Learning how to play the “gray” scales
I was watching my husband create a “simple” 9 value scale the other day. He started with a pile of black paint (1) on the left and a pile of white paint on the right (9). He then mixed a middle tone gray (5) which was half way between the two. He then mixed a 7, half way between 5 and 9, eventually completing his chart. He had to keep a healthy balance between being too dark or light in order to keep a gentle graduation of gray (his words, not mine.)
In a similar fashion, strong organizations have a healthy balance between “strict processes” and “flexible solutions”. Leaning too far in either direction can cause an organization to become unhealthy (Defined as not being able to meet their goals).
If an organization has “strict processes”, it leaves no room for dealing with surprises, or disruptions. If something does not fit neatly into a box, a “strict process” organization will either ignore the issue or use an ill-fitting process to address it. Thus, over time these issues will add up to stagnation and un-health.
If an organization has no processes and uses only flexible solutions (one offs / different every time), it will soon overtax its resources. Over time the organization will drown in the urgent with no time for the important.
Processes allow organizations to quickly deal with things that are repetitive, things that have best practice solutions, and things that can be improved over time from repetitiveness. They allow the organization to clearly communicate based on a foundation of understanding. However, if there is not space for a “middle gray” (meaning the organization recognizes that some things don’t fit the norm and need special solutions), the organization will find itself too rigid to meet changing needs of the market place.
Finding the right balance of “gray” is a must for a strong healthy organization.