10 “Don’ts” to a Better Workplace – 5. Don’t Allow Mavericks

“That’s not our job.” “We have to find out who’s responsible!” “He can do that, he’s been here long enough and knows what he’s doing.” These and others are things we’ve likely all heard in our workplace, and too many companies downplay or ignore these situations with attitudes like “It’s just the way it’s always been done”, or “It’d be too difficult to change”. But if companies can embrace change and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary, they can improve productivity and increase employee morale. This is one in a series of 10 changes (in no particular order) that can be implemented toward achieving that goal.

5. Don’t Allow Mavericks

Of all the “Don’ts” on this list, this one likely sounds the most counter-intuitive. After all, per definition a Maverick is a “person who takes chances, departs from accepted course”, and isn’t that a core of Agile? Take chances, fail quickly, learn, and iterate?

In truth, this is another fundamental misunderstanding of Agile, and one that tends to be dangerous from inside teams rather than from out. We’ve written on the importance of process and its role in an Agile environment before – Agile, rather than eschewing process, actually relies heavily on it. It’s just that instead of considering the process to be sacrosanct, Agile relies on constant evaluation and update of the process by the team at the end of every Sprint.

And herein lies the problem. Agile encourages creative thinking and empowerment of individual team members in their work, but not in the process itself during the process. If some team members feel like they have the freedom to ignore the process and take chances, things will began to break down. Everyone, regardless of experience, title, or relationship to the project is capable of making mistakes, and the process is the best tool for preventing that. Even worse, once exceptions are made the atmosphere becomes one of “haves” and “have nots”, and a potentially political environment, instead of a focus on consistent process and completing a successful project.

Team members will have great ideas on how to do things better. Those should be encouraged and supported. However, all those ideas should be discussed, decided on, and implemented as a team as a new part of the process. In the meantime, no matter how good the idea or experienced the person, no one should be allowed to go “off the script” on their own.

Process (hopefully) is there for a reason, and no one should be above the process. Allowing people regardless of level to be exceptions to the process can become destructive to projects and organizations. Allow team members to be creative and innovative, just make sure that those great ideas are handled appropriately.

Have you seen examples of allowing maverick behavior in your company? Share your thoughts in the comments below.



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