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“Rules and procedures may be dumb, but they spare you from thinking” quotes Barry Schwartz in his “Our Loss of Wisdom” TED talk.
Our jobs have rules and procedures, but many don’t have the over-arching goals to help us make decisions, i.e. “to think.”
You cannot create an exhaustive enough list of rules and procedures to cover every circumstance. You still have to allow staff to use their own judgment in how to do their jobs, given the situation at hand. For example, Schwartz talks about hospital janitors. He shows the long list of duties. He also shares stories of how these janitors used their wisdom to deviate from the norm.
Mike, for example, stopped mopping the floor because Mr. Jones was out of his bed getting exercise, trying to rebuild his strength, walking slowly up and down the hall. Luke washed the floor in a comatose young man’s room twice because the man’s father didn’t see Luke do it the first time and became angry.
These janitors knew that in addition to keeping the hospital clean their duty was also to the health and welfare of the patients and their families.
We call this Systems Thinking – the ability to see the entire situation, not just the rules and regulations, and make the right decision. It’s about keeping your eyes fully on the goal but being flexible in how and when you do the operational tasks.
Systems Thinking can be used at work and in your life. It can be applied at all levels – organization, department, team & individual. Systems Thinkers are strategic thinkers because they scope up & down between the big picture, the details, and the impact on others. They can anticipate challenges and don’t jump to conclusions. They also challenge their own assumptions and know how to prioritize.
If you’d like to be a Systems Thinker, contact me at Valerie.MacLeod@HainesCentre.com for coaching & training. You can also read more about Systems Thinking.
If you’d like to hear all of Schwartz’ talk: On Our Loss of Wisdom
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