Your Pressure Relief Valve Must Work

There is a pressure cooker analogy for driving business performance. That is, apply plenty of heat to the pot (which is your team) and keep the lid firmly shut. The team will push harder to reach their goals. As a safety mechanism, all pressure cookers have a relief valve and so the analogy goes, make sure you don’t overdo it and build up too much pressure. The reason is because one of two things would happen:

One is burn out and potential mental health issues. The other is that your team will find a “way” to get the job done. And that “way” may not be true to the organisational values or the team’s values or even your values.

If the pressure continues, the behaviours chosen continue. Soon the broader culture of the team reflects the new behaviours and becomes the new normal. As staff change over time, new staff come in and are inducted into the new normal. The poor culture is strengthened.

Then one day, someone finds out about the way you have been getting things done and points out the poor behaviour. Everyone starts looking for someone to blame. While the team made its own choices, the pressure they felt under was the cause.

Last week I wrote about Mark Bouris’ appeal to risk professionals to push back against over regulation and to help drive risk taking which drives innovation. Today I write with a word of caution. Be careful how you articulate the risk taking you want. And no matter how or how hard you apply pressure to your team, constantly reinforce the values of your organisation. Pressure is good but not at the expense of values.

This article from Forbes about Netflix is a great example of strong, hard innovation with the value of openness as the pressure relief valve.