For many things in an organization, we document our methods and processes in writing, call them standard operating procedures. SOPs codify the required behaviors in the work that we do together.
Culture is different, because it is mostly an unwritten set of rules that governs our behavior in the work that we do together.
It is always a good idea to have alignment between your standard operating procedures (written), and your culture (unwritten). Because, wherever there is a discrepancy, culture always wins.
Interesting post. I totally agree. There should be a strong alignment between unwritten and written rules. We had some experience with this subject a while ago.
We wanted to introduce SOPs (again), as SOPs can have many benefits. Like one best way of working, less variation of the output and a strong foundation for further improvements. But our greatest pitfall to achieve this wasn’t creating SOPs but making sure everybody was using them properly.
The solution we found for this problem was MAKING SOPS PART OF THE CULTURE.
What we did:
• having management say that following SOPs is mandatory
• discussing SOPs within teams weekly
• changing SOPs whenever a team member had proven a better way of working
• checking (and reporting) if SOPs were followed
• training team member based on SOPs
We can agree that an individual contributor’s performance is based on written rules (official) and unwritten rules (unofficial).
So would that negate or at least reduce the effectiveness of performance tracking by the manager? I’m talking about performance reviews and now increasingly continuous feedback systems.
My thinking is that the individual contributor can always say, “But that’s how we’ve always done things. Sure it’s not written in our manual, but I’ve seen others do it. Why are you giving me corrective feedback for this?”
Thank you for identifying a flaw in management’s oversight. Clearly, if you have seen others do it, and have done it yourself without a manager informing you that the behavior is inconsistent with written procedures, then you are not at fault. Let’s begin by discussing what you should be doing and why, and management will be responsible for making sure it is written, disseminated and implemented.