“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.”— Albert Einstein

Do Your Written Practices Match How People Do the Work?

Sometimes I feel bad for the newest members of an organization. They keep bumping into the unwritten rules. They often feel flabbergasted because the written procedures do not match how things are actually done.

There can be procedures followed by the whole organization but which are unknowable to the new person until they run into an invisible wall. The other people in the organization say, “Oh, you didn’t know about that wall? It seems pretty obvious to the rest of us.”

I might feel bad for them, but I am always happy to see what they uncover. They are uncovering treasures for others in the organization to contemplate. Sometimes the new people point out that the organization is doing a thing out of habit that is no longer useful. Sometimes they point out obvious flaws in the written methods that must be updated. Sometimes it is discovered that what people are doing would be better done by following the documentation.

The new people will soon know where the invisible walls are, and the opportunity to learn will be lost.  So as new people navigate the organization, everyone should pay attention. Listen for toe-stubbing and running-into-walls and learn from what they see.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Photo by Mulyadi on Unsplash

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