Unpredictability evaporates loyalty
A four lane highway at 10 p.m. on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. A flash in front of the headlights, an impact and then tires crushing bones. My son steered the van onto the roadway shoulder and collapsed in tears. Have you been in a vehicle that hit a deer? That was three years ago. My son and I are still spooked and use predictability to avoid deer.
We know from experience and statistics when deer are likely to be near roadways. Road signs caution motorists about likely deer crossings even when we’re on unfamiliar roads. There’s change. With few predators, the deer increase. Stands of trees grow larger creating more cover for deer. We don’t like it but understand it. It’s predictable.
The workplace is like that. There’s change.
We have experience. Someone puts up road signs. To succeed, we must be able to predict the behavior of those around us. And we must be predictable to our coworkers.
But what if someone unloads train cars of rhinoceros and they come on the road at midday? We had no warning. How could we have imagined or predicted that? And then there are bears at evening rush hour. The unknowns are increasing. We humans like some excitement…but this is ridiculous.
It’s like the workplace with switching priorities, no signs, a lack of communication and undefined goals. When the rhinos and bears come out, we concentrate on protecting ourselves or leave to find a more predictable place.
I dreamed up the rhinos and bears scenario after reading 'Do Lunch or Be Lunch: the Power of Predictability in Creating Your Future' by Howard Stevenson, now professor emeritus at Harvard Business School.
Managers and organizations enhance their effectiveness by being more predictable.
Stevenson says, “People who manage others have a special obligation to act honestly, humanely and effectively—and that means acting predictably towards others. Individuals have control of their futures and organizations succeed. People are unwilling to embark on a journey when they don’t know where they are going or how they’ll get there. The company that thrives on unpredictability is inhumane and incompetent.”
He writes that companies invent their future by
• Building a strong culture where they imagine the future, making it believable to others and engaging the workers in the process,
• Staying attuned to the customers,
• Building technological expertise always looking ahead,
• Creating clear performance guidelines so people know what they’re rewarded for and what they’re punished for and
• Promoting employee involvement and empowerment.
I conclude it means buy-in, excellent communication, respect for and empowerment of people and civility in the workplace. It’s making a prediction for a better company or organization come true.