Ask a worker and they will share ideas for improvement. As a consultant walking around, this is a given and a simple reality. People doing the work know there are things that can be done differently that would have impacts on organizational performance. Some will even take the time to give you a list of them if they think you are really interested. (true.)
Many things do not work smoothly in their workplaces, which are the things that frustrate them and measurably lower productivity. And it is an exceptional manager who appears to be interested in making changes and improving work processes.
And this frustration and dissatisfaction about potential improvements causes all sorts of negative spins to impacting intrinsic motivation and employee turnover. Sometimes it is simple training that can smooth things out and sometimes is is the sharing of a best practice across all team members. Often it is about improving collaboration across departmental boundaries. But the act of ASKING goes a long way toward improving communications.
Discussing and implementing better ideas can send the message that what the workers see is actually important to managers. Often, what management sees as important and what management pushes through are different things — and that is most likely not going to lead to any sort of workplace engagement and performance improvement.
But the problem is often related to how the problem is discussed and presented. And people are BUSY, and often appear not interested in listening or considering new ideas. Maybe it looks like this:
Today’s Organizational Reality would conclude:
- People do not fix or care that much about ideas that are not their own.
- Bosses are busy, or at least too busy to spend time listening to ideas
- Improvement may not be measured by the company
- The improvement possibility is not related to your job or their job
- The value and impact of the improvement is not thought-out or defined
- Everyone has different perspectives on what to do differently
- The idea is not well presented or framed as a business proposition
- The idea not seen as cost effective or it may take time to address
- Some interdepartmental collaboration may be required (needs IT or another department or something similar to implement)
What I suggest that supervisors and managers can do differently is to schedule some time to ask people for ideas.
But first, we want to engage and involve them and get them to “step back from the wagon and think out of the box” a little. This image below is a simple framework for the overall thinking about the issues and the opportunity:
“Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There” and “The Round Wheels are already in the wagon” are two of the main operational metaphors. The process depends on people actively engaging with the metaphor and generating their own ideas about issues and opportunities.
If you are interested in more details about how you might use the Square Wheels theme to address issues and opportunities with your people, click on the worksheet image below and view an older post of mine with more details. We are in the process of developing a whole series of tools for the remote workplace and for supervisors to use to engage their people through Zoom and similar tools.
Note that we moved from the original line-art images to using LEGO to illustrate and animate different themes and that we are now in the process of redoing the line art in a new and more colorful style. More to come, for sure!
For the FUN of It!
Dr. Scott Simmerman CPF, CPT is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
You can reach Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott’s detailed profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.