In last week’s blog I talked about the “friction” that occurs when you bring together a group of intelligent, passionate people and attempt to engage them around an idea, opportunity or challenge. The “why” questions that begin to surface prompt different – intelligent and passionate – answers. And, it is those answers, and the defense of them, that create friction. This week we’ll dive a little deeper into the challenge of engaging people through the effective management of this interpersonal friction.
It’s easy to divide people into groups. Sometimes those groupings have merit, sometimes not. The attempt to group always results in simplifications. But, if carefully considered, those simplifications can have value.
Think of your entire population of intelligent, passionate team members as fundamentally belonging to one of two groups. (Now, in reality, some people move between the groups, depending on a given situation, but most have a strong predisposition to one or the other).
The groups are the “rule-makers” and the “rule-breakers”. Their names describe, quite well, their perspectives. Rule makers like, well, “rules”. They like to create, study, follow and – if allowed – enforce rules. Rules come in many forms: policies, procedures, strategy, goals, mission, vision, values – anything that is established. Rule makers believe that organizational success is the product of making, following and enforcing the rules. Rule makers are important to organizational success in at least two ways.
Rule makers stabilize an organization and its performance. They make sure that the underpinnings of decisions remain constant or near constant day to day and month after month. Rule makers also, growing out of this commitment to stability, make an organization scalable. Once the rules are in place and they are being followed, growth, from a rule maker’s perspective, is just math. If we know how to run our organization successfully at level “x” and we want growth equal to “3x” then just take the established systems, policies, approaches, etc. and multiply by 3.
Rule breakers hate consistency. They fundamentally, if not actually, hate rules. They don’t want things to be stable and predictable. They thrive on chaos and growth. They want to change the rules, break the rules, bend the rules – anything but follow them. Rule breakers are as essential to organizational success as rule makers. Rule breakers innovate and improve. They take everything that’s working, break it and find new, leading edge ways to do that thing better. Without rule breakers you can scale an organization but you run a risk that what you’re scaling no longer matters – to the market, the customer, the shareholder or the team – because everything around that unchanging predictable – has changed.
The friction between rule makers and rule breakers can destroy an organization or… make it a phenomenal success. Managing the friction and keeping both groups engaged is the key. The yin and the yang of making and breaking keeps stability and chaos, scalability and innovation in play. The organization which can master the maker/breaker challenge, driving high engagement across and between both dynamics, is the power house performer. The challenge is – how do I manage maker/breaker friction? The answer, as well as the answer to how to keep intelligent and passionate people from both camps fully engaged, in next week’s blog.