There was an interesting thread on the Innovation Excellence group on LinkedIn, one that talks about an Anti-Innovation Checklist posted by Holly Green. You can see that post at www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2012/02/23/3/
In think her 10 bullets are good, but it feels like she missed the bigger picture of the reality that employee engagement is more all-encompassing. I think there is more to it.
The list is about what is wrong and not about what to do to address the issues and make improvements. She talks about “unrealistic expectations” in the sense on management looking for “a killer product” while I think that performance improvement is more about having performance goals and objectives that do not allow much thinking, much less alternative thinking.
Consider the customer, which we should all be doing all of the time anyway. The customer calls with an issue and the position of the employee is so often one of defending the turf rather than listening to the problem for some idea as to how to improve the product.
For the past 4 days, I have been having what are apparently a series of different problems with U-Verse and my TV and internet and wireless connections here. Five different technicians have visited the house. And a wide variety of different phone calls to various places around the world.
I can test the connection, but I am limited to running a “speed test” — they show me various computer screens that give them a LOT more data about the connection and such information including history. All I can say is “the TV locks up and un-synchs” or “Safari pauses and locks up.” One would think that someone might develop some application or process that would allow ME to make a more informed phone call to Victor in India, right?
Customer-driven innovation? NO way — they are too busy to meet their performance numbers to listen for better ideas as to how to do things… There is no real mechanism for making improvements. They are too busy solving the problems at hand.
As I so often write, my view of how organizations really work looks like this:
But maybe things more realistically look like this in most workplaces:
And how things REALLY work in many workplaces
and when we add senior management, maybe this is more of a normal reality:
It is the perception of how things work that is most important.
A logical result of the situation generally depicted above will often then look like this:
People will circle the wagons and defend themselves…
and continued attacks also generate more predictable results:
That thus reminds me that I wrote up a poem about this:
And that reminds me of a quote from Dante that many might think should appear over the door of the buildings in which they work:
What to do? I don’t have one of those 5-step or 10-bullet lists. Mine is one pretty simple one, although there are five rules:
ASK — ASK — ASK — ASK — ASK
Ask for ideas for improvement. Allow people to get involved and engaged and to share their ideas. Support them as they try to implement improvements, recognizing that many have long histories of failure or punishment linked to their attempts to make things better. Recognize that they cannot be empowered and that many are un-empowered.
So take actions to dis-un-empower them. Form teams. Share ideas. Act as if their ideas are important. Let them generate their own intrinsic rewards for making things better.
We sell a simple toolkit for facilitating involvement and engagement. Click on the link below to see how it works:
And, if you would like to see more about our outstanding team building exercise, we offer a slideshare overview here:
The key idea in all this is for leadership to get out of the way and let them make improvements. Let people play with the wheels…
Give them hope and support. And ask for their ideas,
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.
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Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.