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Don’t Let Arbitrary Orders Pull Your Business Off Course

13 Jul, 2011 By: Jim Kahrs, Prosperity Plus imageSource

Don’t Let Arbitrary Orders Pull Your Business Off Course

How often has someone in your office done something that really didn’t make sense? Their response is often, “But that’s the way I’ve (or we’ve) been doing it for years.” Or even, “I think this is a good way to do this task.” When asked “Why?” their response doesn’t show rationale or credibility. Now recall what impact these type answers had on you, your staff, and ultimately the productivity of your department. It isn’t pleasing.

Let’s take a look at this situation a little more closely, by example.

Example 1:
Your new sales reps can’t seem to get into the routine of entering all of their daily activities in your CRM system. When you investigate this you find out that they were “under the impression” that the system was only necessary for booking appointments, proposals and closed sales.

Example 2:
You put the time and money into developing a direct mail campaign, but after a few weeks you find out that nobody has actually been mailing the postcards out on a regular basis. Again you discover that your marketing coordinator thought it would be best to “see how many prospects responded” before releasing the next flight.

In each of these examples, major judgment flubs occurred that affected the health and viability of the organization. And in both cases – plus many more like them – decisions were made based on arbitrary data; that is to say orders and commands that were issued without a good, sound explanation, sounding more like an individual’s opinion.

The previous examples mean that decisions are being made without consideration of a set policy standard to follow.

As consultants, we see this occur in businesses of every shape and size. The issue here is the introduction of arbitraries. Mr. L. Ron Hubbard, administrative expert and author of the highly successful Hubbard Management System, defined the term very precisely when he said an “arbitrary” is a false order or datum entered into a situation or group. It may reveal itself as the “rule of thumb” that staff members apply to any given area in the absence of policy.

Sometimes these arbitrary decisions enter into the organization virtually undetected and without any known source or author at hand who can provide the appropriate rationale.

“Who told you sales reps didn’t have to enter daily activities in ACT”,” you ask your sales managers.

“Well, um, I thought that’s always been the case,” says the employee. “I see, but who told you that?” you ask. “Well, I think it was Joe when I first got here. Yeah, he told me there weren’t enough fields in ACT to enter that info, so he said we just skip over that.”

That’s about as blatant as an arbitrary issue can get, and typically “Joe” or other person faulted for the current employee to continue executing poor decision making, cannot be contacted on his false data because he has left the company already. Maybe Joe went to a competitor where he could spread even more false data and confusion, but regardless, the damaging “policy” was erroneously set and now his irrational strategy has been adopted as “matter of fact.” Naturally you will want to eradicate that so-called poor policy and bring the overall tone, morale and production of the team up over time.

In his experience with group dynamics, Mr. Hubbard discovered some very practical phenomena. A group, he determined, is as effective as the reasonableness of its ideas and the height of its ethic - plus its ability to confront and handle its environment.

If your team is confronted with irrational policies or behaviors without spotting them, they will go off course, not questioning why. A common example of this occurs right around this time of the year when you start to hear sales reps defend their lack of appointments and poor sales by blaming it on many things, including “a slow summer.“ Or, “Everybody’s away on vacation in July; that’s why we’re not getting any deals signed.”

This is an arbitrary piece of data that can, unfortunately, enter into a dealership to give the rep or sales team the justification necessary to make fewer calls and close fewer sales.

By the way, notice the use of the word “ethics” in this definition of group effectiveness. This concept is often misunderstood as it can be thought to mean simply not breaking the law or policy. In fact, ethics is actually measured by one’s ability to think and act according to the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics. A group in good ethics writes and follows policies that promote the maximum amount of survival for its members and its overall purpose. The absence of policy and ethics can and will open the door to non-survival practices or basic “routines” that even among the best staff members simply use because the arbitrary decision or (poor) policy appeared to be legitimate. This is not good policy at all.

Legitimate Reasons
Now there are occasions when certain arbitrary orders enter the scene for legitimate reasons. For example, an emergency situation may arise that does not allow a manager much time to explain his orders to the group. Recent floods, tornados and other major events in certain areas of the U.S.A. have forced many managers to issue orders or directions to staff that did not come with specific explanations.

In cases like this, the staff is following “event-based” instantaneous orders which are issued to protect and safeguard the group. When this happens, the staff instinctively follows the orders provided, having faith and belief in the rationale and sanity of the manager who is issuing the orders. The manager should gather his staff up immediately after the crisis or emergency ends and explain his temporary orders in order to avoid any chance of having these become standard operating procedure down the road.

Of course, the vast majority of arbitrary rules are not borne out of emergency situations. They are most often the implanted ideas from an individual who either didn’t understand how to enact an agreed-upon policy or SOP, or simply had false data that had never been cleared up earlier on.

Fortunately, there are remedies to revert to better policy making. First off, examine your team, probing for any “commands” or info that was issued without explanation, and that is counterproductive to procedural follow up. When you find these, clear them up and re-establish “best practices” and procedures until there is absolutely no doubt in your mind that everyone impacted has understood your or your managers directions and why they were issued.

Secondly, ask your staff members if there were any orders or commands given that they did not fully understand. Clear those up. Clarity is golden. You will find that with persistence and repetition, your people will be able to spot arbitrarily set policies and will question each, themselves. When they do this, you’ll have a smoother running operation, let alone profitable.

Jim Kahrs is president and lead consultant of Prosperity Plus Management Consulting, Inc., which serves the office systems channel. For more information visit www.prosperityplus.com

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