There is a tabletop game that goes by the name of Warhammer 40,000. It is the science-fiction version in the far future of the fantasy game Warhammer. In this franchise you find mankind in a grim merciless state, worshipping the human Emperor. Of course such an organisation also has an Inquisition as secret police with the goal to fight corruption and other evils.
It’s no secret that I’m a major geek for many things and I also like the Warhammer 40k franchise and miniatures a lot. I thought it might be fun to write a business article on how it would be to have an Inquisition in modern day companies and what they would do. I hope you like this way of combining business related subjects with geek matters.
“…the Inquisition merely performs the duty of its office. To further fear them is redundant, to hate them, heretical. Those more sensible will place responsibility with those who forced their hands…”
– Captain Gabriel Angelos of the Blood Ravens Space Marine Chapter
Question the Status Quo
Worshipping the status quo is not exactly the opposite of innovation but it can be a station on the way towards the end of innovating. Status quo is the here and now and the operational comfort zone. An inquisitor should question the current mode of operating and delivering a service of product. Always ask: Could this not be done better?
Question the Value
In services that are running unchanged and unreviewed for long time periods it can happen that activities are requested and asked for on a recurrence. For instance that could be a report with several sets of data delivered to the client or other stakeholders going out every month. Often such activities are not having a value forever but they are usually not denounced by the requestor even if they are no longer needed.
The value of such recurring activities should be definitely reviewed at least after 12 months. If they are still needed in some way there might be a compromise to make them more lean or to automate the activity. The inquisitor needs to question the value of everything that is delivered beyond the actual service or product.
Question the Adherence
All the policies are written and all standards documented? Great work, but is the adherence monitored and controlled? A process that is not adhered to is not worth the Visio file it has been drawn on. You got it all down on SharePoint? Too bad nobody ever got the link to even know about the process. You think just writing it all down closes the deal? You couldn’t be more wrong. A draft document without written approval and signatures of the stakeholders doesn’t mean anything to anyone but stole your time.
So counting this together, you should not only check for a process for it to be documented but also inquire and control whether the people know about it and if they actually follow it or not. If you’re in an office with a lot of papers and processes being printed out and pinned on the walls, that’s a good indicator that there is a general knowledge about processes and a willingness to adhere to same. If not – they shall be punished.
Question the Clients
It should also be part of the inquisition to check with users and clients on their opinion and perception of the delivered services or products. Interview key individuals or prepare a survey to capture feedback as hard facts you can measure. As you all know, you can’t manage what you cannot measure.
Breach for radical insight too. You might even find out that your service is not adding value to the users at all or they need different or additional features. An easy way for getting feedback is adding a links to a digital survey into the footer of web pages and the signatures of service emails.
Question the Skill
The inquisition has to doubt the skill and ability of everyone – bottom worker and executive director alike. They need to question their comprehension of the operations and the organisational strategy. Often HR departments do not engage in talent management actively and how could they without a direct feed from team leaders and service / product owners?
Make sure there is an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) documentation and that there is a knowledge base which all team members know of, learn from and contribute to. The product of this knowledge management effort leads to an organisational memory. Required skills should be clearly stated and assessed, if someone is new they need to be provided with a learning path to play en par with the standard operations.
Question the Management
Heretical? No, on the contrary – the inquisition makes sure everything is going as planned and following policies. If the policies are no longer applicable, they must be updated, communicated and lived up to. If there is no short, mid and long term strategy they need to be created. Without a goal, you will always arrive – but you don’t know where, why or who was left behind.
Also a little reminder: Good leaders love feedback and critique. Nobody can improve themselves if they don’t know that there is an issue.
You might have already guessed it. The inquisition is actually more about quality assurance, innovation, service improvement and auditing agreed standards. It’s just a lot more fun to use the made-up organisation from the Warhammer 40k franchise. Why not keep things geeky and fun?
Anyway… Be inquisitive about what you do and about what others do. Make sure everything is adding value in some way. If it doesn’t, remove the wasteful processes and products without value. Let there be innovation and tomorrow will always be better than today! Also make sure to check out the awesome tabletop game of Warhammer (Fantasy) and Warhammer 40.000 (Science-Fiction) by Games Workshop.
Photo credit: Games Workshop and their fantastic artists