There are two ways you can reliably takeoff a B-17 without crashing. The most common advice in best-selling business books is to hire the best and the smartest pilots in the world and trust them to know how all of the switches need to be set.
Only hire A-player pilots and everything will be fine.
The problem is, there is a war on. And we have pilot shortages. Either half the planes go empty, or some of our pilots will not be A-players. The pundits say:
Focus on getting the right people on the bus.
It is worth waiting for the right person who can really do the job.
These are considered “state-of-the-art” business insights and the secrets for going from good to great.
This advice is not helpful, it is paralyzing. It leaves managers in a state of fear, saying things like, “I need to wait to get the right person—someone I trust.” It is paralyzing because deep down they know they do not really know how to “get the right person.” They usually do not even understand what the person they are hiring does.
How do you possibly hire the right Chief Marketing Officer if your degree and your career is in finance? If you are like most CEOs, you check a few references, ask a few trick questions, listen to your gut intuition, guess, and hope for the best.
At the start of this series we said there are two ways you can reliably takeoff a B-17 without crashing. The first is to hire the best and the smartest pilots in the world and trust them to know where all of the switches need to be.
The second way is our fundamental thesis. Build great ceremonies that make it possible for almost anyone with the basic skills and talents to successfully fly your plane.
We believe the second way is by far the better choice. Indeed, for most businesses, option A isn’t even available. Ceremony is the only choice. What we cannot figure out is why nobody is talking about it. At their best, most business process books write only about creating repeatable procedures. This taps into only a small percent of the power of ceremony. And the way most organizations treat repeatable procedures it is almost impossible to get them to adapt and evolve.
Once you build a ceremonial organization, everything changes.
You no longer focus on the impossible task of only hiring the right individuals. Instead, you focus on building ceremonies you can prove work. If you encounter a problem on your team you ask, “Are they running the ceremonies?” If they say “yes,” then you relax. You are no longer dependent on a special insight from a lone individual to save the day.
Hiring also becomes much simpler. Do they entrain well with the team? Can they participate in the work-ceremony effectively? If the answer to both is yes, you can hire with confidence.
Training and reaching a productive state is now a natural part of daily operations. New hires join an already working team executing already successful ceremonies. Working this way, new team members in challenging fields can become highly productive the very first hour of their very first day. Interns have been mistaken as senior staff because of how much they know about business operations. And having run businesses this way for 15 years, this is not a rare occurrence. This is how ceremony works every time.
The United States Army Air Corps discovered these benefits years ago. Once the flight ceremonies worked, they worked, with all sorts of different crews at all sorts of different skill levels. It became possible to train new crews and know they would be able to effectively complete their missions.
Get the ceremonies working and everything else falls into place.
In ceremony we trust.
The primary job of founders, executives, and managers now fundamentally shifts. Discover and deploy ceremony. Allow the ceremonies to evolve. Watch your organization learn to run without you.
It is the only way to fly.