This TED talk from Heiko Fischer shows us how to question many of the assumptions made when running corporations. Whether thinking about burgers or burritos, the talk covers the many ways in which our organizations start to operate in ways that really don’t make sense for their members, and create all kinds of communication, infrastructure, and even hiring problems.
Although corporations are legal entities, they’re not people, and don’t have the same decision-making ability as individuals. As we all know, involving multiple people in a decision-making process doesn’t always produce the best results–in fact, group decisions can be much worse than individual ones, for a variety of reasons. So how can you make sure that your organization’s hiring decisions, in particular, don’t get derailed with groupthink?
Fischer contrasts burger organizations with burrito organizations, bringing a touch of humor–and hunger–to the corporate hierarchy debate. Burger organizations have too much bun, or too much management, getting in the way of the meat–the working employees. Burritos have lean wrappers that effectively support the delicious filling inside. Startups tend to run toward the burrito model, and may even lack a tortilla at all, giving you a messy pile of food that may taste good but can be difficult to consume. As organizations become larger, the surrounding infrastructure may grow so large that it drowns out the original purpose of the company and impedes effectiveness.
We’ve all had burgers with dry buns that impeded our enjoyment of the meat itself. Likewise, we’ve all probably had burritos where the tortilla wasn’t strong enough to keep the other ingredients inside. Whether the problem is too little structure or too much, the end result is disappointing. So how can organizations avoid the extremes? Fischer insists that “You need to have an organization that’s based on questioning itself,” and questioning itself honestly. As a parent, he deals with the “Why?” question often, and suggests organizations attempt to pass the “three-why test.” If you can’t answer “Why?” three times regarding any process or initiative, it’s probably not necessary.
While the three-why question may seem to apply primarily to larger organizations, it’s definitely useful for startups as well. Where larger organizations might ask why they have certain policies or procedures, startups could ask themselves why not. If adopting a specific policy or standardizing the startup’s messaging would save time and enable employees to work more effectively, it’s worth the time taken from coding to develop more standards that make every minute of work more effective. Hiring problems and other organizational headaches can be avoided by asking why a position needs to be filled, why certain people need to be involved in the hiring process, and why applicants are required to submit particular types of information in order to be considered.
Is your company a burger or burrito organization? And why have things turned out that way?
Burger photograph by gabrielamadeus used under Creative Commons license