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Quantum Onboarding

“Wholeness is what is real, and that fragmentation is the response of this whole to man’s action, guided by illusory perception, which is shaped by fragmentary thought.” – David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicit order

Renowned Quantum Physicist David Bohm wrote of the interconnectedness of everything.  That fragments are not part of the natural order, but simply an invention of human thought. They are not ‘real’, only ‘believed.’

I’ve been thinking about the fragments we invent, the ‘mental models’ if you will, about the process of someone joining a company.

My fragments often include:

  1. Interview and hiring
  2. Orientation
  3. On-boarding
  4. Training
  5. Fully productive

From a process perspective, it makes sense to separate these. After all, each one might involve different people, systems, goals, etc. The goal of Orientation might be “Fill out legal documents”, where the goal of Training might be “Educate about the codebase.”

But from the perspective of the employee, these phases are interconnected, flowing seamlessly together. Small experiences which cannot be separated from the larger experience of joining the company. We might call this the ‘organic perspective’.

This has important ramifications.

First, the experience in one step informs how we feel about the step, which can impact the effectiveness of each step. Pretending that each step is ‘insulated’, and that a problem in Step 2 is isolated to Step 2 isn’t reality.

Second, the organic process often takes far longer than we expect. Managers assume people are ‘fully productive’ when they are still secretly ‘training’. This can result in disappointment due to unmet expectations – and may put the new person at some risk.

Third, thinking about this process as discrete ‘steps’ means we are missing critical information about how people grow at our companies.  


An idea

I suggest that you ask new people to keep an ‘onboarding journal’ for the first three months.

They could answer questions such as:

  • What happened that day?
  • How did they feel?
  • What surprised them?
  • What did they learn?
  • What might this all mean?
  • What questions do they have?

Then, if you ask nicely, maybe they will share some of these with you at your 1:1 meeting.

Then you can offer insights, learn what the onboarding experience is like (because you’ve certainly forgotten), and get ideas for how to improve it for the next person.

Are you doing anything like this now?

What other ways might you see onboarding through the eyes of a new person?


About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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