Ask your newest hire to be on guard for this expression: “I was told…” – this expression is POISON for your business!
It’s relatively harmless, right? Someone told you how “we do it” – But it exemplifies what’s wrong with nearly 100% of businesses of all sizes. People do things without questioning why. And they have to remember certain rules because the design of the solution isn’t sophisticated enough.
New employee: “how do we do our messengering?”Coworker: “I was told we call _____”
New employee (inner voice) : “hmm, that’s not intuitive, I guess I’ll have to remember that”
And therein lies the problem. In some cases the coworker has it wrong. But now two people have it wrong. Here’s why:
the coworker was taught by someone who also learned it wrong
the coworker didn’t feel it was their place to question it
the new employee doesn’t feel it’s their place to question it
“WHOA this is silly, why are we doing this? Do I really need to remember this?!!!”
It’s very unusual that your newest employees are the ones in the best position to change things. They haven’t already tacitly accepted all of the ingrained methods and processes. Everything is new. They are the ones you want to challenge to speak up and question things. What a bold and dangerous statement for a new employee, right? Boy, would some of us employers love to have an employee like that.
And what’s the worst that happens if they question it and get their question answered? What are the possible reactions the new employee can have?
“Oh, ok, that makes sense.”
“Then let’s stop doing that if no one is using it”
“I think that’s complicated. I’d like to suggest we simplify it so I don’t have to train a new employee the same way you just had to clarify it for me”
These are the changes and adjustments that agile businesses make so that new, disruptive businesses can’t come by and completely destroy them. How long did “no late fees” take to arrive in the video rental business? Or free shipping? Or self check-out in a supermarket? Those could have come sooner if more people said “wait, but why are we doing that, even if you WERE told that we always do it this way?”
Be Netflix, not Blockbuster. If you find yourself saying “I was told” stop and ask if that’s a reason to keep doing it. And if someone says it to you, stop them. And when you ask the rest of your team “so you mean to tell me NO ONE knows why we do this” and everyone is silent, you’ll start streamlining.
For more tips on how to effectively fight about what needs to be changed, check out this book: