After returning from a lean manufacturing workshop, Alfredo decided to standardize the office layout and work flow of his ten direct reports.
Alfredo said, “I designed a plan for each office including such things as location of the computer and mouse, chairs, working papers, storage of manual files and the like.”
Alfredo did the same for the conference room; he even laid down markers for the computer and laptop placements.
An employee said, “Yes, he did that and more. Alfredo developed an inspection sheet and periodically checked to see if we were in compliance. That’s not all. In meetings, Alfredo projected a spreadsheet onto the screen with our names and scores.”
“I thought this would make us more efficient,” Alfredo said.
One employee said, “I’ didn’t mind it. I always kept a clean desk and had a space for everything.”
Another differed, “I felt fenced in. My work space may look like an anthropology dig but I know where everything is. A rigidly, ordered work space distracts me.”
As you might guess, Alfredo’s utopian fantasy produced resistance and frustration. Even worse, efficiency and teamwork plummeted.
The take-away: whenever possible, allow individuals freedom in how they work.
On the first day of class, a button-down-shirt high school teacher opened his class by announcing thirty-eight rules. Rule Number twenty-three read, “There will be a consequence for anyone who jumps out of the second-story window.”
For the first time in memory, six students were caught jumping out of the window. When asked why, one student replied, “Well, we had never thought about jumping out of the window. I guess we took it as a challenge.”
I do understand that discipline is important, and I am aware that rules are necessary for defining unacceptable behaviors and applying consequences.
I am also aware that attendance rules do not eliminate absenteeism, and social media rules do not prevent employees from wasting time on Facebook.
Some organizations have elaborate, detailed handbooks that cover everything from soup to nuts. These handbooks usually include many, sometimes confusing, disclaimers such as: this is not a contract; all policies are subject to change; and if a rule contradicts a policy, the rule will prevail.
There are no prefab options for good discipline. I say keep your handbook thin and limit it to a few, not exhaustive, rules. The best way to maintain good discipline in the workplace is to hire employees who are self-disciplined.