What is your reaction to these statements?
- “I’m from Human Resources and I am here to help you.”
- “I’m from Management and I am here to help you.”
- “I’m from Training and I am here to help you.”
Most of us workers can probably name names and share lots of personal experiences about having received that kind of “support” in our workplaces, where all that help was not able to change much of anything. Outsiders cannot help insiders very much because of organizational dynamics, regardless of good intentions.
Tons of statistics show that engagement still stinks, workers feel un-respected and un-involved and motivation basically sucks in so many workplaces. We’ve spent 50 years trying to drive this stuff tops-down with little to show for it other than the costs of our good intentions. (And, sure, there are exceptions, but I am speaking to the generalities and commonalities so often observed and expensed.)
People are un-engaged, often actively so. What does it take to do some DIS-un-engagement? Not much, I think. Data says that people want to improve things. The manager should be the motivator, right?
We do lots of surveys with the intentions of making improvements – those initiatives are generally always positive. HR wants to have positive impacts, managers want to improve results and Training and Development really does want to improve skills., dynamics of leadership, and impact collaboration. But it is simply the case that few things driven from the top will make much of a difference at the bottom. Why?
“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”
It’s just basic human nature. Few people take good care of things that they do not own, and that same ownership applies to how they approach their jobs. Sure, if that rental car is completely trashed, they might clean it up a little so they are not embarrassed, but that does not translate to any kind of exceptional care. They would do things differently if they felt ownership. If people do not feel a sense of participative involvement, it should even surprise you that they do anything more than the minimum.
So, what DO you do? Maybe it is to look for ways to do things from the bottoms-up. Maybe that supervisor can change the nature of how they actively involve people in their workplaces, asking for ideas for improvement or for better ways to collaborate or share information or resources. They become facilitators, they involve and actively engage and support innovation and chaos.
There exists no proven process or designed formula for how to accomplish this; there are too many variables. But the simple, basic idea is that each supervisor take the responsibility for asking their people for workplace improvement ideas and facilitating discussions of possibilities. This generates ownership involvement and active participation. From those ideas, you then determine an approach or approaches to implement them, with the supervisor managing the resources of time and money and roadblocks and interdepartmental collaboration to allow the natural teams to generate some successes.
How to move forward? Do some facilitation skills training and discover and clarify how the best-implemented programs of improvement were accomplished within your organization in the past, since those best practices are more likely to align with the culture and feel more comfortable to people. (It is also useful to look at the failures and find the features of those initiatives that made it unsuccessful.) Learn from your organization and repeat the successes / avoid the failures.
I’ve been playing in organizational performance and people performance since 1978 with a degree in behavioral neuropsychology and I remain frustrated with how little progress has been made. We HAVE all the tools, but we do not seem able to get them into the hands of the people who need them most. Managers only manage, while supervisors supervise the actual work. It is the supervisors who need to understand the corporate goals and then have the ability to align the behavior of their workers to those goals and objectives.
Why is all this so hard? Why can’t we just ask for ideas and involve people in the improvements that they already want to make?
The Square Wheels Project is our newest attempt to put practical and effective tools into the hands of the supervisor so that they can involve and engage their people in the improvements that are possible. We have an online course in facilitation that includes powerpoints and handouts as well as a focus on teaching the skills.
Take a look at the opening page of the 30-minute course and see if something like this might work for you or someone you know. Consider trying the course as a pair of people to support each others’ learning and understanding and initial trials at generating impacts and conversations.
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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.
One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.
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