When I was young and wild, I had beautiful hair. To be honest, I’ve never cared for hair since I was in the 9th grade I’ve been cutting it as short as possible, and I’ve been doing it long enough now that I have no idea what color my hair is anymore. So, although I do not fit the bill, the metaphor I’m about to make, still works. That metaphor is that organizations are like hair.
I know people that cut their hair every two weeks. They never change the style, they never experiment. They know what works and they are the guys that say things like, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”, “you don’t mess with the classics.” They keep tight control over their hair and never let it get out of sorts. This example shows what most leaders and managers want in their organizations. They fight to stay standardized and look to control as much of their processes as possible. There are many organizations that this works for, but this kind of leadership does not leave room for innovation and progress. You can’t adjust processes and functions when you are doing the same things.
Additionally, you can’t change your hairstyle in any meaningful way without going through that weird medium length sloppy-hair stage. You know, the stage where some will only lay flat and others will only stick straight up. This is the stage where you test your commitment to the new style. How much do you want it? If you are weak, or if you aren’t sure of what you want, you will quit and go back to what you know. This stage in the organization is where most leaders lose their nerve and think the new efforts have failed. On many occasions, this early exit is a tragic mistake which causes future efforts to die before they even happen. Leaders must accept there is going to be growing pains with progress.
Eventually, you will have to cut your hair. That doesn’t mean you have to go back to your old style, but you do need to get it back under control and set things right again. Organizationally, this means you have to pull the crazy experimenting back a bit and look at providing more stable processes. There will always be a need to experiment and take some risk, but after letting your people get wild and outside of the box, you will need to bring all that back in and get the balance back to the organization. Too much wild-wild-west type of stuff in the organization can be exhausting so you will want to keep some of the momentum going for progress, without so much risk and experimenting.
So, let your hair grow and give your people some room to try new stuff!