Article: Always be in beta mindset to forge ahead in uncertain environment

#Life@Work

Always be in beta mindset to forge ahead in uncertain environment

As HR professionals, we are often reminded to think twice before acting, for that might set precedence. In todays times, when agility and speed are valued, how does one act with urgency without the worry of setting precedence that weighs us down?
Always be in beta mindset to forge ahead in uncertain environment

Three monkeys are taken inside a cage and a bunch of bananas are placed overhead the third monkey. As third monkey reaches for the bunch and takes one, the other two are splashed with water. Unbeknown, the third monkey continues to enjoy his treat and reaches for another banana when the other two are sprayed again. By the time the third monkey has eaten a few of the bananas, the other two have been splashed aplenty and not eaten any of the bananas. At this point, a scientist steps in and replaces the third monkey with a new monkey. This monkey notices the bananas too and as he stretches out his arm, he is attacked by the other two monkeys. The new monkey doesn’t quite understand why, but quickly stops going after the bananas. Some time passes, and the scientist comes back and takes one of the drenched monkeys and replaces him. This new monkey again goes for the bananas and the other two attack him. Then the scientist replaces the third of the original monkeys, with a new one. This new monkey is immediately attacked and has no idea why. 

Sounds familiar? As HR professionals, we are often reminded to think twice before acting, for that might set precedence. And once established, it will have to be executed repeatedly like the bots that are about to take over anyway. 

  • Don’t waive notice period as that raises expectations with others.

  • We cannot promote this person out of cycle for others will use that as precedence.

  • We cannot withdraw benefits and therefore, best not to offer them in the first place.

  • If we accommodated one individual’s need to work remotely today, how will we deny that for others in the future?

And so, on and so forth! 

I believe there are 2 issues at play — firstly, it is easy to take cover behind a policy (we don’t do this at ABC company) than to have an unpleasant conversation as to why you turned down the request (despite precedence to the contrary). This is like the raise conversation one has with their employees – I am sorry, but HR gave us only X percent budget. Come on, really? Secondly, getting it right first time and taking people along requires one to overcome organizational friction. We have all met at least 1 colleague who believes our idea will not work and regretfully, like the United Nations, has a veto. In today’s times, when agility and speed are valued, how does one act with urgency without the worry of setting precedence that weigh us down?

Always be in Beta: It is common practice for software teams to release a Beta version of their product ahead of full release. This allows them to make tweaks basis the feedback and iterate the product till perfection. The beauty of software or work released in Beta lies in the expectations we have from it — work often, address predominant use cases, ok to retire some of the features in future iterations. What if we applied similar principles in the field of HR i.e. thinking like work in progress vs. getting it right first time? Think about policies designed to be on probation and not just people — modified or even retired basis the feedback. Or organization structures that collapse or expand basis what is appropriate for that function/region/business unit vs. one size fits all? Similarly, how about running trials on different versions of the policy/system in parallel before finalizing one? I believe “Always be in Beta” is a mindset that enables one to forge ahead in uncertain and volatile environment that is perhaps the only constant today.

The beauty of software or work released in Beta lies in the expectations we have from it — work often, address predominant use cases, ok to retire some of the features in future iterations

Buy 1, Get 1. Only for today: Do you know that retail sales during promotional period are 2-20x of regular periods. And the same item, post promotional period, reverts to original price as does the sales volume, or the fact that a car is cheaper towards the end of the year than in the beginning of a year? How about designing new policies or experimenting with existing ones for limited periods? For example, when recruiting is at peak, how about designing referral programs that reward successful referrals 1.5-2x regular incentives before reverting to the norm,  or adjusting office timings at certain time of the year (e.g. monsoons, school holidays) to help reduce commute time? In fact, Friday casuals is an example of this and trying something on Monday’s to beat the blues may go a long way. 

Nurture beginnerís mind: How many times have we heard the office gospel: “Since it did not work (or did work) there, it will not work here”, or that “Since, it was unsuccessful previously, even speaking of it will bring bad luck”. A wise person once commented, “Experience is a double-edged sword while a beginner sees infinite possibilities”. Instead of understanding why it did/will/may NOT work, how about thinking, under what conditions, it might work and how can we create more of those situations? For example, how about we allow individuals to donate their holidays to a colleague as opposed to losing them or letting employees design their own compensation structures instead of enforcing one size that fits all. 

Five frogs are sitting on a log and 4 decide to jump off. How many are left? Hint, it is not 1. 

Knowing when to act and acting are not the same thing. And when the act does not lead to expected results, questioning underlying assumptions rather than the individual will go a long way in unlocking that mystery. Someone once commented, “At some point in time, that decision made sense.” Well, don’t just question the decision, but also the time. 

Topics: Life @ Work

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