No One Washes a Rental Car
As a general rule, people don’t wash rental cars before returning them. Since we don’t own them or have a stake in their cleanliness, washing a rental car seems like a silly thing to do.
This logic extends to teams and organizations, as well. Team members don’t take the same pride and care regarding issues and initiatives they don’t own. When team members have a stake through control, autonomy, and ownership, they engage differently.
The best leaders work hard to give teams and team members the authority to make decisions on the ground. While they set strategy and allocate resources, they know allowing others to control how to execute the strategy produces a very different result.
Leaders who prefer to centralize decision making and push directions and decisions downward often find themselves wondering why those below don’t execute with rigor and excellence. Top-down changes, mandates, and decisions commonly produce more resistance than is necessary.
While the allure of speed and consistency encourages top-down thinking, the reality that others won’t enthusiastically carry the flag forward should give leaders pause. While functional and redundant processes benefit from centralized design, anything that interfaces with customers, clients, the work product, or service offering is best decentralized in today’s workplace.
Giving authority to leaders and players on the ground to make decisions on how they execute the strategy does not give them the right to take big bets. By their nature, big gambles and high-risk decisions stretch the boundaries of the organizational strategy. Anything chancy challenges the goals and strategy already in place. Senior leaders encourage leaders in the field to make decisions that influence execution, but to elevate for discussion any choice that pushes against the agreed-upon strategy. This allows everyone to stay in their lane and execute with excellence.
While there are exceptions to the rule, such as organizations with weak field leaders or an enterprise under pressure for survival, the act of giving those on the front line the control and ownership to decide how to execute strategy and deliver results has emerged as a best practice across industries and fields.
When leaders on the ground possess the autonomy to act quickly, results surge. A true stake in those results only occurs when leaders own the day-to-day problems and the solutions tied to achievement. Anything less means renting results to leaders and team members.
I waited to comment so I would not hijack the more pertinent conversation.
I recently received a bill from a well known rental car company 8 months after I had turned in my rental. The bill was for $450 b/c I did not clean the car before turning it in. Customer service explained to me that the contract stated that I must "return the car in the same condition". Oh! Well, ok. LOL. After I appealed, they reduced the bill, but I was "over a barrel" as they say. Just thought I'd share with the community that when renting from the Avis/Budget group, I'll be washing / vacuuming my car in the future as well as getting a signature at drop off.
Until that experience, your analogy made perfect sense (and still does in context).
Thanks again for sharing your wisdom so freely.