Apparently, the ‘correct’ way to make a cup of tea is set out in a 5 000-word report by the British Standards Institution. Of course this is ludicrous for all those outside of Britain itself, where correct tea making, is viewed on a par with national security.
It does of course provide us with further reason (beyond those more obvious ones such as the state of their cricket and football) to scoff at the Brits and the quirkiness of their ways. But before we do so, I want to suggest that many organisations – and maybe even yours, have unwittingly succumbed to their own ‘tea trap’.
The ‘tea trap’ is making something inherently simple, overtly complex. It can be seen in multiple ways within our organisations: from how we measure to how we reward; from how we regulate internal behaviour to how we design external connection. Many organisations have a process for pretty much anything and everything and the problem is, many of these processes go unexamined, untested and are allowed to exist way beyond their usefulness. They are used to prevent and restrict common sense, viable short cuts and are used to police innovative actions and behaviour. Processes that were originally designed to be helpful prove to be anything but helpful.
I am sure that the originators of the ‘correct tea report’ set out with the best intention in the world; they wanted to ensure safety, quality and standards. They thought they were being helpful, and maybe to a point they were. However, such over-elaboration now seems foolhardy and a waste of time, effort and paper. But before we deride these earnest tea-drinkers further, let us pause to consider where we might be guilty of exactly the same within our own organisations.
So, as you brew that welcome cup of tea, let me ask you just one simple question: exactly what processes should you consider shredding?