Stop Prescribing The Tools That Employees Should Use

Pim de Morree
Written by Pim de Morree September 13, 2017

When organizations grow, their way of working tends to become more rigid and prescriptive. It is suddenly all about obeying rules, following standard operating procedures, and using prehistoric software packages. It should come as no surprise that all of these produce high levels of frustration.

If you read our blog regularly, you will know we often write about how to get rid of rules and inflexible procedures. The same applies to prescribing tools and software that no-one wants to use.

Some of the software that organizations use seems to have been developed in the stone age. The designs are frightening, the interfaces terribly slow, and the user experience worse than MS DOS. It’s impossible to understand why some organizations still use this rubbish.

Some of the software organizations use seem to have been developed in the stone age.

It gets even worse when you realize that employees are sometimes forced to use outdated tools. Working with ‘crap’ tools on a daily basis triggers frustration and creates inefficiencies. So, how do progressive organizations avoid these effects? And what can more traditional organizations learn from them?


Natural selection

Generally, the Bucket List organizations use solutions based on common sense. They simply limit prescribed tools/software to a minimum. And sometimes they don’t have any prescriptions whatsoever. They just let employees work with the tools they choose—open source or paid-for software.

Spotify is one such organization. With a hacker as CEO you can imagine that they don’t prescribe software their employees have to use. Take communications as an example. Employees can use email, Slack, Facebook Workplace, or whatever else they prefer.

That all sounds reasonable, but how do they make sure that everyone uses the same software? Well, they don't. They let the employees figure it out on their own. If a tool is preferred by most employees, it soon becomes the standard for everyone. But, to be clear, nothing is mandatory. It just easier to use what the majority of colleagues already have in place.

The advantage? People select the tools they prefer working with. If something better comes up, they will switch organically to this new tool. Just like many of us do in our private life.

The disadvantage? It's probably more difficult to convince the entire workplace to use the same tool when people know there is something better out there.

Develop internally

Another way that progressive organizations approach software and tooling is by simply developing it themselves. This often happens when they can’t find a tool/software that fits their situation well. They then simply decide to develop the software in house from scratch. Buurtzorg, for example, has created its own IT system to ensure it perfectly fits their unique way of working.

Buurtzorg’s software is a vital part of their operations. It allows all 14,000 self-managed nurses to share their knowledge with each other. If, for example, one team is struggling with a problem, they can access the expertise of any of the other 14,000 nurses by simply pressing a button.

The big advantage of developing tools and practices yourself is that it allows you to fully customize it to the needs of the employees. Bucket List company Incentro did the same thing when they developed their internal happiness tool called Moodforce.

In any case...

No matter how you decide on the right tools, make damn sure that those who have to work with them have the final say. So forget about asking Purchasing to find the best deal, and then trying to force it on everyone. This is a sure-fire way to drain energy out of your organization.

It often might seem like a good idea when looking at the short-term costs. But taking into account the ongoing frustration and inefficiency because of it, it’s probably not worth the initial saving.

Instead, allow employees to make those decisions themselves and you will be sure that they will take it seriously. It is not only easier, it will also save the organization lots of frustration and money!

Written by Pim de Morree
Pim de Morree
As co-founder of Corporate Rebels I focus on: researching, writing, speaking, and building our company.
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