The Mysterious Vanishing of Good Soldiers

Why we should not use the phrase “good soldiers” any longer. It dates back from an industrial era when organisations focused on operational excellence. We need an army of the finest.
good soldiers

Good Soldiers

“We need good soldiers”. It’s a phrase that I have to hear too often. It resonates with an industrial era that demanded iron discipline and gave us perfect officers that we had to follow.
The Chief Executive Officer, the Chief Financial Officer and even the HR officer, will keep on lingering around for a while, the industries that need soldiers, however, are fading.
We can still find them in organisations that practice “operational excellence”. They’re built upon repetitive processes that need to be implemented by people that we want to behave as machines. And they are fading because just of that: we now have intelligent machines that can do that kind of work much better than their human counterparts.
Unfortunately, the term “good soldiers” is frequented in all kinds of organisations. By it, management refers to somebody with just enough intelligence to do the job, not ambitious, not critical and obedient. Low maintenance. Average.

Small People

By maintaining good soldiers, an organisation is keeping their people small, and the reasoning behind this is that you need people to do monkey jobs, while not spending too much time, money and effort on them. We know what will happen with the monkey jobs. And if you haven’t automated these jobs already, you are lagging behind your competition anyway. In fact, you’re overspending, as automated processes will cost you much less than employees.
It should management’s task to find people that can bring real value to the mission of the organisation. Or find, nourish and develop the talent that lies in people that gives us a unique advantage. Don’t keep them small, let them blossom. And contrary to common belief, most people have that special “thing”. If an organisation needs a certain talent, we should be able to develop those talents or find and attract people that have that talent in high quantity and quality. Because great people will attract other great people. Average people will attract average people. Just look at the market these days and you will notice that some organisations are attracting all the top talent.

Army of the Finest

This is an important fact for all organisations, but maybe even more for start-ups. This process works as an avalanche, and once you’re in it, it will be hard to escape from it.
To win your war, you will not need average, good soldiers, but an army of the finest.
This post appeared originally as an article on linkedin.