How do corporate policies begin? Often it is with the best of intentions but anyone that has worked in a company more than three years old knows the culture has already been infected with policies that have gone bad. Even worse, nobody is willing to end them.
Consider this illustration, based on a true experiment.
You start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, all of the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water.
After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result - all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.
Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a monkey that has not seen the spraying. He sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise he will be assaulted.
Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, replace a third original. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why, they have just been taught it is the thing to do.
But after replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. In fact none even know the cold water was ever used nor that it is a potential threat.
What will happen? Click here for the answer.
That is how many company policies begin! How often do you hear "it's the way we've always done it" phrase? Imagine how much time and money is wasted in business simply because we do it the way we've always done it.
The monkeys provide a lesson for all of us.
This is part of a series of anecdotes published by Max Impact, a Rochester Hills, Mich., based website that offers complimentary resources to business leaders, entrepreneurs, human resources professionals and trainers in an effort to help the get the maximum impact in their careers. For more business terms, click here.
© Max Impact, used with permission.