The old saying, “my way or the highway,” might need a revision. Harvard Business School professors have found it actually should be, “my way or find a better way.”

Setting processes for workers, of course, is necessary for most businesses. What Harvard professors are asking is, “what about flexibility and the ability to improve the system?” In 2007, Harvard Business School professor Ethan S. Bernstein studied an assembly line in China. Every part of the process was measured, filmed, and watched. When management was around the employees performed exactly as they were taught. When they were left on their own, however, production increased by 10–15%. It turns out that when employees felt pressure, they stuck to the “proven” techniques, but when they were alone they could adapt and find better (and more productive) ways.

Dr. Bernstein calls the ability of an organization to focus on consistent strategies “tactical performance.” It’s a good way to measure performance. Harvard Business School claims there’s a second type of performance called “adaptive performance.” This is how effectively your organization diverges from its strategies. Organizations like the U.S. military and Starbucks are now measuring not only how well employees implement strategies but also how well they change the plan to fit their own personality and skills.

Harvard recommends three tactics that can help your employees be more nimble and creative:

  1. Identify where you need an exact process and where there’s room to improve.
  2. Implement metrics that include learning and improvement.
  3. Set goals based on better performance rather than just numbers.

Priority Staffing recommends one more tactic. Hire the right people. Even if you need part-time or temporary staff, finding creative, skilled people can give your process or project a fresh eye. If you want to talk about what new staff can do, contact us today.