If it ain’t broke… Break it!

Guest Writer
Kathleen Harkins
People Development Consultant

What?! That startled me awake from my zoom daze recently in the middle of a webinar! I’ve grown up hearing “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. That was the mantra I’d always had in my head, and it was a revelation to hear “break it”. Apparently, this is the title of a book that’s been around for a while. I’ve never read it, but the title alone made me sit up and listen.

Maybe I’ve not been doing it wrong after all? There have been many times I’ve challenged the status quo and been put right back in my box! Why would we want to change processes and procedures when they are working perfectly well?!

I love the leaders who allowed me to “break it”. They are the ones who stretch the boundaries, who have vision, and who inspire change, and we need change now more than ever. It’s interesting to hear the differences in how some organisations are managing how we ease out of lockdown. I know of some leaders who are “encouraging” their employees to get back into the office so that they can get back to “normal” as soon as possible. Many are recognising the positives that have come from home working and are experimenting with the new hybrid working approach. There’s wide agreement that home working has had a detrimental impact on team collaboration, but many people have found they’ve been significantly more creative working from home. I wonder how our leaders will respond to these new challenges. The traditional style of management isn’t likely to work well in this new world, and there will be some leaders who find it difficult to let go of the control that they’ve been used to in the past…

The most effective and inspiring leaders to me are those who encourage their teams to “break it”, to try different things, and to speak up when they think there are different ways to do things. Maybe they won’t work, but why we would not want them to try? “Empowerment” is a popular word at the moment and this, for me, is real empowerment in action.

I’ve attended some Scottish Engineering webinars recently on “The Path to Net Zero” and now, more than ever we need to question the way we approach everything, and people must be allowed to “break it” or we’ll never bring about the changes we need to make for a truly sustainable future.

Let’s see our brave leaders do something different with this year’s appraisals. Let’s make them really worthwhile. Instead of setting an objective to work harder, or be more productive, let’s set everyone an objective to “break it”!


Kathleen Harkins | LinkedIn         

The views expressed by the guest writer are not necessarily those of Scottish Engineering.