Friday, July 10, 2009

When a team member dislikes process!

Got this query from a manager.

“I work at a large multinational where process plays a vital role in getting things done on a daily basis. I manage a team of over 20 people and so process becomes even more critical for the team to perform as a cohesive unit. We recently hired a candidate from a start-up and are finding it difficult to get him to follow process. I understand that a start-up does give a lot of freedom at work, but our current set up does not allow for that kind of culture. I have tried to understand his need for freedom to a large extent and indeed have given him enough time to settle down. But now I’m finding it difficult to manage him. How do I get him to follow process?”

Well, it’s a typical case of a person who has moved from a start-up to a large organization. While your need for process is to ensure things are done in timely manner, that every process could be seen as a roadblock to creativity by the new hire! You mention that he is a new hire. So here’s a question that I have for you: Did you set the right expectations during the hiring process? The reason I ask is that most often managers feel that they have found the right candidate and end up promising the world to them. Just to get them onboard! It’s also one of the primary reasons that managers find it tough to manage new hires or even existing employees. They find it hard to balance between future promises and current reality.

If you believe that you’ve set the right expectations and have not made promises which you can’t keep (you shouldn't be making one!), then it’s time to sit-down and have that discussion with the new hire (let’s call him Joe). Yes, it’s good that you have understood Joe’s need for freedom, but that need for freedom shouldn’t affect the remaining people on the team. It’s something that can be avoided. Joe could just be resisting process because he has never tried or followed one till date. He could have been the only one working on a certain project. More like a one-person team. So I wouldn’t dismiss it off saying its dislike for process. It could just be a basic lack of understanding for the need to have one. As a manager, that understanding should come from you. So how do you do that? You could get him to do an activity in a way which he feels works best. While you want to ensure that you don’t belittle his efforts to get the desired outcome, you could define that same activity in a process oriented way. An approach that helps him save a lot of time & effort! It’s a lot easier to explain process while on the job.

Another common trait I’ve observed is that start-up guys tend to be very action-oriented. For them, results matter most and not really how they achieve it? They don’t have the liberty of time & money to sit down and analyze their approach. So projecting the process as a tool that would help to get things done, is another way of get his attention. He just needs to see results that come out from following process. All this is possible to a certain extent, after which process isn’t an option. He needs to believe that you have process to make life at work a lot simpler and also to improve performances. That’s not going to happen overnight. Have patience.

While you do talk to Joe, just ensure that you don’t kill his urge to question processes. He’s the kind of guy who’ll help you tweak that process, optimize it or even introduce new ones! Really. I’ve seen it happen. After all, process is one way to ensure there is some order to chaos! Nothing like getting one from a person known to have worked in an adhoc/chaotic workplace. Right?

Now, if you have not made the right choice in your hiring process. You are then trying your very best to fit
square pegs into round holes! Hope you are not in this category.