Non-Conformists Get Results.

Another update from the Jungle…

150px-Terry_de_la_Mesa_AllenHave you ever worked for someone who was more interested in following the rules than in getting results? In these organizations initiative is not rewarded and non-conformists are quickly shown the door.

In World War II, one of our more interesting generals found his career side-lined by superiors who disliked his rule-breaking attitude. General Terry Allen was an Army brat and apparently never considered another career path for himself. His non-conformist attitude made him an oddity in a giant bureaucracy like the Army. He was a mediocre student at West Point and flunked out of the program. He later earned a college degree and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1912.

His Army career would have been completely forgettable without war. In World War I, Terry Allen proved he was personally brave and able to inspire his troops. He got results. That earned him a place in the downsized Army between the two world wars even though he offended many with his breaches of military etiquette. For example, he was careless about his appearance and allowed everyone, including subordinates, to call him by his first name.

In WWII, General Allen commanded the U.S. 1st Infantry Division (the “Big Red One”) in the invasions of North Africa and Sicily. His troops fought well but some spit and polish officers claimed he had ruined the Big Red One by failing to enforce discipline. These officers eventually engineered his removal from the Big Red One by blaming General Allen for the bad results in a battle he did not plan. Their criticism apparently stung because General Allen became a stickler for discipline after he was transferred from command of the 1st Division. His career was never as brilliant after he became a conformist.

General Allen knew that smooth operations require following rules but that the rules should never be blindly followed if that stands in the way of the results. The same principle is important in private companies when they design their human resources policies. Every company needs HR rules so that employees know what is expected of them. However, the rules should be the minimum necessary to ensure the company runs smoothly and should never become a burden on management or employees.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented. To learn more about General Terry Allen, see Terrible Terry Allen, by Gerald Astor (2003).

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