At University we had to study an apocryphal story about a group of city workers, the type who would repair roads and potholes.
Each morning they would gather to receive their assignments for the day. Then they would head to a local café and trade them with one another. During the trades they would give advice, highlight any other problems they had seen, and usually end up with work they wanted to do.
This horrified a hired management consultant. It wasted time, undermined management, and didn’t fit neatly into any system. So they redesigned it. It became digital. The café meeting was banned. Trading was stopped.
Naturally, morale and performance plummeted.
It’s really tempting to think you can design a system from the top-down that will be more efficient than what a group already has. It’s easy to spot inefficiencies all over the place. But this ignores that groups naturally find a way of working that is usually most efficient for them.
That accounts for things your system doesn’t, such as internal politics, morale, natural working flows, and time spent. That system has emerged in consideration of all of these and survived. There is no way you can compete with an emergent system like this – especially if you impose it upon the group.
A far better approach is to ask, what would help?
What would you like to try? What would make things better? Begin building here. This system won’t focus on optimizing time or money. It will also account for group dynamics and individual tastes. That’s more likely to succeed.
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