Check me on this if you can, but we keep talking about improving workplace performance by the active involvement and engagement of people doing their jobs. There are lots of reasons as well as lots of data that support this as a REALLY good idea because of the widespread impacts on results.
Just back from ASTD and after conversations with colleagues, both there as well as in a variety of email connections, it seems that this engagement idea is a non-starter and doomed for failure in so many organizations. In a simple illustration, let me anchor down my thoughts:
Does anyone really think that HR is going to be able to do some kind of training event or lead some kind of organizational improvement initiative to involve and engage all the workers? Maybe, and I can think of a couple of organizations that have the culture to pull that off. But the day-to-day reality of the supervisory environment would suggest that improvement generated by active involvement and participation is a high-risk activity for most supervisors in most organizations.
After all, are they not already busy right now? Are they not up to their eyeballs in tasks and reports and meetings and reports and tasks? Do we simply expect that they would be motivated to do some “public speaking” and set up meetings where they involve people to share ideas about workplace issues and problems (and then expect some resolution and improvement) or is it a lot safer just to continue to do things the same way.
What is the Reality of this (from their perspective)?
Lee Ellis popped up a nice blog post here that I summarize:
Three strong indicators of an unhealthy organization are:
• A lack of trust leading to poor teamwork and alignment.
• A lack of clarity about mission, vision, and values.
• A fear of conflict. People are not allowed to say what they really think.
A healthy organization, alternatively, has management who:
1. Build Trust
2. Clarify and Over-Communicate
3. Create a Safe Environment and Encourage Debate
4. Are Courageous
All this stuff is fine, well and good, but anecdotal conversations continue to support the very basic idea that supervisors are incredibly busy with what is already expected of them (they do not even take all their earned vacation days, it seems and they work while they are off the job with emails and calls, etc.).
So, can we really expect them to add the risky activity of asking about the problems that their people feel exist and be expected to implement some solutions? Sure, they could implement teamwork, but that is a whole different set of worms…
Do most of them really want to start up performance improvement teams and use up even more of their time and the time of their people? And, a lot of supervisors are fearful of teams because of the potential loss of control that they perceive might occur. Plus, they often need the support of their managers and maybe even HR.
So, is engagement of people for workplace improvement even a reality for most organizations doing things the same way and expecting things to change and improve?
I think that there are good possibilities for change and improvement and we sell some very simple tools to generate ideas in a pretty safe and effective manner with our Square Wheels toolkits. This one on basic facilitation is cheap and easily used.
An organizational motivational reality might look like this:
And thus, my basic suggestion is pretty simple:
Make things happen. Your choice.
For the FUN of It!
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.
We also sell a powerful team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. You can view a slideshare overview of the exercise here: