Structured Freedom

October 27, 2014 | 1993 Views

Structured Freedom

John Isbell

Director of Learning & Development | Portillos Hotdogs, Inc.

For as long as I can remember I have despised structure.  I think I’ve always been allergic to the word “structure”.  It seems so confining and, I don’t know, very…structurey.  I know that’s not a word but you know what I mean.  For some people, structure can be exactly what they need….a specific set of guidelines and systems that allow things to work properly. It directs you to where you are supposed to be and no rules are broken.

To be honest, I like it a little more relaxed.  And to be really honest, I am playing a little fast and loose with the word “relaxed”.  I like it when there is very little structure at all!  I’ve always believed that if you train people right and then trust them to do what you have trained them to do, and, oh by the way, treat them right – they’ll then do what they are supposed to do and then some.  Creativity, after all, knows no boundaries and that is really all structure is – one, big, giant, freakin’ boundary! 

So by now you may be saying to yourself, why is his title “structured freedom” then?  Well – I’m glad you asked.  That answer is pretty simple.  We live in a world that is structured, whether John Isbell likes it or not.  It’s full of regulations, rules and things we gotta do to get the job done.  And unless you are an owner, someone is telling you how things must be done.  So the point of my blog is simply this – can’t we do both?

Can we all just agree that if we get to the destination, how we drive there isn’t necessarily as important?  As long as we know the “why, then the “how” isn’t quite so urgent.  Let’s agree that people can do things differently but still get similar results.  My point is it’s ok to have general steps, but within those steps let people be creative and insert their own personalities and make it their own. 

If you are a leader – train your folks right.  Outline your structure based on the steps to get there.  Treat people right and let them be who they are.  If you are person who works for a leader – don’t forget to do every step the best way you can while keeping as much of yourself intact.  Allow your personality to shine through and be a good human.  If everyone does that – then structured freedom will become more than a catchy phrase, it will become a business norm and we will all be much happier at work!

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