HoopsMay 28, 2012
If you have to jump through hoops to accomplish something, you’ll be less likely to do it. Like friction, hoops slow you down. This doesn’t mean that hoops are bad; some things should be hard. If a company is struggling, though, it’s likely that the balance is off: things that should be easy are hard, and things that should be hard are easy.
Here are a few examples. Scheduling meetings and hiring should be hard. Meetings are the quickest way to kill productivity and momentum, yet at most companies, scheduling a meeting with as many people as you like is largely frictionless. When adding new positions and people is easy, standards drop, culture suffers, and work can become more comfortable and less productive.
On the other hand, reporting problems and asking questions should be easy. When co-workers or users bring up things that aren’t working, they are often hit with a barrage of questions: Did you check the known issues list? Which version? Did you try it on the staging server? Can you post it, email it, bring it up somewhere else in the format we require? All of these are legitimate to a certain extent, but when combined with a dismissive attitude, the person hears “Please stop bothering us.” The next time they notice something that doesn’t seem right, they’ll be less likely to bother at all.
There are good cases to make on the other side of these hoop examples. You might think hiring should be as easy as possible, so growth isn’t slowed and work made miserable while you try to convince someone far removed from your situation that you need another person. Bug reports without a minimum amount of detail and context are unhelpful and distracting.
The point is to take a fresh look at your company and what is most important to you, your co-workers, and your customers. What do you value above all else? What are your company’s core priorities? What do the people who use your product care about? Are you encouraging those things and making them as easy as possible? Are there hoops that are getting in the way?
Are the right things easy and the right things hard?