Why is it

I came across this Henry Ford quote again recently and it made me smile.

It reminds me of the times I’ve asked or paid someone else to do a specific job for me and then been really annoyed (rather than grateful) when they pointed out something I hadn’t noticed or suggested it might be done differently for a better result.

I’ve seen it happen at work, especially, when there is a set way of doing things and people are told, more or less: “Just do what I’ve asked, don’t think about it, just do it”.

Whilst there have often been good reasons for doing things a certain way in the past, some of which may very well still apply, this approach leaves no room for autonomy, improvement or innovation and, in the process, can squash the soul of the person being ‘told’.

See my previous blog on the psychology of unwritten rules for a bit more on this in terms of how we often maintain the status quo despite the fact that some of our thinking, rules, processes and procedures may be out of date.

Standardisation has its strengths and benefits, for sure, and is necessary in much of what we do to ensure consistency, efficiency, cost control and safety – but we need to allow and encourage curiosity, too, otherwise we will miss some great opportunities to improve.

It’s often the people actually doing the jobs that see most clearly what isn’t being done, what no longer needs doing and what could be done better or differently.

Most recruitment processes look for, and at, the ‘whole person’ but, so often, when those people actually come on board they discover that any aspects of them that that don’t immediately ‘fit’ are ignored or discouraged for fear that they will rock the boat.

I know it can be hard to balance the business books, especially these days, but some jobs seem almost to have been designed or to have developed in a way so as to become truly ‘soul-destroying’, treating people more like the robots or machines that they fear will one day replace them entirely.

Whether or not you support or agree with the findings in Matthew Taylor’s employment review which has been in the UK news a lot this week, I think it’s hard to disagree with what he says about it:

“In the end even if most of what we set out never happens,

if the idea of good work that is fair and decent

and makes people feel that they are not just cogs in a machine

becomes part of the political conversation,

then I feel we’ve done something important.”