Red flags are everywhere.
If you pay attention, you can find them pretty easily.
This morning, I spoke with the woman who is in charge of scheduling events for the organization she works for. They give out free space to groups with a good cause and don’t charge people who want to attend. I had a program in mind for her and wanted to see if she was interested. I told her my ProSpeakers club wanted to do a free showcase of the club’s speakers for local businesses. She said she is interested in hosting it, but first I had to fill out the reservation form. I began to give her my email address, and she interrupted with “What is your fax number?”.
My fax number? Really? What year is it again?
I told her I don’t use a fax machine, and she told me she would mail me the form. Before she could ask for my home address, I managed to fit this in: “Can you email it to me?”.
She said the form isn’t in an emailable format, only hard copy. So, now she was going to mail me the form, I had to fill out it, and then mail it back for her approval, after she already approved it over the phone 5 minutes ago.
A process that could have taken 5 minutes total will now stretch over a week or two while information is being transferred and sent through her system.
Yes, this is the problem with getting things done. If you are applying to a company and they make you jump through hoops like this one, you can pretty much guarantee that all of their systems have little common sense and there may not be a lot of room for change. Organizations that look for ways to make things more difficult and less efficient are not usually the ones making the most impact.
This also goes for those of you who are looking for more business clients and want to not only win the sale, but make sure you’re helping businesses who actually want to change and listen to your ideas. Sometimes the intention is there, but the execution is too scary and difficult. Listening to comments about using fax machines and documents that you can’t email are good tell-tale clues, unless they’re looking for ways to improve.
Pay attention to communication styles, systems, and policies and procedures if you want to understand a lot about the way a company operates. The woman I was speaking with would probably say she was “just doing her job”, which is exactly the problem. People who just do their job aren’t doing much more than that. Just doing what they’re told and not creating ways to improve, challenge, or inspire new ideas and models for what could work better fits the culture there, so why do more?
I wrote this post not as a way to complain (okay, maybe a little), but to inspire you to look for ways to solve problems, find the people you want to help, and find the holes you could fill. If you are good at organization, simplifying systems, communicating, and challenging the status quo, there’s a good possibility you could solve problems for businesses that they may not even be aware of. Don’t look for open positions, find ways to solve problems. You may find yourself in a cool consulting gig or even in a full-time job helping dysfunctional businesses or organizations thrive. How cool would it be to be THAT person?
For more on this topic, check out Seth Godin’s new book, “Linchpin“. Definitely worth the time and money!
PS-Did I mention this person Iwas talking to works for a library?