Put your sacred cows out to pasture

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Sometimes you need to hire a defiant outsider and hand that person a mandate to turn things upside down.

How do you define “sometimes”? When those mavericks have skills your organization desperately needs. They can act as powerful “deviants.” They’ll challenge the traditionalists.

But be forewarned: In doing this, they’ll also scare the heck out of your veterans. Those managers might be more open to change if they’ve just experienced a conspicuous and costly failure.

Example: A big company hired an IT manager to oversee the installation of a database system integrating finance, sales, human resources and other functions. The company leaders hired the outsider because they’d failed miserably trying to install related software a few years back.

With a small team, this outsider implemented a series of projects on time and under budget. And he ruffled a few feathers. While employees confirmed that the new systems worked well and the transitions went smoothly, the outside manager said the conversions ran smoothly only because his team could ignore and defy ingrained procedures.

“Every single thing we do on a daily basis goes against every standard policy and procedure of this organization,” he said, adding that the firm’s old-timers were still trying to roll back the changes, despite their success.

Lesson: Out of desperation, leaders may have to bring in “deviants” with the authority to overthrow the status quo.

—Adapted from Weird Ideas That Work, Robert Sutton, Free Press.

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