Modern society is full of individuals privately disliking what they do every day. They have learned to tolerate it, but it has gone so far from what they naturally feel they would like to do, that they feel stuck.
What’s gone wrong, that we are capable of so much technologically, and yet give ourselves a daily menu of activities that we don’t get on with? OK, some activities may be forced upon us by circumstance; but even so, a lot are not, and even circumstances are a matter of interpretation.
A useful concept in this regard is ‘tailored process’. It is the idea that, whatever we do, we can negotiate with life to make the process suit us, and therefore to bring out the best in ourselves.
Think of a Formula 1 driver. Their car, the whole process of a race even, is tailored to their own personality and character. The car is adjusted to suit their size and shape, and tools are adjusted to suit their abilities. They are given quiet time when they need it, and information when they need it. Communication is matched to their style. They are listened to by their team, and their feedback is incorporated into future process.
Tailored process is an adult version of sensitive parenting. It represents the ability to take into account, and to treat as central, the interests and experience of the person being cared for. It is the ability to adjust necessary processes so that they fit the happiness of the person being asked to do them.
TAILORED PROCESS IN EMPLOYMENT
Organisations still behave, in employment terms, like employee factories. Staff are expected to adjust to the prevailing environment in the company, and perform a standardised job description. Any complaints, and the first port of call is to try to adjust the member of staff.
The only jobs where this is not true, are where an ‘extra-valuable’ person has been recruited. Thus, a major league footballer will receive time, money and attention to make sure that everything they do is comfortable for them, and suits their personality, character and key skills. Occasionally, a disabled person will receive similar treatment, whereby an organisation will adapt its processes to provide assistance. But it is not quite the same as the ‘extra-valuable’ person… the tennis star, the ace footballer, the celebrated TV presenter.
In general, the many have to adjust, and only the few have processes adjusted for them.
THE ILLOGICAL RESULT OF STANDARD PROCESS
Standard processes seem such a good idea. Everyone is on the same page. Everything seems so fair.
And yet, we are all intensely different, and we know it. Depressed people turn up to a workplace that has no idea how to adjust to their depression; anxious people come to an employment that requires them to adapt themselves to a so-called normal environment. At the extremes, those who prefer to work differently, or whose mental health requires a different treatment, end up leaving traditional work to do their own thing. Our intense differences do not find their enabling counterpart in business, and so we move away.
As a result, businesses and other organisations lose the benefits that individuals can bring. You wouldn’t buy a cat and feed it fish food. You wouldn’t buy a pet spider and take it for a walk on a lead. And yet we take on very individual people (as humans are), and apply standardised processes that don’t suit most of them.
Employees get ill or leave. Continuity suffers. People get unhappy. And all for the lack of an ability to adjust key elements of the workplace process to allow for individuality.
AN EXERCISE: TAILORING PROCESS
Think of something you do regularly. It could be cleaning your teeth, watching TV, driving… anything really, as long as it is a clearly-defined process you can work on.
Then think of THREE THINGS you could do to make that process easier or happier for you. Run through the process with yourself. Go through the motions, and commentate to yourself about how you are feeling, and what you are doing. Let this analysis give you ideas as to how you could improve the experience. For a while, treat yourself like a football superstar. What could you do to tailor this standard activity to who you are as a person? Be creative.
Perhaps give yourself a small budget for improvements. Make those three improvements you have identified. Then ask yourself whether they have worked, whether you feel a bit more happiness in the activity.
A SECOND EXERCISE: TAILORING PROCESS FOR OTHERS
Then, as a second stage, perhaps turn the focus to someone over whom you have control. It could be your child, your friend, your employee.
But this time, don’t ask yourself, ask THEM, for three things you could do to make their life with you happier. Then, let them use the information to tailor THEIR process. All you need to give them is your listening ear, and resources to make the changes.
If you are like most people, then you will do the first exercise above, and then get bored with the second exercise. For some strange reason, we seem to find our own comfort and happiness more attractive than other peoples’! Remarkable!
But this is the foundation of tailored process: paying attention to individuals, and giving them the freedom and resources to make things better for them. Really, it is a focused, analytical version of caring.
Professional footballers get a lot of attention, and a lot of care is taken to tailor the processes they work with, and make sure they are happy in their job.
But it is only a few people who get such treatment. The rest of us are required to adapt to standard processes. As a result, we get sick, we get unhappy, we leave our jobs.
As an experiment, try to analyse something you regularly do; try to find three improvements which would make the activity much happier and easier for you.
Then, as a selfless challenge, do the same thing, but for someone else, perhaps an employee, friend, or family member. Ask them to identify improvements which would make life with you much easier for them. And then, having listened, provide some resources to make it happen.
Modern commerce is often about ‘standard process’: telling others what to do, and then making efficiencies. A bit like slavery, but with a better name.
Tailored process is all about listening, and then giving resources. A bit like freedom, and just as nice.