Humans are messy creatures. We create piles of work that needs to be done, piles of work that's already done, and piles of work that we never want to do. Our work spaces are cluttered, ineffective, and downright ... comfortable. Let's face it, we like to be surrounded by a little disorder once in a while; it feels natural.
At the same time, we still want business to be orderly and organized. While I might be able to understand the intricate system of colored arrows on my calendar, I doubt Paul down the hall could even figure out what they refer to, let alone what they mean. To combat this, we develop systems. Ordered plans for putting down information in one particular structure or another. It makes things passing work from person to person far easier if we use the same system, so we take time to train newcomers in our "way of making the world work."
This wonderful bureaucratic method we build keeps things afloat. New employees are quickly trained on our system and plugged like cogs into the corporate machine in the most efficient (and profitable) locale available. Our system is so well-refined from years of use and generations of employees that we can take any laymen and make them an expert in no time!
... careful ...
Having systems in place to train newcomers and standardize work output is fine, but not if it comes at the cost of the organization's mission. Take the case of Bill, for example:
Bill wanted to re-join a volunteer organization after a 10-year absence. He had kept up on all of his skills in the off-time, and had even improved several of them. Though not actively involved with the organization, some of the work he did was of such a high quality it put the organization's work to shame.
One day, he asked to come back into the fold ... and was told "no." In order to become a skills instructor, he would have to attend several hours of mandatory training and take several additional hours of skills instruction to be considered an "expert." After a few weeks of taking rudimentary skills courses, Bill decided to bid the organization good bye.
Why? He was already a proven expert in the field with years of experience and skills beyond even the most qualified instructors still with the organization. Still, he was required to follow through with the same "mandatory" beginner's courses every laymen has to attend.
What happened in the end? Sticking to a well-established, black-and-white bureaucracy cost this particular organization a wealth of information. Bill was a skilled craftsman, leader, and mentor ... and his skills in this industry went untapped because of a "system" focused not on acquiring natural talent, but on training the unskilled to mimic that talent.
Many institutions go through this. You build up a system of controls to protect your brand - newcomers need to be properly trained before they can represent the firm, right? At the same time, by holding to tightly to these systems, we all risk alienating the people the systems were built for in the first place. Everyone is unique, with individual talents, skills, abilities, and needs. Forcing everyone to fit the same form creates the very real risk of abandoning the path of your firm's growth and walking one of stuffy stagnation.