Friday, May 29, 2009

Gatekeeper or Enabler?

At a broad level, most of the roles we do as part of our corporate lives are that of a "facilitator".

As a facilitator, your role is to handle a process or a sub process. And you will see that, facilitators fall into two categories - gatekeepers and enablers. Most people who handle a process or control a process or develop a process behave like the security guard (and this was where the fort-builder analogy came about) - they gatekeep.

The security guards job is to prevent people from coming in. He has to verify credentials of those who seek admission and then let people through, once he is satisfied. Too many people mistake their roles (and rules) to that of a security guard at a top secret location. Once they write the rules (or even if they havent written it themselves), they guard it with their life. "It is in the rules, they tell you", very smugly. They get a lot of satisfaction by making people bend as their rules demand. "Why did you not do this as per procedure" or "As per rule #488, you should have raised a request one month ago. 25 days is too less" or "I will need 1 month to add the new pincode to your address." or "Your guarantee is valid for only one year. You bought our product 13 months ago." or "Our policy states that you cannot send a mail to everyone". And that's it. There is no appeal, no nothing. Their word is final. How many times have you encountered people like them and felt like throwing them off the nearest cliff?

If this is your job, remember that you are not adding value to your company, you are merely behaving as a security guard - and probably collecting a lot of ill-will. And if making people follow rules is all you do, you can (and will) be replaced by an electronic system. A lot of HR systems are now electronic - apply for leave, submission of bills, expense statements - with just a person or two to collate and act on it. Even railway ticket booking is electronic. Software is far better at making people follow rules.

People and companies often mistake gatekeeping roles to adding value - it does, but beware if your rules are becoming a bottleneck. And, a lot of times, people who approach gatekeepers are not seeking to break rules at all - they want someone to help them do something - they are looking at someone who can "enable".

Therefore, on the other hand, if you treat your rulebook as an enabler - knowing when to create exceptions and knowing how to facilitate people to achieve their goals, you will be sought after. Well, actually, the people will seek you but your own 'department' will detest you for letting people sneak through the rules they have created. Many a rule is meaningless - it is only because companies don't trust their employees enough.

Are you a gatekeeper or an enabler?


purple pitara said...

seth godin style huh??!!!!

Madhavan said...

awesome post.... really liked it