by repeating the same ill-conceived feedback which falls on deaf (or dead) ears. I wonder how many cops even thought about LOOKING INSIDE the van. (Can I hear a rousing chorus of "D'OH"?)
I know a lot of corporate employees who are nervous because there is not enough work to do to keep them looking busy. I double dog dare them to go through their employee handbook and look for policies which are the equivalent of ticketing a corpse-driven van. How do you find a corpse-targeted policy? Here are a few pointers:
- Does it show disrespect or endanger employees or customers?
- Does it ignore the subject matter experts who know the business best?
- Does it demonstrate a laziness with respect to making an effort to invest in building people?
- Does it fail the "rational human thought process" test?
- Will it fail to change anybody's behavior? Will those the policy is imposed upon simply find a workaround or just ignore it?
Once you find these corpse policies, create an intelligent business case for changing them, along with new solutions, and an implementation plan that will get management's attention (i.e., dollars and cents).