Maybe the title should be, “Engagement, Creative Problem Solving, Designing Solutions and then Not Failing to Implement,” but that seems a bit long. It is probably more realistic, though, when we look at the overall context of implementing ideas.
The data on the engagement of employees is really pretty awful, it has been pretty awful and it will probably stay pretty awful. Some relevant links from some previous writings are below, with lots of data and lots of simple ideas for generating more involvement and engagement of people in workplace improvement:
- You can find some statistics on morale and engagement here.
- You can find Jim Clifton’s thoughts on firing a few million bad bosses here.
- You can find a bunch of cartoons on engagement and intrinsic motivation here.
- You can find a blog on intrinsic motivation and engagement here.
Engagement is actually pretty simple to accomplish and here is the key concept behind making improvements in that area:
People will share ideas. Basically, the ideas around implementing workplace improvement ideas are pretty straightforward. Many approaches will work and some approaches will work much better in cultures that can generate a positive history of workplace improvements and small successes. The acceptance level is simply higher in those organizational cultures.
It is that last thing, “Not failing to implement,” that is my focus. In reading Dan Rockwell’s blog today called, “How to Say Yes to New Ideas Without Going Nuts,” Dan shared 12 ways to say Yes and to help to generate improvement. These are:
- Don’t expect people who resist change to lead change. Resistance stabilizes organizations.
- Let people who love new ideas try them. Ask, “Who can try this?”
- Say, “Yes,” in small ways.
- Minimize disruption with pilot programs and trial runs. Ask, “How can we try this?”
- Evaluate risk. Ask, “What happens if we try this?”
- Limit resources and finances. Creativity finds a way when limitations exist.
- Validate before big commitments or disruptions.
- Align with vision. “How does this take us where we want to go?”
- Align with values. “How does this express who we want to become?”
- Ask, “What happens if we don’t try this?”
- Define the win. “What will be better if it works?”
- Check your gut. “On a scale of one to ten, is it worth a try?” What gut-check number is acceptable for you?
I filter all the above through the looking glass of active ownership involvement. If YOU own the idea and keep that ownership, you can pretty much expect to see resistance to that idea as you push it out to others. BOSS spelled backwards is self-explanatory and people do not like being pushed — you can expect push-back in some fashion in most cases, I think.
Alignment and vision are key, for sure. I frame things something like this:
For the most part, there is isolation of leadership and the support people cannot be expected to understand everything about the journey forward. But what they do understand is that things are not working smoothly and that there exist better ideas for improvement that are right at hand. A key is implementation!
New ideas might just represent continuous continuous improvement, in that a new idea builds logically on an old new idea and in that way is not radical. We also need to attend to the issues of “interdepartmental collaboration” in that a new idea may also have impacts on another group upstream or downstream that may simply resist those, “new ideas that we did not develop ourselves.”
Collaboration is not the most natural behavioral response when it comes to inter-team workplace improvement. Competition is much more likely:
That kind of interdepartmental collaboration competition thing also puts the old kibosh on a lot of ideas and implementation. The real keys are “ownership involvement” and in analysis of impact. If we do a good job of involving and engaging people in the shared idea and its implementation strategy, that ownership will make a difference. If we do a good job of involving them in looking at the idea from a variety of perspectives and being able to report a variety of positive impacts and minimal threats, we also improve the likelihood of implementation.
Funny, but I just wrote a consultant friend in Singapore asking him for what might be a pragmatic idea for a short series of blogs and then this one falls into my lap. These thoughts from Dan were most helpful in anchoring my thoughts on this subject. Implementation is a real key to any improvement.
And a followup telephone conversation with a rental customer for my Lost Dutchman team building game found that the competition between the tabletops at her senior management retreat were very predictable: they tended to not share information and to focus only on their small part of the big organization, actively working to block the sharing of ideas and information about how to optimize the results during play. The debriefing was great because they could talk about all these game behaviors and infer the similarities in play to the realities of daily efforts to impact their customers. People tend to compete rather than collaborate.
So, my suggestions are to look for ways to involve and engage people and ask for their ideas but to also give them ownership involvement. Let them do the impact analyses and look at cost / benefits and let them design strategies to involve and engage other departments and make things roll forward more better faster.
Both of the ideas above link to real issues of people and performance. Involving and engaging people to share their ideas and to interact in some kind of implementation team helps generate the intrinsic motivation to do things differently. There are all sorts of positive impacts that can be implemented locally in most organizations.
PMC sells great team building games as well as Square Wheels Toolkits for organizational performance.
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Dr. Scott Simmerman 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.